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Abasa – A Frown That Went Unwitnessed

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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As the Prophet (s) prepared himself for a prized opportunity to present Islam to the noblemen of Quraysh, a blind man approached simultaneously with a question to ask.

The Prophet (s) frowned.  The Prophet (s) in the early days of the risala, yearned for an opportunity to present the Sacred Message to the influential upper crust of Meccan society.  Finally, an audience was permitted.  In attendance were those who others respected and put trust in their judgment. `Utbah, Shaibah, Abu Jahl, Umayyah bin Khalaf, and Ubayy bin Khalaf all assembled.

From a distance, in quick stride, ‘Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) called out to bystanders to lead him to Muhammed (s).

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The Prophet frowned.  A frown that went unwitnessed by the created was Seen by the Creator.

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ

عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّى أَن جَاءهُ الْأَعْمَى

(The Prophet) frowned and turned away because there came to him the blind man

وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّى

But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified?

أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُفَتَنفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَى

Or that he might receive admonition, and that the admonition might profit him?

أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَى فَأَنتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّى

As for him who thinks himself to be self-sufficient; To him you attend;

وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى

And you are not accountable for his failure to attain purity

وَأَمَّا مَن جَاءكَ يَسْعَى

But as to him who came to you running.

وَهُوَيَخْشَى فَأَنتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّى

And is afraid (of Allah and His Punishment); of him you are neglectful and divert your attention to another,

كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَن شَاء ذَكَرَهُ

Nay, indeed it (these Verses of this Qur’an) are an admonition, so whoever wills, let him pay attention to it. (Sura 80.1-12)

Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoum (ra) was blind from birth and hence his mother was called Umm-Maktum (Mother of the concealed one). His father Qays ibn Sayd and mother Aatikah bint Abdullah were not notable or of fine pedigree.  He was, by all accounts, a commoner.

I went to visit a well known elder of the West Australian Muslim community at hospital today.  I went, Allah knows, out of compulsion and a sense of duty rather than in pursuit of divine virtue.  On the way up to the room the elevator door opened a couple of floors before my intended destination. I saw Waseem and felt angry with myself.  He was in a hospital robe pushing an IV pole. How could I have forgotten to visit him?! I pardoned my way out and greeted Waseem with genuine delight in my heart and concern on my mind.  We walked to his room.

At the age of 26 he felt an abdominal pain one night and felt strange for a few weeks before going to see a doctor.  Tumors, cancer and a terminal prognosis were announced all within a short couple of days.

But the brother was smiling and his room felt good. Imaan good. Sabr and contentment good. He smiled throughout our time together. I told him I am going to see someone upstairs and will come back down to see him.

I came, out of duty and respect for one man, and found my Imaan grow in meeting, coincidentally, another who had slipped my mind.

The Prophet (s) is sinless.  At first inspection, and to the untrained eye, one may think that Allah is rebuking or censoring His Beloved Messenger.  That is not the case.

Allah (swt) says in surat al-Fath 40.1-2

إِنَّا فَتَحْنَا لَكَ فَتْحًا مُّبِينًا

Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest

لِّيَغْفِرَ لَكَ اللَّهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِن ذَنبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ وَيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكَ وَيَهْدِيَكَ صِرَاطًا مُّسْتَقِيمًا

That Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favor upon you and guide you to a straight path.

The “sins” of the Prophets (s) are not works of immorality or evil.  On the contrary, they are actions of righteous deeds that are beyond their call at a given period of time.

The Prophet’s (s) neglect of ibn Umm Maktoom was not out of contempt. It was out of diligence and seeking goodness for the notables.

But the Prophet (s) frowned.

Ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) was unaware of this frown until the Prophet (s) saw him after the revelation of this sura and honoured him by placing his cloak on the ground for him to sit on.  The Prophet (s) loved Ibn Umm Maktoom.  He (ra) would be the second muezzin for the Prophet (s) and would be his (s) deputy in Medina during his (s) travels.

The frown was not meant for Ibn Umm Maktoom.  Rather, it was at his (s) inability to change the hearts of the notables and their rejection of the Truth. He (s) frowned because when the notables saw Ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) they scoffed declaring arrogantly their revulsion of being asked to join this commoner in his faith in Allah and the Messenger. Allah (swt) therefore seeks to comfort the Prophet (s) with the admonition:

وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى

And you are not accountable for his failure to attain purity

وَأَمَّا مَن جَاءكَ يَسْعَى

But as to him who came to you running.

وَهُوَيَخْشَى فَأَنتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّى

And is afraid (of Allah and His Punishment), of him you are neglectful and divert your attention to another,

كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَن شَاء ذَكَرَهُ

Nay, indeed it (these Verses of this Qur’an) are an admonition, so whoever wills, let him pay attention to it.

The Quran is the Word of Allah. It has subtle and delicate nuances that bewilder the knowing.

Whenever Allah (swt) speaks of ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) in Surat ‘Abasa, Allah (swt) drops a (taa) to imply the earnestness and desire of faith on the part of Ibn Umm Maktoom.  For example, yazzakkā: the original tā’ [of yatazakkā] has been assimilated with the zāy to imply expedience and sure desire.

As such Allah (swt) says:

تَلَهَّىٰ يَذَّكَّرُ يَزَّكَّى

Instead of:

تَتَلَهَّىٰ يَتَذَّكَّرُ يتَزَّكَّى

With regards to the conscious rejecters of faith the taa remains as a reminder of their distance from Allah and belief.

تَصَدَّىٰ اسْتَغْنَىٰ

Eventually, all who were assembled that day would die as conscious rejecters of faith, overwhelmingly during the Battle of Badr.

Ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) would die a martyr as the standard bearer during the battle of Qadisyeh during the leadership of ‘Umar (ra).  A blind man leading the believers to victory in defence of the message he so cherished. Fitting.

I will see Waseem, my commoner friend, tomorrow insha allah.

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Imam Yahya Ibrahim, Director of Islamic Community Service; A/Principal of the Langford Islamic College, Perth & Head of Islamic Studies. Imam Yahya Ibrahim is also Curtin University & University of Western Australia's Muslim chaplain and sits on the Human Research Ethics Committee at St Charles Gairdner Hospital for Western Australian Health Services. Imam Yahya is also an instructor for the world-renowned AlMaghrib Institute. His initiatives in Australia and internationally include diversity training, cultural sensitivity programs, educational lectures, and media presentations. His expertise is sought by schools, universities, and a wide range of government & non-government organizations. In recognition of his valuable contribution, Imam Yahya was awarded the West Australian Multicultural Community Service Award for Individual Excellence. He currently oversees a unique educational Online project through https://YahyaIbrahim.com/School and his social media outreach.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ahsan Sayed

    June 14, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    alhumdulilah. amazing.

  2. Avatar

    Amatul Wadood

    June 14, 2010 at 1:19 AM

    Salam wart wabarat!
    SubhanAllah!!! mashAllah!
    that was thought provokin!! jazakAllah Khair!

  3. Pingback: Abasa – A Frown That Went Unwitnessed | allah.eu

  4. Avatar

    abu Abdullah

    June 14, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    Salamualaikum.
    Subahan Allah, thank you for the article. jazak Allah khayr.

    I had one question one of shia asked and simply because he denied the Sunni version of the ‘ purpose of revelation’ for this surah the discussion did not go fruitful. I would like to ask about the second form and third form of nouns used in the first few ayah and how can we effectively understand and answer that it was indeed the prophet , sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, the surah was reveled to and not some chiftain of Umayyad?

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      Yahya Ibrahim

      June 14, 2010 at 9:52 AM

      Bismillah,

      ‘Abasa – “He Frowned” (3rd Person)
      ‘AbasTA – “You frowned” (2nd person)

      In that IS the proof that it was the Prophet (s). Had it been other than him (s), Allah would have been accusatory of the conduct – “You frowned”
      But, since it is Muhammed (s), the sinless, Allah educates those thereafter of the dynamics of the situation by saying, “He Frowned”

      When understood correctly, you find that our Messenger (s) acted, as always, with great wisdom and sincerity.

      Many misunterstand the ‘itaab (cautionary discussion) as censure of the Prophet (s). That is never the case. The Prophet (s), like those before him, always acted flawlessly. The reproach was in seeking too much goodness before its time.

      Musa (s) proceeded ahead of his people to Tur Sinai and is questioned in surat Taha, “What made you depart from your people in such hurry.” His response (s), “I came expeditiously so as to earn your pleasure my Lord.”
      Allah (swt) commands him to go back to them and rid them of the golden calf.

      Of course much more could be said, wa Allahu a’laam

      Yahya

      • Avatar

        abu Abdullah

        June 14, 2010 at 11:22 AM

        [i]The “sins” of the Prophets (s) are not works of immorality or evil. [/i]

        Jazak Allah Khayr Ustadh Yahya,

        I was under the impression that , the sins committed by him, he sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, were dhanb meaning minor sins because his moral standard was high and he would even ask forgiveness for those minor mistakes; while us in his ummah ‘ deal with sayyi’at, like sins or major errors. Hence the dua, where prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam reads,

        [i]Allahumma inni audhubika min kulli dhanbi[/i]

        So should not we make dua’, as we deserve to seek forgiveness like

        [i]Allahumma inni audhubika min kulli dhanbi wa sayyiati[/i]

        Point being prophet need not ask those dua , while he never committed major sins but saying that he did not even commit minor ones, is being politically correct? or are we leaning towards the shia understanding that prophet was divine , audhubillah, hence cannot commit mistakes. period?

        What happened to the hadith that every son of adam commits mistakes and best among those mistake makers is the one who repents. and about the hadith where Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam refers to the prospect that were it not for human creating mistakes. Allah Ta’la would wipe them off and create a new generation that would commit mistakes and seek forgiveness.

        Regardless, Here is their version of the story, fyi.

        Barak Allah feek.

        PS it was a pleasure meeting you during last peace conference. :)

      • Avatar

        Slave of the Creator

        June 14, 2010 at 3:38 PM

        I would like to add to Yahya’s response one thing that I noticed regarding the ayat in question. While reading them, I noticed that it says (v. 2) ‘an jaahu al-aAAma’, i.e. the blind man came to him (the companion (ra) came to the Prophet (s), not one of the cheiftans of Quraysh). If their story was true, it would say ‘an jaaka al-aAAma’; afterall, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum (ra) came to the Prophet (s), and not Uthman (ra) (as they say it was he who frowned).

        I hope that makes sense, wallahu alam.

        BTW, jazakallahu khayr for the article Yaha.

      • Avatar

        Abu Maryam

        November 23, 2010 at 5:10 PM

        MY OBJECTION
        I have to disagree with brother Yahya Ibrahim here, when he states:
        “The Prophet (s), like those before him, always acted flawlessly.”

        I have to remind myself and my brothers and sisters that when making statements they must not contradict clear evidences nor leave things ambiguous for anyone.

        MY STATEMENT
        The Prophets were NOT flawless – they had minor flaws. They were fallible – they were NOT infallible. ONLY Allaah, The Lord of the Universe, is infallible and flawless. All Prophets made mistakes i.e. minor mistakes. Mistakes are not the same as sinning for e.g. I forgot to pay a brother £10 I borrowed, this is a genuine mistake. I deliberately don’t want to pay him, hoping he will forget about it – this is a sin! Prophets did not sin they were protected by Allaah from this

        MY EVIDENCES
        QUR’AN
        MOOSA MAKES MISTAKE AND ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS
        One day a man from among the Children of Israel sought Moosa’s help against his enemy. Moosa struck him with his fist and killed him (cf. TQM 28:15). Then Moosa regretted it, and sought the forgiveness of his Lord, and He forgave him.

        YUNUS MAKES MISTAKES AND ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS
        And (remember) Dhan-Nun (Jonah/Yunus), when he went off in anger, and imagined that We shall not punish him (i.e. the calamites which had befallen him)! But he cried through the darkness (saying): La ilaha illa Anta [none has the right to be worshipped but You (O Allah)], Glorified (and Exalted) are You [above all that (evil) they associate with You]. Truly, I have been of the wrong-doers.” (TQM 21:83)

        HADITHS
        The Final Prophet, Muhammad, made istigfar ( for e.g. reported in hadith that he made repentance at least 70 times a day) i.e. for mistakes and/or what he perceived to be his mistakes or thinking he was not pleasing Allaah enough!

        RESPECTED SCHOLARS
        When it comes to the idea of the Prophets committing major sins (kabaa’ir), Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said (in al-Fataawaa, 4/319): “…The belief that the Prophets are free of major sins, but not of minor sins, is the opinion of the majority of Islamic scholars and of all (Muslim) groups… It is the opinion of most mufassireen (commentators on the Qur’an), scholars of hadeeth and fuqaha’ (jurists).”

        With regard to whether it is possible for the Prophets to commit minor sins, in Lawaami’ al-Anwaar al-Bahiyyah (2/214), al-Safaareeni quoted from Ibn Hamdaan who said in Nihaayat al-Mubtadi’een: “They are infallible in conveying the commands and message of Allaah, but they are not infallible in any other regard. They may make mistakes, forget things, or commit minor sins – according to the most well-known opinion (of the scholars) – but they will not be approved for these mistakes.”

        MY UNDERSTANDING
        I go with the understanding that ALL Prophets committed minor mistakes, I back it with such evidence as Moosa’s manslaughter ,and Prophet Yunus, who seemed to give up on Allaah’s mission and he was thrown into the whale’s belly, thus Allaah taught him a lesson.The Prophets committing errors then ties in with Allaah’s Will that every son of Adam will commit mistakes (minor mistakes and major mistakes being sin). It also tie sin with Allaah asked every son of Adam to ask fro forgiveness, even all prophets.

        Everyone, even the Prophets, is in need of the forgiveness of Allaah. Allaah has blessed His Prophets by forgiving their sins, and He has blessed our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) as He said (interpretation of the meaning): “That Allaah may forgive you your sins of the past and the future, and complete His favour upon you, and guide you on the Straight Path.” [TQM 48:2]

        Let not the love of of our Prophets (pbu them all) delude us into thinking they were infallible or did not make any mistakes! If we take this route we go towards the path exaggerating and venerating them to a status they were not given or want themselevs to be given. The Final Prophet (phuh) warned us against this

        I ask Allaah to guide me if I erred or hold incorrect understanding and, if so, I ask my brothers and sisters to correct me with sound evidences.
        May Allaah guide us to the true knowledge of His Deen and grant us wisdom to understand so we do not fall into erro, have correct beliefs and worship Him the best way possible.


        reference: http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/1684/prophet%20sin

        • Yahya Ibrahim

          Yahya Ibrahim

          November 23, 2010 at 7:37 PM

          bismillah,

          The prophet (s) conveying the Dawah to Quraish and his conduct with the great Sahabi (ra) are not a Khateeah or sin. He (s) was flawless in his (s) discharge of the balaagh and dawah (including ignoring Ibn Umm Maktoom). That is a part of the fulfillment of His (s) messengership that Shaykhul Islam ibn Taymiyyah writes about and you quote.

          You have confused your sources with the reality of the discussion.

          The Prophet (s) was flawless in that regard as were all that proceeded him (s).

          No scholar has ever stated, “This is a minor sin of the Prophet (s).” That is unheard of akhi.

          Further, it appears you do not understand what the word Istighfar means…the translation is far from the reality of that noble act of worship.
          Istighfaar akkhi, to be brief, is seeking protection from errors that are committed not necessarily from sins that HAVE been committed.

          finally,
          There is a difference between a sin and a mistake in worldly judgment.

          Incidents would occur with regards to non-worldly matters that required a response from the messenger (s) – or Ijtihaad:
          1- His (s) decision was then proven to be in harmony with the revelation
          2- Revelation came down in OPPOSITION to it
          3- No revelation was sent down and His (s) decision is agreed by all scholars to be the Truth.

          Number 2 is not to be considered a sin of course since it is ijtihaad and was corrected by Allah (swt).

          The aqeedah of Ahlisunnah is clear that the Prophet (S) is sinless (from Khateeah).

          wa Allahu a’laam,

          Yahya Ibrahim

          • Avatar

            Abu Maryam

            November 24, 2010 at 6:50 PM

            JazakAllaahu khairan dear brother Yahya, for your reply.
            I do not want to talk without knowledge, nor from my own opinions, but via evidences from the Quran, Hadith and respected scholars’ understanding.
            My brother, do not construe my dialogue as an argument with you – that is not my intention – nor is it to be negative or ill-mannered -nor to win a debate or anything like that!
            I seek refuge from Shaytan and my own ego, for any errors that I may commit and all good that comes from me is from Allaah, The Supreme.

            Could I ask you to please read my response again because I feel you have missed a lot of my points. I feel you were hasty in your reply on a subject matter I feel you have made up your mind on and maybe do not want to change your view on (you don’t have to change your view if you have good evidences to back it up) .
            I base these observation namely on your statement:
            “He (s) was flawless in his (s) discharge of the balaagh and dawah (including ignoring Ibn Umm Maktoom). That is a part of the fulfillment of His (s) messengership that Shaykhul Islam ibn Taymiyyah writes about and you quote.”

            I did not Ibn Taymiyyah, but quoted this…
            al-Safaareeni…: “They (meaning ALL prophets) are infallible in conveying the commands and message of Allaah, but they are not infallible in any other regard. They may make mistakes, forget things, or commit minor sins – according to the most well-known opinion (of the scholars) – but they will not be approved for these mistakes.”

            To clarify, using the evidences I cited, I come to the conclusion that :
            1. ALL prophets committed errors or mistakes
            2. Errors and mistakes were not in the matters of conveying the revelation of Allaah.
            3. Errors made by prophets were in doing something which was personal to them i.e. act of worship which Allaah The Most Sublime corrected them, so they know and their followers know, what to do in such circumstances. For instance, Final Prophet (pbuh) FORGOT how many rakah he prayed so the Companions reminded him that he had missed a rakah consequently he corrected himself.
            4. These mistakes were not sins (but the scholars I quoted stated they WERE. I chose the safer option of mistakes but sinless, so I could be wrong here)
            5. They repented from their mistakes
            6. Prophets are human
            7. Based on 6. it logically follows they are fallible and can err.
            8. Allaah is the infallble and perfect thus showing us, that all mankind are 7.
            9. If the prophets did not err and are flawless (in non-revelation matters )then:
            a.Why do they repent?
            b.Why does Allaah accept their repentance?
            c.Why does Allaah not say to them you are not erring or making mistakes thus you do NOT need to ask for forgiveness?
            …and Allaah, The All-Knowing, know best!

            How do you understand the verses of the ‘mistakes’ of Moosa and Yunus as pointed out in those verse? Most importantly how should all Muslims understand them?

            Please can I also you ask you to confirm or correct me, with sound evidences, line by line, on what I wrote originally wrote about and also on the above questions/queries.

            Please explain comprehensively what ‘istighfar ‘ means and also what the legacy of scholarship have stated on this matter.

            Ibn Taymiyyah stated (in al-Fataawaa, 4/319): “…The belief that the Prophets are free of major sins, but not of minor sins, is the opinion of the majority of Islamic scholars and of all (Muslim) groups… It is the opinion of most mufassireen (commentators on the Qur’an), scholars of hadeeth and fuqaha’ (jurists).”

            The knowledgeable majority of the the Ummah, accordign to Ibn Taymiyyah said that prophets did err and made mistakes on non revelation matters or acts. It maybe the case that you are following the minority group, who belief they did not err, whose ijtihad you need to provide evidences for.

            May Allaah enlighten us all on the truth and forgive us our mistakes

          • Avatar

            Abu Maryam

            December 18, 2010 at 12:06 PM

            …still waiting on your reply, brother Yahya.
            It would be great if you can enlighten us with evidences for what you were stating – thus showing my perception could be flawed – which I will readily accept.

      • Avatar

        abu Abdullah

        November 24, 2010 at 7:34 PM

        Salamualaikum,

        I appreciate the manners in which the dialogue is going on between the author and the questioner.

        Meanwhile it dawned upon me that some of the attributes Allah Ta’la has and He Ta’la expects us, human to posses ( in our human ability and limits of course) like Ar Rahman, and we are expected to be merciful and gentle with people, otherwise we won’t receive mercy.
        However , there are some name/attribute of Allah like of doing al Kibr ( that suits to His majesty), Allah does not like anyone in His creation to compete him with this attribute. Because that attribute Allah Ta’la exclusively have and would show to everyone on DOJ. (While Iblees tried to boast his arrogance over Adam AS before Allah and he was punished till eternity, so is any one with even minute al Kibr in their heart won’t enter jannah, unless they repent)

        Similarly, when we say subahan Allah, we express the beauty in which only Allah is the most perfect and flawless (in a way that suits his majesty). If Prophet is sinless, and flawless doesn’t it mean he sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam is competing in this attribute with Allaah?

        I would like to know if this type of analogy is correct? and if yes, does that mean that Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam did a mistake before the time Surah revealed and Allah Ta’la immediately corrected him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

        Also, I also remember that after that incident, prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam would always give attention when ibn maqtum RA would come to him and thank him because of whom Allah remembered him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Is this correct way to make?

        Please correct me. Common sense is not really common :)

        wassalam.

  5. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    June 14, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    Excellent reminder, I had always wondered about the story behind Abdullah ibn Umm Makhtum’s name and of course the Arabic grammar gems in the Quran are amazing.

  6. Avatar

    Shuaib Mansoori

    June 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum Shaykhana,

    BarakAllahu Feekum for the reminder. Insha Allah hope to see you in Toronto soon…

    May Allah grant Waseem the BEST in this Dunya and raise his ranks in the Aakhirah

  7. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    June 14, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    Asalamu Alikum

    May Allah be pleased with Ibn Umm Maktum and all of the Companions. Jazakum Allah khayr for this great reminder.

  8. Avatar

    Hassen

    June 14, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    Allahu Akbar- beautiful reminder brother Yahya. This was an especially nice post as it allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the personality and character of the Messenger of Allah (sAaw). Jazak Allahu khayran.

  9. Avatar

    Amatullah

    June 14, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Amazing reminder, Jazaakum Allahu khayran. May Allah grant br Waseem the best in this life and the next and grant him a good end.

  10. Avatar

    Mohamed Al-Jazeri

    June 15, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    From a course with shykh Waleed, we learned that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was ma’asoom (sinless) in that if he committed any minor mistakes, Allah did not leave them uncorrected. This surah illustrates this clearly, And Allah knows best!

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      Yahya Ibrahim

      June 15, 2010 at 9:11 AM

      Bismillah,

      The incident does not illustrate any mistake or sin on the part of the Prophet (s).

      The Prophet (s) response to Ibn Umm Maktoom (r) was unwitnessed and was not in anger or insensitivity.

      Rather, it was out of love for his kith and kin of Quraysh to accept his Dawah.

      The Prophet (s) after the message being delivered to him is sinless.

      So as we show above:

      1- The prophet frowned but did not utter a sound.
      2- Ibn Umm Maktoob (r) interupted on account of his blindness…had he known the prophet (s) was engaged he would not have approached. So he (r) is excused on account of his blindness.

      3- The Prophet (s) sunnah is to ignore the secondary questioner while engaged with an initial questioner.
      4- The Prophet (s) intended good and acted well with Quraish. He did not put them on a higher level to ibn Umm Maktoom (r)
      5- Ibn Umm Maktoom (r) would have many other opportunities to ask on account of his faith. So the Prophet (s) prioritising is not an error.

      Finally, these verses and other such situations are not to be assumed as sins.

      There is a difference between a sin and a mistake in worldly judgment.

      Incidents would occur with regards to non-worldly matters that required a response from the messenger (s) – or Ijtihaad:
      1- His (s) decision was then proven to be in harmony with the revelation
      2- Revelation came down in OPPOSITION to it
      3- No revelation was sent down and His (s) decision is agreed by all scholars to be the Truth.

      Number 2 is not to be considered a sin of course sin it is ijtihaad and was corrected by Allah (swt).

      The aqeedah of Ahlisunnah is clear that the Prophet (S) is sinless (Khateeah).

      Yahya

      • Avatar

        sister

        June 15, 2010 at 9:18 AM

        Assalamualykum ,

        Jazakallahu khairaan kaseera for the explanation.

        salaam.

      • Avatar

        abu Abdullah

        June 15, 2010 at 10:07 AM

        jazakallah khayr for the explanation, It answers my rather confusing question too.

      • Avatar

        Abu Maryam

        January 24, 2011 at 7:52 PM

        Another month goes by… and I await our brother Yahya’s reply. Are you sooo busy ,brother? Come on – you had even time to do a video or radio programme for MM!
        Come MM admin get him to reply, please
        Jazakallahu khair.

  11. Avatar

    Mariam

    June 16, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    “Ibn Umm Maktoom (ra) would die a martyr as the standard bearer during the battle of Qadisyeh during the leadership of ‘Umar (ra). A blind man leading the believers to victory in defence of the message he so cherished. Fitting.”

    SubhanAllah! This last paragraph just caught my attention.

    SubhanAllah, a blind man taking the stance as a standard bearer in a war? Not knowing who is around him and just hearing the sounds of the swords above heads. Even those with sight would be scared to take on that role.

    SubhanAllah… how brave the Sahabis were!

    May Allah (swt) allow raise us up in ranks amongst all those whom he is pleased with. Ameen.

    Jazakum Allahu Khairan for the article!

    • Yahya Ibrahim

      Yahya Ibrahim

      June 16, 2010 at 7:45 PM

      Bismillah,

      In fact sister, he asked Omar () special permission to go out in battle with Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (r) to face the Persians.

      Usually he would be given governance over Madina and the able bodied men would go out to battle.

      He was given the standard to carry and was martyred after advancing against the aggressors.

  12. Avatar

    Yusuf abolude

    September 4, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Thanks,may Allah reward u for the story have been trying to understand.

  13. Avatar

    khaleda

    November 25, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Assalamualikum
    This is a very informative post, including all the reader’s point of views accordance with tThe Quran and Hadith. I am still learing little by little. But i really cannot relate or connect the Quran incident with brother yahyia’s visiting hospital, and finding another muslim brother in sick. can you please help me to fill the gap by addressing the connection with the blind man incident.

    khaleda

  14. Avatar

    Abu Maryam

    January 24, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Another month goes by… and I await our brother Yahya’s reply. Are you sooo busy ,brother? Come on – you had even time to do a video or radio programme for MM!
    Come MM admin get him to reply, please
    Jazakallahu khair.

  15. Avatar

    loghani

    July 23, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    How can Muslims, those who believe in the noble Messenger (PBHHH) believe that he frowned? In fact Allah (SWT) mentions regarding a disbeliever (Kafir): ثُمَّ عَبَسَ وَبَسَرَ – then he frowned and scowled (Al-Mudatthir). Allah (SWT) uses this attribute as a reprehensible description of a disbeliever, yet Muslims attribute it to their Prophet (PBHHH)!
    The Prophet (PBHHH) said: ما أوذي نبي مثلما أوذيت – No Prophet has been disparaged the way I have been disparaged.

  16. Avatar

    Abu Muhammad

    March 5, 2016 at 1:21 PM

    Great article Ust. Yahya! Can you please give sources for these 3 facts that were mentioned about Abdullah ibn Maktum

    1) Abdullah ibn Maktum would be his (s) deputy in Madinah during his travel

    2) would be the second muezzin for the Prophet (s)

    3) The Prophet honored him by placing his cloak on the ground for him to sit on

    Once again, jazakallahu khairan for your hard work

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#Islam

Dr Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui: An Obituary Of A Scholar of Seerah

Meraj Din

Published

A leading scholar of Islamic studies with focus on Seerah literature and history, he unconventionally broke many stereotypes—both orthodox and modern and all his life epitomized the cause of Islam on the intellectual front.

With the death of Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui, at the age of 76, Muslims in South Asia lost one of the most respected and leading scholars of Islam. A graduate of, and now professor at Aligarh University is less known in the West for his 29 books than for his Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts at the Aligarh Muslim University, India, published in London in 2002 by the Furqan Heritage Foundation. An eminent Muslim religious scholar, academic and historian who served as director of the Institute of Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University. Siddiqui was a well-placed and reputed figure of great spiritual and intellectual insight recognized on national as well as international level. Siddiqui was instrumental over the past 30 years in the framing, development and streamlining the influence of Islam in Aligarh Muslim University. To commemorate the outstanding services of Hazrat Shah Waliullah and to promote the Islamic values, the Institute of Objective Studies instituted an Award known as “Shah Waliullah Award” to honour eminent scholars who have done outstanding work in Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Islamic Studies. The fifth Shah Waliullah Award was rightly conferred on Prof. Mohd Yasin Mazhar Siddiqi, as the renowned scholar for his contribution to Sirah and Historiography in Islamic Perspective in 2005.

Siddiqui was an exceptionally modest and humble man, with an intellectually engaging and honest commitment to Islam, away from self-eulogizing claims of pseudo-intellectualism. His commitment to Islam, which occupied him for his whole life, left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people across territorial boundaries. One thing all this illustrates is Siddiqui’s intense sense of duty — a sense that he unthinkingly expected his colleagues to share. Siddiqui’s well-stocked mind, clarity and unflinching intellectual honesty devoted to respond the questions of Orientalist scholarship on Sirah literature and subsequent other corollaries. He had little time for Islam’s own accounts of its origins rather his interest revolved around “Qurʾān and Sirah” and its role in shaping the worldview of Muslims who are struggling to makes sense of their identity amid the challenges emerging from dominant discursive colonial Eurocentric episteme. Leaving the conventional hollow claims, without efforts to prove how and why so much sanctity is attached to Islam and its sources—Qurʾān and Sunnah/Sirah being the primary one, he reckoned, to fill the gap using contemporary sources and knowledge of Hadīth, from orientalist and now its pedigree of modernist claims. This task required both personal and intellectual bravery. As he knew the central beliefs of Islam, such as the way the Quran took shape, the place of Sirah, its underlying methodology, he was equally aware how outside scrutiny has tempered the flare, especially when the conclusions are expressed in a witty and sardonic style. His soft way of speaking, affectionate manner and hospitable nature made him a much-loved figure. Because of his erudition most people who came in contact with him thought of him as a teacher; many saw him as a spiritual mentor. With his humble appearance, it was easy to mistake him for a country bumpkin.

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Born in India in 1944 in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of United Provinces of British India. He graduated in the traditional Dars-e-Nizami (pure religious textual studies of Islamic texts) studies from Nadwatul Ulama in 1959, and Master’s in literature from the University of Lucknow in 1960. He passed the intermediate exams from the Jamia Milia Islamia in 1962 and then acquired a B.A. in 1965 and B.Ed. in 1966 from the same University. In 1968, Siddiqui recieved a M.A. degree in History, M.Phil. in 1969, and Ph.D. in 1975 from the Aligarh Muslim University. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqui benefited from great teachers like Maulana Rabi Hasni Nadvi, Maulana Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Maulana Ishaq Sandelvi K. A. Nizami, Abd al-Hafīz Balyāwi and Rabey Hasani. Anwar was welcomed as an independent member of various advisory committees and expressed pride in the research done in the field of Sirah.

Professor Siddiqui wrote more than 40 books and 300 research articles in Urdu, Arabic and Persian. His publications and presentations have reverberated throughout the discipline of Islamic studies and social sciences, profoundly shaping the scholarship of a new generation of scholars as they develop a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical approach to Seerah and history. He was well known for the great quality and high calibre of his originality of research in Islamic studies and all related subjects. He was recognized as one of the compelling and intellectually grounded voice on Seerah studies.  As a scholar and teacher, he embodied and followed strong moral and political principles, and formulated new ways of understanding the subject of Seerah, history, religious freedom, and the rights of religious minorities. His writings on the Prophet and his teachings garnered wide acclaim. He wrote extensively in reputed literary journal, ‘Nuqoosh’ and got international ‘Nuqush Award’, ‘Seerat-e-Rasool Award’ and ‘Sirah Nigari Award’. Two of his most popular works are Muslim Conduct of State and Introduction to Islam. The first book was Ehd-e-Nabwi mai Tanzīm-e-Riyāsat-o-Hukūmat and the second book The Prophet Muhammad: A Role Model for Muslim Minorities has gained such wide acclaim—mainly for the reason that its contents are divided into chapters (which stand on their own as a monograph) which deal with related specific subject matter. It is easy to understand how his style of presentation has endeared the book not only to common folk, but also to the people who would like to gain a reasonable insight into the true spirit of the teachings of Islam.

Almost every country outside the traditional Muslim “heartlands” asserts Siddiqui in his book ‘The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities is home to a Muslim minority population today. For such Muslim communities, the political perspectives reflected by the corpus of traditional fiqh are of little or no relevance, and can even be hugely problematic. Siddiqui therefore takes it upon himself to develop an understanding of Muslim jurisprudence that is particularly suited to their context, making a valuable contribution to the limited, but slowly expanding, corpus of writings on fiqh al-aqalliyat or fiqh for [Muslim] minorities. Siddiqui argues that the basis of fiqh for Muslim minorities must lie in the Makkan period of life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his companions, a period of around thirteen years when the Muslims were a minority and did not enjoy political domination. In many senses, their position resembled that of Muslim minorities today. Muslim minorities need to see the role of the Prophet and the early Muslims in that period as a model for them to emulate, Siddiqui suggests:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had close personal ties with several non-Muslims in Mecca, and Muslim minorities, Siddiqui advises, must emulate him in this regard and must have “excellent social relations with non-Muslims” (p. 194).

As Siddiqui succinctly puts it:

Muslims all over the world, especially Muslim minorities, have to prove that they are the best community, devoted to the cause of protecting mankind against suffering and blessing everyone with happiness, regardless of caste, colour or creed. Their position is of the best community and their duty is to serve mankind […] Their presence must guarantee help for everyone, especially of their non-Muslim country. However, this cannot be affirmed merely verbally or by recounting old stories. They have to prove it by their conduct. (p. 194)

This monograph and his other works are a brilliant contribution to the on-going debates about fiqh for Muslim minorities. It provides valuable insights for developing new and more relevant understandings of Islamic jurisprudence in Muslim minority contexts, envisaging the possibility of reconciling Islamic commitment with Muslim minority-ness, an issue that has largely escaped the attention of Islamic scholars but one that has sometimes been, and continues to be, a troubling one for many Muslims living as minorities. Siddiqui’s diverse and intellectually engaging work that speaks eloquently to a wide spectrum of readers with different backgrounds and interests. To use terms such as “monumental”, “one-of-a-kind”, and “exceptional” to describe this work is not exaggeration. A committed Muslim, throughout his career Siddiqui maintained the principle of genuinely evidence-based research. Dapper and courteous, he was a highly effective communicator, quoted widely in the local context  as well as cited in academia.

A direct criticism to his work also emerges from scholars who assert that in his Introduction of The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities’ Siddiqi (p. 62) formally describes himself as a humble and error-prone human being. However, he then proceeds to negate the worth of all previous biographies of the Prophet, claiming that these ‘conventional’ authors used ‘outdated methodology and lines of argument’. Consequently, according to him, all previous studies of the Makkan period were ‘markedly inadequate’ and ‘the entire life history of the Prophet remains to be analysed’ since ‘no biographer of his has ever given thought to this obvious fact that the Makkan period of his life represents the phase of subjugation’. Therefore, Siddiqi considers the conventional treatment of the Makkan and Madinan periods of Islamic history as ‘downright pernicious’ (p. ix). One wonders indeed whether the author is aware of some of the most popular biographies of the Prophet—beyond the classical ones: Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham, and Ibn Kathir—including the works by Muhammad Hamidullah, Muhammad Haikal, Martin Lings, Karen Armstrong, and Tarik Jan, all contradicting his assertions.

With quite a serious criticism on his assertions about various aspects of mis-reading the Seerah of the Prophet there still remains a lot to be talked about his contribution to diverse areas of Islamic Studies. And though he is no longer here to share his thoughts, he has done enough to enable us to think with him. Certain towering intellectuals become integral to the vey alphabet of our moral and religious imagination. They live in those who read and think them through-and thus they become indexical, proverbial, to our thinking. Siddiqui lived so fully, so consciously, so critically through the thick and thin of our times that he is definitive to our critical thinking, just like Mustafa Azami, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, or other Muslim luminaries are. He was – and remains – a brilliant intellectual, whose legacy of rethinking certain conventional assertions around Islam and efforts still reverberate today and will continue to do so.

He cultivated with joyous attention her relationships with family and friends. He mentored, as one of his students mentioned once, with remarkable care and intensity, demanding their best work, listening, responding with a sharp generosity, coming alive in thought, and soliciting others to do the same. He immersed himself, in illness and heath, in reading the Quran post morning prayers and transformed himself and transmitted the values of thought and love, leaving now a vibrant legacy that will persist and flourish among all whose lives were touched by his life and work.

May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaus in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and grant all those who cherished him patience.

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#Current Affairs

Racism And The Plagues of Egypt – Coronavirus And Racism: America’s Two Pandemics

Dr Amina Darwish, Guest Contributor

Published

Introduction

The fight against anti-Blackness has once again hit the global stage, and American Muslims have a central role to play in the movement of racial justice. The spiritual history of America is a history of Black Muslim voices. Mansa Abubakari, a West African King, landed in South America almost 200 years before Columbus began the massacre of the indigenous population.[1] The biggest migration of Muslims to America was the slave ships where scholars fought to teach Islam to their enslaved communities. Modern Islamophobic attacks such as the Muslim Ban of 2016 are not just Islamophobic, but also deeply racist because it denies the humanity of the previous generations of Muslims. Black Muslims have carried the mantle of preserving Islam in America and have fought for racial justice for last four centuries. The immigrant Muslims who arrived during the last 50 years were a direct result of the civil rights movement that allowed immigration from Muslim majority countries. The fight for racial justice is a Muslim fight. We owe it to the generations of Muslims before us to continue their work.

The 400 years of struggle for racial justice in America can be compared to the Children of Israel’s fight for emancipation from Pharaoh’s Egypt 3000 years ago during which the country was hit by a number of plagues. Sheikh Mendes and Imam Dawud Walid have recently referenced the story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), whose demand to Pharaoh to, “Let my people go[2]” is well known in many religious circles fighting for racial equality in America. [3] The Quran discusses of the plagues of Egypt in the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surah Al-A’raf. “So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” [7;133] The plagues of Egypt are similar to the current coronavirus pandemic in that they made systemic oppression clear for all to see. The goal here is to explain the relationship between the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

First, the name of the surah will be discussed. Then, the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will be put into context with the story of the other prophets mentioned in the surah. The events leading up to the Plagues of Egypt are explained and compared to the current American pandemics. Finally, there are recommendations for how to make our community spaces antiracist. A few Black scholars have been quoted throughout as to elevate their voices, and to provide some much-needed groundwork for readers who might be unfamiliar with these great American Muslim scholars. For further reading, Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler compiled a far more exhaustive list of Black Muslim narratives in the BlackIslamSyllabus.

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

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To put this verse into perspective we must first reflect on Surah A’raf as a whole, and I encourage everyone to read and contemplate the surah in depth. The A’raf, mentioned in ayah 46, are an elevated place on the Day of Judgement where people of no consequence get stuck. They watch as others are sorted towards Heaven or Hell. The people of the A’raf are not evil, but they also would not leave their comfort zones to actually commit to righteousness. Their comments to the people of Paradise and the people of the Fire are mentioned in the Surah, but do not earn a response because they are then, as they are now, people of no consequence.

The surah begins by telling Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to not feel distressed by forcing people out of their comfort zones, and warns of previous peoples who were destroyed as they slept in their heedlessness. And how many cities have We destroyed, and Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon. [7;4] We cannot go back to the previous norm when Black people were suffering alone, while non-Black people could comfortably enjoy their lives whilst ignoring—and even benefiting from a system built on—the suffering of their Black brothers and sisters. A critical mass of people must refuse the continued oppression and the suffering of others for the current system to change. American Muslims should do more than give lip service to their Black brothers and sisters.

Anti-Blackness in Human History

The first prophet mentioned in the surah is our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), whose name indicates his dark black skin. And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”, so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. [7;11] [Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from mud.” [7;12] Satan hated our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) for the form Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him, which included dark black skin. Anti-Blackness is as old as humanity itself. Dr. Bilal Ware has spoken extensively about the satanic nature of racism. Claims of superiority based on a birthright are rampant throughout human history. Egyptians claimed superiority over the Children of Israel based on where they were from centuries before. Jahili[1] Meccan society claimed superiority based on lineage. The American system claims superiority based on proximity to whiteness. These are characteristics determined at birth and are beyond any human being’s control. Such claims of superiority are counter to the Islamic ethos that sets the value of individuals based on their relationship with God alone. And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” [7:172] Many other prophets and their specific fights against the oppressive power structures are referenced in the surah, which illustrates the continuity of the struggle between the children of Adam and Satan.

A series of prophets (peace be upon them] are briefly discussed with striking similarities in the messages they delivered to their people. All the prophets teach their people about the Oneness of God and called them to rectify the vices that were specific to their society. The mala’a, or the elites, in each of their societies were mentioned as those who fought the prophets. They did so to maintain their chokehold on power, not because of a theological difference. The elites in Meccan society did not fight Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) until he began publicly preaching. They did not care that he prayed differently from them. They feared that his message would make them equal to people they belittled and disparaged. Similarly, it was the elites in Pharaoh’s court who demanded he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. This was a direct result of the magicians publicly declaring their belief and turning public opinion against Pharaoh’s magic, one of the pillars of his power. Similarly in America, the institutional structures of racism need to be dismantled.

Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

The story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) begins with the demand mentioned in the introduction, “so send with me the Children of Israel.” [7;105]. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) shows Pharaoh and his elites the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has sent him with. So Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest. [7;107] And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. [7;108] They refuse his message and demand a public contest with magicians in hopes of spinning the narrative in their favor. They fail miserably when the magicians recognize the truth and publicly declare their belief in the Lord of Prophet Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) despite Pharaoh’s threats of torture. Pharaoh said, “You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know.” [7:123]

This now leads us to the discussion of the plagues, and how they came about. After that public humiliation, the elites around Pharaoh demanded that he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. [Pharaoh] said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them.” [7;127] Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book specifically addressing how the White supremacist system feared a successful Black presidency and responded with an increased level of racism. As a spiritual response to this heightened oppression, Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) preached patience during the struggle because he knew Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would deliver them.  The people of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) complained about the increased pain they were now experiencing as they had been suffering for years before a messenger was sent to them. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) asked them to develop their spiritual strength and prepare themselves for a time when they would be empowered and would need spiritual discipline. Shaykha Ieasha Prime has recently called on the ummah to be increasing its spiritual strength as they organize against anti-Blackness.

The Economic Downturn

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tested the people of Pharaoh with an economic downturn. “And We certainly seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and a deficiency in fruits that perhaps they would be reminded.” [7;130] These circumstances are very similar to the economic recession of 2008, and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Whenever something good would happen, the people of Pharaoh would claim credit for it, and whenever something bad happened, they would blame Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his people. But when good came to them, they said, “This is ours [by right].” And if a bad [condition] struck them, they saw an evil omen in Moses and those with him. Unquestionably, their fortune is with Allah, but most of them do not know. [7;131] And they said, “No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.” [7;132] This rhetoric is very similar to the wave of nationalism that took over the world in the last few years. It is used by nationalist political leaders, who blame marginalized groups for the economic recession. However, the oppression of those marginalized communities was a preexisting condition that was exacerbated and exploited by nationalist leaders.

The Plagues

Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent them the plagues, “the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood” [7;133]. These were such overwhelming tests for Pharaoh. He was a man that claimed to be a god, but the True God was now sending him something that destroyed the riches he had built and could not be blamed on someone else. It revealed all of his lies. The plagues sent to Pharaoh were specific to the land of the Nile that depended on the production of agriculture and built imposing monuments. It is difficult to look grand when your fields are flooded or consumed by locusts, your water turns to blood, and you and your monuments are covered in lice and frogs. Similarly, the coronavirus pandemic exposed the faults in our health care system, the shortcoming of our food supply, the fragility of the economy, and the deep racism that is embedded into the entire system. The people who were deemed essential to work were treated as sacrificial and were forced to choose between paying for food and rent or risking exposure. They were offered empty platitudes that did not include the protective equipment they needed, increased financial compensation, or health care if they were to fall ill.

Coronavirus attacks the body’s ability to breathe, and it has been widely reported to have affected communities of color far harder than any other group. Black Americans are far more likely to have asthma due to highways going through their neighborhoods, and therefore more likely to die from Covid-19. This is a direct link to a racist system of redlining and highway construction that took away their ability to breathe. Black Americans are imprisoned at disproportionally high rates where social distancing is impossible. There are many false assumptions about the imprisoned population. The truth is that more than 90% of all cases never go to trial, and an accused person’s ability to defend themselves is almost impossible with exorbitant amounts of money. Many Muslims now claim affiliation to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him. Covid-19 could be killing the next Malcolm X in prison this very moment. All that without even discussing the economic impact of coronavirus on communities of color that if left unchecked will widen the racial wealth gap. The scarcity of food and resources that were created by the plagues undoubtedly affected the Children of Israel and not just their oppressors; however, the end result of plagues was justice for the oppressed.

From Eric Garner to George Floyd, Black Americans have been fighting to breathe in America. The Arabic word nafs which is usually translated to a soul/self has the same root word as nafas, which means a breath. So, a more accurate translation of nafs is actually a breathing soul. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a nafs (breathing soul) unless for a nafs or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he/she had slain humankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he/she had saved humankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. [Surah Al-Ma’idah; 32] American Muslims have tended towards the medical profession as a means of fulfilling the above verse in saving people. We should be focusing the same level of energy at saving populations by fighting both the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

Naming the Oppression

The coronavirus epidemic and the recent public murders of Black Americans created a tipping point that did not exist before. Former NBA player and prolific author, Kareem Abdul Jabbar said, “it feels like hunting season is open on blacks.” The murder of George Floyd was so egregious that groups dedicated to preventing police accountability called for Derek Chauvin to be held accountable. America was force to collectively acknowledge the murder of a Black man at the hands of a police officer. Corporations who peddled in racism were issuing apologies when they saw the tide of public opinion turn. The murder of George Floyd made America look the ugliness of racism in the eye. Of course, police brutality and racism did not begin with George Floyd nor did it end with him. Many more people lost their lives at the hands of the police during the protests. For every name we know, there are countless others we do not know. Police brutality is a leading cause of death for Black men in America. Even if we do not know their names, every victim leaves behind a family to mourn their loss while knowing that the murderer not only walks free, but wears a uniform that allows him to continue to kill without consequence. May the brave young woman who took the video receive Divine reward and healing for her bravery. May the burning in the heart of every mother who lost a child be granted Divine patience and healing.

In Surah A’raf, the people of Pharaoh also acknowledged their oppression of the Children of Israel, and they vowed to stop oppressing them. And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel.” [7;134] We know that the people of Pharaoh reneged after the plagues were lifted. But when We removed the punishment from them until a term which they were to reach, then at once they broke their word. [7;135] So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our signs and were heedless of them. [7;136] Pharaoh in his arrogance witnessed all of the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) including the staff, his hand, and the plagues. He then witnessed the Red Sea split, and still he followed Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) into the sea until he was drowned. His hatred blinded him, and his racism killed him.

America is now at the same moment of realization. Of course, Black Muslims have never been unaware of racism. It is a privilege for non-Black Muslims to learn about systemic racism rather than experience it firsthand. The ability to see right from wrong is not guaranteed for us. Arrogance can blind us as it has blinded Pharaoh and his army. I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them. [7;146] The ability to see the racism is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). May we be protected from spiritual blindness. No Muslim in America should be able to claim a lack of awareness of systemic racism any longer. No should they continue to favor their comfort zones over our love for our Black brothers and sisters and assume they will be forgiven. And they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’ [7;169]

Fighting the Oppression

Pharaoh claimed to be god, and White supremacy is the false god of our time. It is built into our psyches, our financial systems, and our power structures. Statues were erected to idolize those who upheld it. White supremacy is a system where lighter skin makes people smarter, more trustworthy, and more beautiful. We know this is a lie on its face, and yet it breads anti-blackness that is deeply engrained into everyday life. Fighting anti-blackness is a spiritual struggle, and we should make sincere intentions to fight it in all its forms. We must stand with the people of righteousness who fought for the abolition, civil rights, and an end to colonialist exploitation.

White supremacy in America is in a housing system that segregates people and exposes them to pollutants in their air and their water. It is in an education system that funds or defunds schools based on that segregated housing, and uses the police as an extreme punishment for a child’s infractions. It is in a judicial system that criminalizes poverty and imprisons those who cannot afford bail. It is in a prison system that forces people to work without financial compensation and is protected by the Thirteenth Amendment. Plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic were halted because communities of color were more likely to be affected in yet another disturbing attack. White supremacy is so deeply engrained that it leads some to harm themselves by bleaching their skin and burning their hair in hopes of appearing more like their oppressors. It is everywhere including our spiritual spaces.

Muslims often quote ayah 48:13 and the last sermon of Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with pride that the tradition stands firmly against racial injustice. While Islam itself does, Muslims often unfortunately do not. One of my community members recently shared a story about entering a masjid in hijab, and being asked if she was Muslim. What was even more egregious is that after a discussion, the family that asked concluded that because of her black skin, she was in fact NOT Muslim despite praying in a masjid. Many of the non-Black Muslims were shocked to hear this, but the truth is that I have never met a Black Muslim who did NOT have a racism in the masjid story. Ask the Black Muslims in your circle about their experiences, and the flood gates will open. You will also see the hurt and betrayal in their eyes for having to endure racism inside their places of worship. Apologize to them for not listening sooner and thank them for being willing to teach you and trust you to want to be better despite their trauma.

Call to Action

It is not enough for anyone to not be racist; we must be anti-racist. Acknowledge the anti-blackness you have internalized within yourself and have those difficult conversations with your family members. Ustadha Zaynab Ansari speaks about the pathological ideologies of how black bodies are viewed in America.  Join and support organizations like the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Muslim Alliance of North America. Embrace a Black Muslim ethos of viewing Islam as a theology of liberation. Support Black scholars and the Black masajid. Invite them to speak not just about anti-Blackness, but on their areas of expertise in Islam, history, community development, etc. Demand that the immigrant masajid be antiracist. Black Muslims should be on the Board of Directors and on the Zakah committee to ensure the equity of those spaces. Hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert to have a difficult conversation about race in your organization. If the Black Muslims do not share their experiences of racism in the masjid, it is not because they did but happen, but because they do not trust the community to care to change it. Build that trust and build coalitions of communal healing to end the segregation of masajid into Black and immigrant masajid in the first place. The way out of the pandemic is to take care of those who are most vulnerable. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “You are given rizq sustenance based on the most vulnerable among you.” Communities who have turned the tide have done exactly that. Learning to be anti-racist is one of many steps we can take to lift the difficulty our communities are facing. We need at least be as non-discriminatory as the virus that only sees a human body.

Anyone who is not Black has benefited from the theft and subjugation of generations of Black Americans. We should not meet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) having sided with an oppressor. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, “Oppression is layers of darkness on the Day of Judgement.” We can choose to follow the prophetic path, or we can choose to let our racism destroy us. And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it]. [7;34] There will be an accounting for our society as a whole, and there will be an individual accounting. Those who follow Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will enter eternal gardens and those who follow Pharaoh will enter an eternal fire. And the people of no consequence, those who choose to do nothing, will sit on the A’raf.

[1] This story is mentioned in West African oral histories

[2] “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5-1: NIV)

[3] The plagues of Egypt are discussed differently in the different Abrahamic faiths. “The Christian and Jewish traditions discuss the angel of death taking the life of the first-born son from every family in Egypt except those who left a marking on their doors so the angel of death could pass over them.”

[4] Jahili is a Quranic descriptor for Pre-Islamic Arab society. It is derived from a root word meaning ignorance.

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#Current Affairs

Will The Real Aya Sofia Please Stand Up?

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Published

They say history is the biography of great men and women. Well, history is also the story of great buildings. This case is rarely more painfully obvious than when it comes to identity of The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia (“the Holy Wisdom”).

Church, Mosque, Museum: the Aya Sofia has lived under many guises over the years and each transformation came hand-in-hand with momentous political change. This year, it was no different.

By reverting to the previous designation of Aya Sofia into a mosque, the Turkish courts have set off a firestorm of controversy across the world. It is understandable that faithful Christians would object. The sense of loss they must feel is the same feeling that many Muslims get when they see the Grand Mosque of Cordoba’s conversion into a cathedral. However, what is confusing is that some Muslims are also conflicted – or even downright hostile – to the idea of the Aya Sofia being used as a mosque.

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Why are they upset? Is there weight to their feeling that this was an act that was against the laws and spirit of Islam? How true is it that this was pure political theatre?

A summary of the arguments are detailed below as each point reveals a great deal about us as Muslims today and our current mentality:

The Vatican – a clear example of Museum and Church buildings in one

1. “It should just remain a museum…”

The Aya Sofia IS remaining a museum. The ruling states and the government echoes that it is a mosque and museum but, unfortunately, if you read the headlines you will be given the impression that the museum is being destroyed. This is not the case.

The world is full of buildings with dual functions. The White House is the seat of government and the residence of the President. The Vatican is a museum, a church and the home of the Pope. St Paul’s Cathedral is a tourist attraction as well as functioning church. If Muslims alone were somehow exempt from the ability to combine museum and mosque in one building, then that would be very strange indeed. Yet that is exactly what opponents of the mosque designation are saying.

What opponents for the reversion of the building are arguing for is not for the preservation of the museum – in fact, it will be more accessible than ever by becoming free and open till the late evening – but for the prevention of worship in a building that was built and intended for that very purpose.

2. “It was illegal to turn it into a mosque in the first place…”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: many Muslims quote the example of Umar (R) and his treatment of the Church of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In fact, this is the number one excuse used by many so-called Muslim intellectuals who lazily have projected their own biases on to our pious predecessors. They say, not without a little pious sanctimony, that Umar (R) exemplified that Islam is not a triumphalist religion and – though he could have converted the church into a mosque – he chose not to.

For most of history, it was common practice that any conquering army gained full ownership of the conquered lands. Islamic law was actually quite progressive in this regard, stipulating that property in surrendered lands would remain with their owners and not the conquerors. It was only if a land was taken without surrender, according to Imam Al Qurtubi amongst others, should their properties be forfeit. Jerusalem surrendered and Damascus surrendered. Constantinople – despite multiple attempts requesting it to do so – did not. Therefore, Islamically and according to the norms of the time, the conversion of the Church into a mosque was legal.

This is highlighted by the case of a district of Constantinople called Psamatya (present day Koca Mustafa Pasha) whose residents surrendered to Muhammad Fatih separately. The area had the highest density of extant churches, since none were touched or taken over.

Muhammad Fatih and The Patriarch Genaddios discussing the patriarchate

3. “But it has been a museum for so long now, so why turn it back?”

Some sources say that they have found evidence of the Church being purchased by Muhammad Fatih with his own money. The evidence has yet to be verified by external sources although it is accepted by the Turkish authorities, but even if you withhold it, the established status of the entire complex as a Waqf (Islamic endowment) is definitive. Waqfs cannot be unilaterally taken over or converted to another use.

The reality is that the conversion of the Aya Sofia from mosque to museum was a highly contentious decision taken in a manner that went against the then legal, moral and spiritual standards. It was a state sanctioned action to satisfy a political objective of the hyper-secular post-war Government. This was an injustice and it is not a good look to say that an injustice should be allowed to continue because it has been there for over eight decades.

4. “We don’t need more mosques in Istanbul…”

Would anyone think it reasonable if their local mosque was taken over unilaterally by the Government and then, when they ask for it back, they are brushed off by officials saying, “there are lots of mosques in the city and many are half empty: we are keeping this one.” Of course not. So, if it is not good enough for you, why should it be good enough for anyone else? In fact, this was the argument used by the RSS in taking over the Barbari mosque in India.

A mosque is not a property like every other. It is owned by Allah and not something we are allowed to rationalise or barter away. Allah has no need for even one mosque, but that does not mean we should stop building them or start giving them away. To go by the utilitarian argument, then anything that is not in full use by its owner is fair game for someone else to usurp. We would never accept this for our possessions so how can we accept it for something that does not belong to us?

The hadith about the conquest of Constantinople and praising Muhammad Fatih

5. “This is all a politically motivated…”

Every decision in a public sphere is political, or can be construed to be political, in some way. Building the Aya Sofia into a magnificent cathedral was a political decision by Justinian. Turning it into a mosque upon conquest was also a political decision by Muhammad Fatih. Stopping prayers in the mosque and converting it into a museum was a political decision by Mustafa Kemal. And now, returning the building to use as a mosque and museum is also a political decision by the current Turkish state.

The question is not whether it is a political act to convert the building: it will always have a political dimension. The question is whether you like the politics of someone who was praised by the Prophet ﷺ in a hadith and turned it into a mosque (Muhammad Fatih) or someone who insulted that same Prophet ﷺ as an “immoral Arab” and turned it into a museum (Mustafa Kemal.)

Pick a side.

The Grand Cathedral of Cordoba – formally the Grand Mosque

6. “This will hurt the feelings of non-Muslims and make us look bad.”

This is perhaps the only real argument of them all that has any weight to it. All the previous arguments are intellectual (and less than intellectual) smokescreens for the desire to not hurt the feelings of others – especially when we need all the friends we can get. This is understandable given our current geopolitical situation. This is also why you are more likely to find those Muslims living as minorities objecting to the change of status, reflecting their own precarious situations in their respective countries.

However, if looking at it objectively, we see that this argument also has limitations. Muslims are equally if not more hurt at the ethnic cleansing that took place in Andalusia. Does that mean we get the Al-Hambra or the Cordoba Mosque back? What about the Parthenon – since that used to be a mosque – conquered by the same Muhammad Fatih? What about the Kremlin, where St Basil’s Basilica was made from bricks of a Tatar mosque? And can we have the Philippines back while we are all trying to not offend each other?

Making decisions such as these on the highly subjective grounds of causing offence is not only impractical, but untenable. Many expressions of Islamic faith outside a narrow paradigm of what is palatable to specific audiences, can be seen as offensive to some. If we were to make decisions based first and foremost to protect the comfort of others, you would end up with a set of groundless rituals rather than a faith. It is the equivalent of changing your name to Bob instead of Muhammad since you were worried that even Mo was too exotic. Sometimes, the proper practice of our faith and upholding of our cultural and historical traditions will upset others not because what we are doing is deliberately offensive or wrong, but because we have different values and different standards.

Conclusion

What is most upsetting about the change of use for the Aya Sofia is the double standard at play. Athens has not even one mosque whilst Istanbul has hundreds of churches and synagogues: yet the Greeks are calling the Turks intolerant. The Roman Catholics plundered the Aya Sofia of all treasures and took them to St Marks church in Venice (where they still are to this day): yet it is the Pope that says that he is distressed at the Muslims – who preserved the Byzantine inheritance- for turning it into a mosque and Catholic churches calling for a day of mourning.

All the commentators calling for it to not be converted back into a mosque are also correspondingly mute regarding the Granada Cathedral built on site of a mosque, or the Barbri Mosque turned temple in India, or the Al Ahmar Mosque turned into a bar in Palestine.

But this is human nature and they will shoot their shot. Nonetheless, as Muslims, if we are against the reversion of the Aya Sofia to be a mosque again, then we really need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Just as Muhammad Fatih conquered Constantinople, we need to conquer our own ignorance, our own inferiority complex and our own insecurities.

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