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ACTION ALERT: Thank CNN for the Positive Portrayal of Muslims

Amad Abu Reem

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*Please forward, tweet and FB this post as possible.*

Reading time: ~1-2 minutes
Action time: ~ 2-3 minutes

Remember the niqab post on Sr. Heba in NY Times. We asked for your help to thank the author, and you responded! The author received so much positive feedback from Muslims like never before. And now another similar piece is in the works for another mainstream magazine! Will you help us again?

As you have heard or seen, MuslimMatters.org was recently featured in a positive piece about mainstream Muslims on CNN, along with AlMaghrib at the Ilm Summit 2010. We are collaborating with AlMaghrib to send out a thank you note to the appropriate CNN people. Such notes of appreciation are essential in that they provide positive feedback and encouragement, hopefully for further commitment to shedding light on mainstream Islam in America.

To facilitate the feedback, we have created a special forwarding address that will relay the message to the necessary CNN people.

Send your emails to: thankCNN@muslimmatters.org

What to write? Even a quick “thanks for the piece, it was really needed”, or “thanks, you rock!” would be sufficient, though some more explanation of why you think its important would really help.

If you send a message, pls add it in the comments here, and encourage others to write.

Imad Shaykh is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Imad is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

54 Comments

54 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AH

    August 13, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    Sent
    ————–
    To whom it may concern @ CNN:
    Thank you much for the piece on Muslims battling keyboard jihadists! Stories like this are necessary at a time when Islamophobia is becoming deeply rooted in the hearts of average Americans, due to the assault on the religion both by the Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim extremists. Both are bent on creating enmity and hatred within the American society and such programming is a breath of fresh air that will help foment mutual partnership among all Americans against extremism.

    -AS
    Houston, TX

  2. Avatar

    Fuad Hasan

    August 13, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    CNN is a biased media. I was suprised to see it actually showed the peaceful side which is the mainstream part of islam on its channel. I am very happy to see muslimmatters.org being featured on CNN. They usually spend broadcast time showing which muslim has the terror connection to which group. CNN act as a mouthpiece of western propaganda. I do not watch CNN. So i was lucky enough to catch that programme while flipping through channels. However i don’t think I can thank such a biased media like CNN. But that’s just my opinion. CNN, Give Octavia Nasr her job back. Kudos to Fareed Zakaria.

    • Avatar

      Ameera Khan

      August 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM

      Hehe, I found this very cute. :) Your honesty is commendable, brother. :)

      • Avatar

        Fuad Hasan

        August 13, 2010 at 1:19 PM

        Lol *blush*

    • Avatar

      Justin

      August 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM

      All media outlets have some bias. Remember that these media stations are not monoliths; some reporters try to be very objective and truthful, while others are more bias. Even Fox News sometimes shows pieces on Islam fairly (although it is not common). Still, you should thank CNN because these kinds of TV spots are needed to counter the raging Islamophobic movement. You shouldn’t write them off just because of that.

      • Avatar

        broAhmed

        August 13, 2010 at 1:03 PM

        Agree! An organization may be more ‘biased’ than others, but there are often individuals or groups within that organization working towards the truth. At least thank them for going against the tide of their colleagues, not to mention CNN so that they will do such positive messages in the future inshaAllah.

      • Avatar

        Fuad Hasan

        August 13, 2010 at 1:50 PM

        So you’r saying I should thank CNN for doing its actual job (unbiased, fair and balanced reporting) only for a couple of minutes? I completely agree with you that this type of positive coverage are absolutely necessary to counter islamophobia and we should actively engage with as many medias as possible. But With all due respect, i do not get satisfied that easily. CNN has to do more than that to get a ‘thank you’ from me. But again, that’s just me i guess.

        • Amad

          Amad

          August 13, 2010 at 2:01 PM

          Let’s not be too picky about sharing our gratitude. You thank people for the good they do and hold them responsible when they mess up.

          CNN is not just one reporter or one producer… there are thousands of people who work there. We are thanking them specifically for this piece and encouraging them to do more, and thanking specifically the people at CNN who made it happen.

        • Avatar

          Muhammad

          August 15, 2010 at 7:44 PM

          I couldn’t agree more. We’ll thank them when they report on Muslims being targeted in the US and being treated like second class citizen. I am shocked even sh. Yaser Qadhi was saying we should thank them, give me a break.

      • Avatar

        Fuad Hasan

        August 13, 2010 at 2:14 PM

        Individuals and groups don’t haphazardly broadcast in CNN. They must have to be approved by proper authority. Besides we all know what happens when someone expresses his or her opinions in CNN going against the tide. Octavia expressed her own view in her twitter account(not even in CNN) and as a result SHE GOT FIRED. But AIPAC-man Wolf Blitzer expressing his views comfortably in CNN. If I should thank anyone, it should be those people who are trying vigorously to promote peace and understanding among non-muslims about islam like people behind muslimmatters.org. CNN noticed because this effort deserved that attention, not because CNN was kind enough.

  3. Avatar

    Ameera Khan

    August 13, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Done!

  4. Avatar

    .....a

    August 13, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    sent.

  5. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    August 13, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    In my experience, many Muslims love to criticize “the media” for what they perceive as an unfair portrayal of Muslims and have this pessimistic “see, look what they said about us this time, can you believe it” attitude but are then loath to speak up when given the opportunity to voice their viewpoints directly to journalists in “the media.” For example, how many are those who speak in favor of partitions in the masjid in online comments but when a producer on NPR wanted to do a story about it, she struggled to find any pro-partitioners willing to attach their name and speak on the radio.

    Sure, the fear is real, and the bias is real (only Muslims gets the terrorist label), there are examples of words being taken out of context, and snippets of video that give an unfair appearance of what was really said. Add to that, the constant drone of the Islamophobes trying to demonize Muslims and Islam that is not too hard to find in certain outlets, which then spills over into situations like the anti-mosque everywhere campaign that seems to be gaining in popularity from coast to coast.

    Despite all of this, I believe we must not only engage the wider media, which is not at all monolithic, to reach out to large and diverse audiences by talking to journalists instead of shunning all of them out of fear. And it would be good to see us, as a community, actively build partnerships and work in these fields to proactively get our message across rather than just complaining about how negatively Muslims are portrayed.

    Kudos to CNN, Deborah Feyerick, the producers, and the videographer for presenting Muslim voices in this story that resonate with me and which we don’t often seen covered in the mainstream media. Some ordinary and extraordinary American Muslims confidently living and practicing our faith here in America without making apologies or excuses to anyone, not the terrorists nor the Islamophobes nor anyone else.

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Stefan Dill

      August 13, 2010 at 1:19 PM

      Ify Okoye, I couldnt agree more! I wrote a long and extensive series last year on my blog about how Muslims can better engage the media. Part of the problem is the reluctance of the ummah to speak, but Muslims are feared in large part because we won’t take the responsibility to let our neighbors know about any other kind of Muslim other than the jihadists that make the news.

      • Amad

        Amad

        August 13, 2010 at 1:32 PM

        Thanks for your comment Mustafa.
        I have had your articles on my “to act on” list for months. We’d like to cross-post them or if you’d like to customize another post for MM, it’d be great. We can post after Ramadan. I found your articles to be excellent and shared it with many of the scholars and specialists as well.

        • Avatar

          Mustafa Stefan Dill

          August 13, 2010 at 8:07 PM

          Amad,
          thanks for reply and your interest! I’ll email you privately!
          Ramadan mubarak!
          msd

    • Avatar

      AsimG

      August 13, 2010 at 4:24 PM

      To be fair, if there is a program on NPR talking about polygamous marriages, will you attach your name to it and defend it in front of a non-Muslim audience?

      It’s a standard and valid legal opinion in Islam. You don’t have to agree and you can continue to fight against it, but let’s at least be fair to those who support that opinion.

      Speaking of positively using the media and being in the right company, have you seen Asra’s new article?

      http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/20100810/ts_dailybeast/9375_whymuslimslikemeagreewiththeteapartyactivists

      Solution for all our problems: Get rid of the partitions and close all the ‘salafi’ and other Asra-don’t-like-mosques.

      We can do rock, paper and scissor to see which goes first.
      Best of three wins!

      • Amad

        Amad

        August 13, 2010 at 4:57 PM

        Unfortunately, Asra’s articles continue to be so rich with careless negative insinuations and accusations, that it might as well have been written by Spencer. In fact, I think I would prefer Spencer’s articles over Asra’s because at least in the former’s case, everyone immediately knows a snake when they see one!

        Liberal and progressive Americans and their organizations have dropped the ball in having a nuanced, intelligent critique of extremist Islamic ideology, currying pluralism points instead in the name of interfaith relations.

        They haven’t the dropped the ball. It’s tough to carry a ball of any size when your total membership runs in the single digits and even those few fight about what defines “progressive” or “islam in name only”.

        I may not share their political language but I believe their fears are legitimate. And for those who disagree, I have just two words: Faisal Shahzad, the alleged would-be Times Square bomber.

        I also have two words: Cry Wolf

        Asra, pls spare us your guilt-by-association, innuendo and negative stereotyping. Perhaps you’d like to move to the Ohio masjid and stay in the first line of the congregation all day and all night. You can enjoy your “dream”, and you can let us, the mainstream regular Muslims, also live in peace. You ONLY add fuel to the fire by stroking internal Muslim politics (which religious groups doesn’t?) to sell your message of fear of Muslims to everyday Americans.

      • Avatar

        Ify Okoye

        August 13, 2010 at 8:17 PM

        Asim, I actually don’t follow Asra’s articles as closely as those who claim to be her most ardent detractors do, so I’ll check it out when I get a chance, insha’Allah.

        To be fair as you say, my first and last name is attached to my writing here and on my personal blog and when I speak to the media. If someone wanted to talk about polygamy, I would have no problem expressing my views on the subject.

        And I believe I have been fair to those who want partitions, I had to ask and encourage a lot of sisters who claimed privately to be pro-partition to finally get one person willing to speak about it publicly and she debated your and Amad’s favorite (tongue-in-cheek) journalist on NPR’s Tell Me More program: Muslim Women Debate Gender Segregation in Mosques

        • Avatar

          AsimG

          August 13, 2010 at 11:59 PM

          Fortunately, I don’t follow her at all and I’m sure most people are unaware of this article.
          I just happen to click on a link about the ground zero mosque which then had a link headline of something like MUSLIM QUESTIONS GROUND ZERO MOSQUE.

          How could I resist?

          And as for that NPR article, you have a seasoned journalist, international public speaker and, as that article I posted above shows, a professional Spencer distorter of Islam vs. a college student?

          Ukhti, really? You scoured all over the US for a speaker and all you could find was a well-meaning but media inexperienced sister? And even if that was the case, you couldn’t have delayed or canceled the “debate”?

          And I don’t know how you continue to let her speak for your cause or be associated with her at all. She stands against almost everything you and the organizations you belong to represent.

          Maybe we should have invited her to Ilm summit as a journalist so she could write about how her son nicknamed us the wasabis and pictured her as Superwoman venturing into the evil Wasabi Dungeon.

          Light hearted child humor + hate mongering of an entire group= successful message packaging.

          “The likeness of a good companion and a bad companion is that of a perfume seller and one who works the bellows. With the perfume seller, either he will give you something or you will buy something from him, or you will notice a good smell from him, but with the one who works the bellows, either he will burn your clothes or you notice a bad smell from him.” Narrated by Muslim, no. 2628

          With respect, this cause is starting to stink. You can say whatever justification you like and I can only say that none of that matters, it still stinks of bad company.

          My intention is not to offend you, and I apologize if that is even remotely the case, but this needed to be said and I hope at least part of it is absorbed with open ears before the online warrior helmet comes on :)

          Allahu Alim maybe I’m a total airhead and you are doing something amazing like incognito daw’ah with her.

          .

          • Avatar

            Ify Okoye

            August 15, 2010 at 9:57 AM

            To be fair, once again, try to leave your assumptions at the door, and read with an open mind and heart. Just causes are just, regardless of who stands for or against them.

            I had no idea who would be speaking against partitions and the marginalization of women. I reached out to many people who claimed to be for partitions any only Asha had the courage, which I commend her for to stand up for her convictions publicly.

            The producer at NPR was holding on the story because she also could not find anyone to speak pro-partition. Interesting when 2/3rd of masajid in the US have partitions, using what they claim are perfectly valid arguments to support them but when questioned directly, they shy away from defending their positions. If we are so proud of our treatment of women, the partitions and barriers, and the balconies and basements, why the hesitation from so many? I would hazard to say because it belies the favored dawah argument that “Islam elevated the status of women,” even as we see Muslims treating women badly everywhere.

            I’d be fine with inviting her or any other journalist (CNN were not the only ones in attendance) to Ilm Summit or anywhere else, we don’t have anything to hide, getting our message out there is important rather than letting others define us, and in my experience with the media, we can both learn some things from each other, which helps us understand each other and our world a little better.

          • Avatar

            Mohammad Sabah

            August 15, 2010 at 3:15 PM

            “To be fair, once again, try to leave your assumptions at the door, and read with an open mind and heart.” ”

            Assumptions? Maybe you can be precise with what ‘assumptions’ you are referring to. Any sane human being can see the striking similarity between the articles of A. Nomani and R. Spencer!

            “Just causes are just, regardless of who stands for or against them.”
            Really! Will you accept the support of the mafia and criminals for a ‘just’ cause! For a cause to be just and Islamic, atleast the people who are leading it have to be just, reasonable, Islamically-educated and practising. Based on her writings, it is almost impossible to classify Nomani in this category. I agree with Ify in principle though not in content – anybody reading the articles of Nomani with ‘open mind and heart’ and with basic Islamic knowledge, will know absolutely clearly where she is heading and will try to stay as far away from her as one can.

            Regarding partitions/separate prayer areas for women, a lot has been said before in the other thread, so I won’t repeat it here. However the argument that you usually hear about partitions and separate prayer areas being an innovation is obviously absolutely wrong. Just like mic, it is driven by practicality. e.g. during jumuah, there is a big turnout so having separate areas makes sense. However during usual days where there is hardly a row or two of men and hardly one or two women in all that attend, it is common in most mosques to pray in the same room without partition and without mic, but still the women being in the last few rows.

            Finally let’s focus on getting and increasing in khushoo in our salaat rather than on secondary/tertiary issues. One’s khushoo is a function of the state of iman, knowledge and taqwa in a person rather than the position in the prayer hall. It is common sense that a person in the last row may actually have more khushoo than a person in the first row!

  6. Avatar

    Justin

    August 13, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    “Whoever has not thanked people, has not thanked Allah.” –Prophet Muhammad

    It is very important to thank CNN because this blessing came from Allah through their actions. So by thanking them, we are also thanking Allah. SPREAD THE WORD!

  7. Avatar

    Robert P. Davenport II

    August 13, 2010 at 11:59 AM

    I was pleased to view the story you aired on Islam that reflects the attitudes of the vast majority of Muslims in the USA, Canada, and worldwide. It is so painful to be lumped into a stereotype with international criminal murderers pretending they are on some sort of religious mission when everything they do is in direct opposition to the religious teachings of the faith they claim to be following. On September 11th I went on air on local TV News denouncing the cowardly criminals that had attacked our nation the very same day before we knew who had organized the mass murder. Their so called religious justification was unknown that day and it is still a lie to this day, Islam does not sanction murder or suicide and the criminals of 9/11 were guilty of both.

    As a muslim I am glad that other muslims are being more proactive to isolate these criminals whenever they try an infiltrate into our society. In Los Angeles our county Sheriff Lee Baca has been very proactive building bridges into our community. In the Antelope Valley not a month goes by without mention in the Mosque that any strange conversations with people professing to support criminal acts against anyone should be referred to the Sheriff’s Department. We wont hesitate. We have a zero tolerance for any anti-American pro-criminal diatribes/ conversations in our community and certainly not in our Mosques. We are proud to be Muslim Americans and pleased that we are finally being reflected in News coverage.

  8. Avatar

    Safia Farole

    August 13, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    Sent it!
    _________

    Hi CNN,

    I am a writer on Muslim Matters blog and I would like to thank your station for featuring the piece “Moderates Counter Muslim Extremists”. By reaching out to moderate Muslims and giving them a platform in this piece you have affirmed your logo as a fair media station. Too often in the media we hear a one-sided account that only gives ammunition to the extremists/radicals among Muslims. I hope your network continues to give a voice to mainstream Muslim Americans. Keep up the good work, we appreciate it!

    Safia.

  9. Avatar

    Mustafa Stefan Dill

    August 13, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    done!
    Kudos to CNN and MM for making this happen, I also think its very cool that MM has taken these kinds of efforts by encouraging the follow up process like the email drive. Thats fabulous!

  10. Avatar

    Ahsan Sayed

    August 13, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Dear Staff of CNN,

    I would like to thank you for your piece on moderate Muslims that featured Muslimmatters.org. It is imperative now more than ever to bring out the moderate voices of Islam. Especially in a time when Islam is so gravely misunderstood and so thoroughly hijacked by extremists. We have to show the world what Islam truly is. The quickest way to end the war on terror is by helping the moderate voices in our communities speak out. Thank you for your part in this struggle against extremism.

    Ahsan Sayed

    New York, New York

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 13, 2010 at 2:01 PM

      great Ahsan

  11. Avatar

    Saba Husain

    August 13, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Thank you CNN for the positive piece on Muslims!

  12. Avatar

    Abu Maryam

    August 13, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    who else thanked CNN other than the apologetic way?

    My thank note would be:
    Thanks to the reporter and the editor for showing their unbiased piece. This is the 1st time i’m thanking you CNN as I have not found any unbiased report previously, especially in the matter of Muslims and Islam as a whole. Previously, we observed how our issues were messed up with terrorist issue, how Islam was discussed exclusively giving a very negative impression to the commons. This time you deserve a ‘thank’ at least for your good effort.

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 13, 2010 at 3:34 PM

      Actually Abu Maryam, this type of thanks is probably more effective than the other ones, as it qualifies what they need to do to to keep getting thanks… good job.

    • Avatar

      Iesa Galloway

      August 13, 2010 at 5:04 PM

      There are a lot of false assumptions about what goes on “behind the scenes” at news organizations.

      It is also clear that the standards of journalism are deteriorating at many “Pillars” of American media.

      However I can assure our readers that showing support for positive coverage is NOT a waste of time, it does NOT go unnoticed and it IS effective.

      I remember a clear example about two years after 9/11 when a journalist who came under tremendous pressure due to authoring a pro-Palestinian piece. The backlash from the opposition almost got him fired. A email list serve ran by a young activist saved the author’s position in that he was able to get over 3,500 emails supporting the writer in two days.

      News agencies have bottom lines and consumer voices are listened to. As a community we have to resist the feeling of powerlessness. We have to be confident that we can influence people, even critics through being proactive and through outreach.

      Use your voice, be engaged!

      • Avatar

        Ameera Khan

        August 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM

        Very enlightening! :) JazaakAllah khayr.

      • Avatar

        Sayf

        August 14, 2010 at 3:58 AM

        You’re absolutely right bro, this took me a significant portion of my young/inexperienced life to figure out.

  13. Avatar

    Huddi

    August 13, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Thanks CNN. The American News Media needs to cover more positive stories like this one.

  14. Avatar

    Sayf

    August 13, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Thank you CNN for not sucking, you guys have been acting different lately. I saw Anderson Cooper getting interrupted and yelled at for 5 minutes yesterday.

    Is everything OK?

    :D

  15. Avatar

    Asiya

    August 13, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    Did it, and it felt darn good, too, to get my voice heard! Alhamdulillah. May Allah ‘azzawajal cause the media to be our means of da’wah to the world. Ameen!

  16. Avatar

    Umm Reem

    August 14, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    done!

  17. Avatar

    Hassan Adnan

    August 14, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    Hi CNN,
    Thing is you guys can engineer a lot by trying to portray of Islam by picking from sources that are controversial and biased in their Nature. It is better to see both sides i.e the real and truthful Islam vs. something that is only attributed to Islam or possible personal belief system in this regard. I hope by doing this show you have also learnt that Islam is what is preserved throughout 1433 years. I invite you guys to learn more about Islam, with a view of learning about Islam rather than finding problems in it, because to be honest we Humans can find problems with literally everything. Have you not seen the signs in the Heavens and the earth, who has created them, who is sustaining them. It is surely One God. And Islam is submission to this One God. So CNN reflect upon the signs in the Heavens and the Earth, think and ponder, and ask yourself.
    Regards Hassan Adnan.

  18. Avatar

    Umm Bilqis

    August 14, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    I cannot bring myself to thank them.
    I’d rather thank MM for being positive in a climate of negativity.
    May Allah reward all the brothers and sisters who wish to aid our Ummah in any fashion they can.
    CNN you are irrelevant to many Muslims.
    Thank God for alternative media.
    It kept us sane when CNN promoted insanity. I may not agree with their philosophies but a least they told the truth about what is happening on the ground in many places
    Go Global research ca, Go Lew Rockwell, go Antiwar dot com, Go Znet among others : D!

    • Avatar

      Saleha

      August 14, 2010 at 6:15 AM

      “Thank God for alternative media.” … I concur !!

    • Avatar

      Mustafa Stefan Dill

      August 14, 2010 at 12:16 PM

      ‘CNN you are irrelevant to many Muslims”

      That may or may not be true, but this isnt about the Muslim audience , its about correcting the perception of Muslims for non-Muslims, and the fact remains that CNN and other mainstream media are the kind of broadbase outlets these stories need to be on, whether you like MSM media or not. I love alternative media, but lets face it, its a narrower base.

  19. Avatar

    Saleha

    August 14, 2010 at 6:10 AM

    I also noticed the difference in media recently. Perhaps so many people are aware of the media’s bias towards Muslims, so now, they’re beginning to report the positivity in our community?

    That Christian genius who came up with the ‘Burn a Quran Day’ was also featured on CNN. I almost didn’t watch it, assuming that the reporter would side with him. But I was wrong, the news anchor attacked & ripped him for being hateful towards Muslims & Islam.

    I must admit I was shocked.

    • Avatar

      BintKhalil

      August 14, 2010 at 12:54 PM

      Assalamu alaikum

      Here is the link to the video sister Saleha refers to – via Loonwatch.

  20. Avatar

    Afeez Womiloju

    August 14, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    This kind of development is good and welcome, but the question is: Can they be sincere? You know there has to be a smokescreen and I think this is one. The onslaughts against Islam and the Muslims is one of there valuable strength which they cannot just drop like that. It is we that will try to represent Islam in the best possible way and be sincere to our Rabb. You know our primary dream is to met the glorious Countenance of our Rabb not just to be pleasing to them. Though it our respossiblity to try to be pleasing to them and call them to our way, but not at the expense of displeasing our Rabb.
    Yet thanks to those whom Allah has used to engineer this positive portrayal. Jazakallau kairan.

  21. Avatar

    khalid

    August 14, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    well we need to commend CNN as a team, not only the reporters as they cannot report what is against the wish,norms and the philosophy of the institutions , this is a positive u turn we thank you please keep the good job, in this word you have agree with me that CNN is one of the most widely viewed news media around the globe.

    thank you once again

    A. Khalid

  22. Pingback: Sunday Open Thread | 15-8-10 | Obama’s Iftaar speech & CNN’s Ramadan special | MuslimMatters.org

  23. Avatar

    Diyana

    August 15, 2010 at 6:56 AM

    For some people, Islam is all about terrorism, and all about the dos and don’ts. They portray Islam as a rigid religion and oppress Muslim women. Certain people see us the Muslims as too narrow minded, illiterate and the list goes by. But in Islam, we are encouraged to be the spiritual person and yet the all-rounder person when dealing with the dunya(world related matters). The teachings is Islam emphasized on doing good deeds to other person, and towards any other living in this world.

    Besides that, Ramadhan is always seen as the month who have less work productivity and less efficiency. Unfortunately, this is also not the case. In ramadhan, we are motivated to do more good deeds, in any place, even during working as we believe these efforts are rewarded more compared to the other Islamic months.

    Thank you so much for the positive piece on Muslims!

    Diyana, Malaysia

  24. Avatar

    Muslima

    August 15, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Dear sir/madam,

    Thanks for showing a positive view of Islam! The media is the exact thing which started this whole islamaphobia, saying that Muslims are ‘terrororists’. I cannot express my gratitude towards you in showing the REAL Islam- which is peace aquired by submitting our will to almighty God.

    I get really irritated when people of no knowledge watch the media (mainly news channels), and with their ignorance, come and accuse me in school/college of being a terrorist, just because I’m a Muslim. But thanks to you, now they will understand, that Islam does NOT in any circumstance encourage terrorism, extremism, or the like.

    My only request to you, would be to continue portraying Islam in a positive light, as the religion itself, is a light to mankind.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Muslima.

  25. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    August 15, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    Salaam alaykum Mohammad,

    I was referring in particular to 5 assumptions made by AsimG:

    Assumption 1: That if there was a program on NPR about polygamy that I would shy away from attaching my name to it.
    Assumption 2: That I have been unfair to those who support partitions.
    Assumption 3: That we did not look hard enough for to find a pro-partition voice for the program.
    Assumption 4: That I could have delayed or cancelled the news program.
    Assumption 5: That the rightness or justness of causes are determined by the people standing for or against them and not of their own merits.

    I do not agree that the rightness of a cause is determined by the people. If no one stands up for justice, it doesn’t mean the cause is unjust, but more aptly a reflection of the ignorance or cowardice or general apathy of those individuals. The prostitute who entered jannah for giving water to a dog – was this one action just even if her previous actions or the label people gave to her was one of a disobedient person?

    If you don’t know someone, I would refrain from trying to classify their education and level of practice because you might be wrong. We don’t have to agree on every issue but where we do, we can work together, and where we don’t, we can make our disagreement known, and we take the high road and refrain from lowering ourselves into the gutter.

    I have never made the argument that partitions are an innovation and no it is not common in the majority of masajid that I have visited from coast to coast for women to be welcomed to pray behind the men at all.

    Khushu is one driving factor motivating my opposition to partitions. If you don’t know about this, you should spend some more time praying in areas designated for women, it just might broaden your perspective.

    • Avatar

      Mohammad Sabah

      August 15, 2010 at 6:24 PM

      Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah.

      Again I have to agree with many points that you made, and disagree with many points. Regarding the example of the prosittute, this is not applicable here as she was not a leader calling people to something. When you have a leader of a cause who is not upright and knowledgeable, obviously it won’t work.

      Regarding the person in question’s ‘education and level of practice’, how else do you know anybody but from their action?. In this case, I have read many articles written by her and have seen ignorance of the very fundamentals of Islam. You can profess faith verbally and call yourself the best Muslim around but at the end of the day what matters more is are you actions in sync with what you ‘claim’ to follow. All I can say is the less we talk about her and her deviant writings, the better for our deen and iman.

      About partitions being an innovation, I have read it in exactly those words in an article by Ms Nomani earlier – word for word. The reasoning that was given was it wasn’t around at the time of the Prophet pbuh. And again I never claimed I heard it from YOU!

      I am happy to learn that striving for khushoo is the motivating factor driving this – Alhamdulillah. However, let’s remember that during salaah you do not need to see the Imam – just hear him. And so if you have a functioning mic, you can still feel as focussed as when you are in the first row. Look at the example of the Eid prayer for example where there are lot more people that can fit in the first few rows! Also during a khutbah, we are blessed to have technology that we can reach a much wider audience even across rooms through TV’s and mic. Alhamdulillah. Let’s see the blessing in it. And we all know how overflowing the men’s and women’s prayers halls become – even thinking of accommodating all of them in one hall is impossible. Furthermore if the TV and mic are functioning, I do not see a problem with this setup during Jumuah – afterall you are not there to admire the kufi or beard of the khateeb but rather to concentrate. Again refraining from making blanket statements like ‘praying in areas designated for women, it just might broaden your perspective’ would be best as again there are too many assumptions included in this. I would leave it at that.

      I cannot agree more that we must focus on developing unity of the Ummah and sensitivity towards each other, but not at the cost of sacrificing the very basics of this beautiful religion. I would like to mention one instance that I heard from a sister. She would go for friday prayers to this masjid that had a parking problem (which masjid doesn’t) on fridays!. Since she was a fulltime mother and wife, she decided to park her car far away from the masjid every Friday so that the working brothers and sisters, who have a bigger time crunch and have to get back quickly, can park closer to the masjid. Alhamdulillah. May Allah reward this sister abundantly for her sacrifice and allow us to follow her example to develop sensitivity towards each other.

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    Muhammad

    August 15, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    I don’t believe anyone should thank CNN or any media in the US, I don’t think they did us any favors but airing that piece… Sorry to say this but they weren’t doing us any favor.

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  28. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    August 19, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    I think MM did a good job but I m not going to thank CNN. They r just using to get back at bigger enemy. You are called moderates now but in th next show the very same ppl will be casted as extremists and the liberals like Asra Nomani will be the moderates. So I am not going thank them for using MM as pawn to win Muslim hearts & minds while their country continues to kill & main thousands of innocents across the world!

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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