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Blessings Upon Al-Mustapha, Our Beloved Messenger, The Divinely Chosen | Yahya Ibrahim

Shaykh Yahya Ibrahim

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Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

From a distance you notice his eyes – piercing, brilliant and engaging.  The choicest Praise and Mercy of Allah be upon him.  Muhammed, the Praised one is Ahmed, the greatest in Praise of Allah; sublimely appropriate.  Al-Mustapha, the Divinely Chosen, is real.  He was flesh and blood. Human.

I love him, O Allah, I love him sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

In a world of distortion, where truth is overcome by fiction, the full moon rises.  Although obscured by shadows or an overcast sky, the moon remains.  Such is the fame and honour of Muhammed, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Of average height, he towers above the elite of history.  He would stand fully erect without a lazy slump.  He was powerful, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.  His chest was broad with a dusting of hair that extended vertically in a thin line down to his flat stomach, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Any kind of hardships you can envision and pray to never face was shouldered by him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, simultaneously.

He experienced in his 63 years of blessed life more tribulation than a cohort.  He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was an orphan, a widower, battle scarred, and unjustly outcast. He outlived many of his children and buried some of his grandchildren.  His uncle, the Mercy of Allah be upon him, was martyred and his body desecrated.  He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was defamed, mocked, lied to and lied about.  He was poisoned, stoned, and had to witness his companions tortured on account of their faith in his Message, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.,

Sabraan, remain steadfast in patience, O Family of Yasser; your destination is Paradise. His teaching was simple. Allah, the All Mighty, is the only One deserving of worship and devotion. All that we encounter is by His Command. No harm can befall without His Permission.

His hair, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was black and wavy. He liked to keep it longer in length, usually not past his earlobes. It contained a few gray strands, about 23 in number.  With dark irises he could, by Divine Permission, view a world that was unseen. He had long, dark eyelashes that from a distance could be mistaken for kohl. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would not avert his attention from a petitioner until their voice fell silent. His eyes would sleep but his heart was awake. His eyes never betrayed or invited treachery, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

The weakest, poorest and socially downtrodden would access him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as readily as the chieftains. He sheltered the needy, fed the hungry, protected the vulnerable, guarded the secrets and instructed the uninformed. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was calm when others were agitated, loving when others were filled with hate, and polite when shown contempt. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is the highest standard of character and the spring of Divinely ordained etiquette.

His skin, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was soft and naturally fragrant. His blessed hands were softer than silk and gave off the scent of aromatic musk. He was reddish in colour.  He was not dark, nor was he pale.  His skin was blemished with the seal of prophethood between his shoulder blades.  He was proportional in all respects, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

In his prayer, he found comfort and pleasure. His voice quivered in awe of the All Mighty. When leading others, he would, for the most part, recite from al-Qisar (the short chapters). If he heard a child crying, he would cut the recitation short to relieve the parent of any distress. His, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, grandchildren would ride atop his back during his prostration, and he would not move until they felt content. His voice was measured, and he paused at the end of every verse. He would recite the Quran in various accents to accommodate all the dialects of his companions. When alone at night, he would pray. He would remain vigilant for half the night, sometimes more, sometimes less. When he recited a passage addressing Allah’s Divine Mercy, he would stop and ask for it. If one of torment, he would seek protection from it, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

His face, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was manifest beauty. His eyes were well set apart and covered by full brows. They were not sunk into his face or overtly protruding. His mouth smelled sweet, and his teeth were always clean and white. His saliva was a medicine and blessing, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. By the Grace of Allah, it was a cure to the blind, increase in food to the poor, and an ointment to the disfigured. He had a full, dark beard that obscured his slender long neck from a distance. His smile was radiant, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

He was soft spoken except when he sermonised on Friday. His voice was melodious and captivating. He spoke only when necessary and refrained from idle chit-chat. His, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, tongue was true. He loved to listen and would ask questions of those whom he instructed. He was modest and sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.  He smiled and laughed often, seldom loudly.

When he, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was displeased, it could be read from his face. He never raised his hand against another living creature except during Divinely ordained battle. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was courageous and led from the forefront. He stood in the ranks of his soldiers and faced the hardship they endured. He ate what they ate, slept where they slept and dressed as they dressed. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was a man unlike the world has ever seen.

He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, dressed similar to his compatriots. He never owned a throne or regal markings to distinguish himself, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, from others. He would walk without an escort and disliked sentries being placed to guard him. He preferred neutral shades of white, green and black to clothe himself with. When he ate, it was never to his fill, and he always ate while sharing his food with others. He loved milk, dates and honey. His favourite dish was tharrid – roasted mutton on buttered bread and broth.

He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, cared for the earth and despised wastefulness and corruption. He was a tree hugger LITERALLY.  He loved animals and instructed his companions to show kindness to them. When a camel wept, he would stroke it and speak to it in hushed tones. When the tree whimpered, he paused his sermon and embraced its trunk, whispering to it soothing words of comfort. Animals took comfort in him, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Today, his modality of life and tradition remain intact, preserved not only in print, but in conscious spirit.

He loved us so much, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. He would think of those who would believe in him many generations after his generation and weep in longing and hope.  He loved us more than some care to consider. Every Messenger of God was allowed a request that would be answered by Allah.  All the Messengers utilised their invocation in the worldly life except for Muhammed, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, preserved his invocation to be intercession on the Day of Judgement for those who accept his message!

None can truly claim faith until Muhammed, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam is more beloved to them than their parents, spouse and children. To know him is to love him. To love him is to obey him. If he, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was to walk into your life now, what would he think?

O you who believe, send your greetings to Muhammed, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

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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.

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Aishah

    August 23, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Subhanallah.beautiful

    • Avatar

      Nurina

      September 16, 2012 at 1:37 AM

      I’m sorry if I have to disagree with all of you. Instead of lifting my heart it did the contrary. It makes me feel uncomfortable because I see the same adoration and worship for Prophet Mohammad as the Christians have for Prophet Isa. While it is short of appointing God-like status to him, it is not far away from it either. The whole story doesn’t even mention worshiping only Allah, and yet wasn’t that his biggest message?

      • Avatar

        Youssef Khaled

        September 16, 2012 at 9:46 AM

        Well if Allah Ta3ala orders that we love him who exactly are we to argue? And loving him means getting closer to The Almighty. He’s the reason we’re all created so its probably handy if you were to learn a bit more about him.

      • Avatar

        Youssef Khaled

        September 16, 2012 at 9:55 AM

        Also this article is dedicated to remind us how great this man is, I’m sure you understand that all Muslims already know that Allah Ta3ala alone is God. No Muslim is capable of making the mistake of worshipping the beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, with Allah. Its like ABC 123, so my advice is go see your local scholar and enlighten yourself in this matter.

        • Avatar

          Gibran

          September 16, 2012 at 7:44 PM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          As a matter of fact, we will follow the ways of those who came before us step by step, Shirk didn’t start amongst the people of Nuh alayhisalam at once. It was a step by step process. We should say what we want about the Prophet salallahualayhiwaslam that is acceptable but also keep mentioning that he is the slave and messenger of Allah.

          If you say “Muslims already know” then what is the point of say “Allahu al’am”-Muslims already know Allah knows more. Whats the point of constantly mentioning la illaha illallah-we already know Allah is the only illah.

          This reminders need to constantly be used.

      • Avatar

        Sultan

        January 13, 2015 at 3:12 AM

        Dear Sister Nourina, us Salamu aleikum wa Rahmatullahi ta’ala wa Barakatuhu:

        Although I understand what you are saying, but I have to respectfully point out the fact that the way you are saying is wrong. No where in the article did the Ustad promote worshipping our Beloved Rasul-Allah (Sal-Allahu aleihi wa Salam).

        He has basically described the Seera of Rasul-Allah (Sal-Allahu aleihi wa Salam) in a nutshell. Would you kindly enlighten me as to how would you describe Rasul-Allah (Sal-Allahu aleihi wa Salam)?

        Thank you.

      • Avatar

        Rehan

        December 24, 2015 at 3:13 AM

        Sister Nurina, with respect your comments are incredibly naive and ill informed. Just out of interest, what are your views on the verses of the Qur’an where Allah SWT himself praises the beloved Prophet SAW?

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  3. Avatar

    Hannah

    August 23, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    reading this was systematically therapeutic.

    • Avatar

      Fatima

      September 1, 2010 at 1:00 AM

      You took the words out of my mouth, I agree completely!

  4. Avatar

    Felicity

    August 23, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Thank you brother Yahya, JazaakAllahu khayran =)

  5. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    August 23, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Masha’Allah

  6. Avatar

    waterloo-ian

    August 23, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    ma sha allah, excellent article. Looking forward to meeting you in Waterloo, Canada in October!

  7. Avatar

    Ify Okoye

    August 23, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    This is such an amazing post, masha’Allah tabarakAllah. It fits right in with our next AlMaghrib class in the DC area, The Prophet’s Smile, which delves into the characteristics and manners of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

    After converting, I found it challenging to find good concise or comprehensive online resources in the English language about the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, which would allow me to get to know him better and begin to love him.

    • Avatar

      muslim

      August 23, 2010 at 2:37 PM

      sorry for going off topic but i wasn’t sure how to contact MM for suggestions—

      there’s a really nice story on CNN’s main page about muslim women who cover, you guys should feature it on here and thank CNN:

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/23/muslim-women-who-wear-the-hijab-and-niqab-explain-their-choice/?hpt=C2

      • Avatar

        muslim

        August 23, 2010 at 2:43 PM

        and by the way, absolutely beautiful and mezmerizing post of our beloved Rasullallah (saw). Alhumdulilah that I read this article today.

    • Avatar

      Sultan

      January 13, 2015 at 3:06 AM

      Us Salamu aleikum wa Rahmatullahi ta’ala wa Barakatuhu:

      Dear Sister, I would like to congratulate you for accepting Islam as your faith. However, I would like to respectfully remind both myself and you that one does not “convert” to Islam because all of us were born in the state of submission and then were raised by our parents.

      Alhamdulillah, you have “reverted” back to your origin and may Allah (Azza wa J’al) Protect, Guide and Keep all of us on the Straight Path. Ameen thuma ameen.

  8. Amad

    Amad

    August 23, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    jazakallahkhair shaykhana!

  9. Avatar

    Sagal

    August 23, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Salaam Aleykum

    Truly touching piece. Jazaakallahu kheyr for the remainder. It truly hurts when some non-muslims insult our beloved prophet sallalahu aleyhi wasallam.

  10. Avatar

    Usma

    August 23, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    SubhanAllah, Beautiful. It made me cry

  11. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    August 23, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah,

    Simply beautiful, jazakum Allah khayr Shaykh.

    May Allah make His Prophet more beloved to us than ourselves.

  12. Avatar

    Farhan

    August 23, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    اللهما صلى على سيدنا و مولانا محمد و على آله و سلم تسليما

    • Avatar

      Sultan

      January 13, 2015 at 3:08 AM

      English please! Thank you.

  13. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    August 23, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    Straight up amazing. Masha’Allah!

  14. Avatar

    ummmanar

    August 23, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    subhanallah very beautiful article,I am crying while reading.jazakallah khiran

  15. Avatar

    Ukht

    August 24, 2010 at 1:53 AM

    Beautiful masha’Allah. Barak Allahu feek Shaykhana. Reading this makes the longing to meet him so much more and the longing to drink from his blessed hands from the pond of al-Kawthar could never be stronger. May Allah swt guide us all upon his Sunnah and make us his neighbors in Jannat al-Firdous, ameen.

  16. Avatar

    Cub

    August 24, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    Beautiful, SubhanAllah!

  17. Avatar

    salma

    August 24, 2010 at 5:42 AM

    Masha’Allah!! bought a tear to my eyes

  18. Avatar

    shiney

    August 24, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    masha’allah! this is truly the most beautiful piece i have ever read concerning the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It really brought tears to my eyes, subhanallah! May Allah (SWT) bless you for writing this and may you continue to write wonderful pieces such as this and May Allah (SWT) establish the love of His Messenger in our hearts (SAW) and make our character like his character. Ameen.

  19. Avatar

    Amarah

    August 24, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    LUVED IT mannn i wanna meet him (sallahu Alayhi wa sallam) May Allah swt make us of those that will drink from his hands on the day of judgement and allow him (sallahu Alayhi wa sallam) to speak for us. Amin

  20. Avatar

    MaryamJamal

    August 24, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Assalam alaikum,

    Simply beautiful,Masha Allah,Subhan Allah.

    He, Sal allahu allaihi wassalam a perfect example for entire humanity.

  21. Avatar

    ahmad

    August 24, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    mashaAllah, this was an incredible read. it made me very emotional and inspired.
    jazakAllah khair sheikh Yahya

  22. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    August 24, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    Ma sha Allah great article and beautiful prose!

    We expect nothing less ya Fadeelat al-Shaykh!

    Yasir

  23. Avatar

    Meena

    August 24, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    That was absolutely breathtaking. Jzk!

  24. Avatar

    Abu Eesa Niamatullah

    August 24, 2010 at 8:49 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah

    Hala’ Ya Shaykh Yahya – saddiq, you brought the mubarak rain with this wonderful wonderful piece that softened our hearts in remembrance of al-Habib’l-Mustapha, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

    I’ve put this piece up everywhere I can think of because every Muslim and non-Muslim needs to know how we see and recognise Khayr’l-Khalqillah to truly be.

    You don’t just have a gift in your speech, you have a gift in your fingers too, masha’Allah tabarakallah, wa hafidhakallah wa ra’aak.

    Salams to the kids and everyone on the other side of the world!

    AE

  25. Avatar

    Abdus Sabur

    August 25, 2010 at 3:03 AM

    Subhanallah, beautiful piece….wonderful description of the best of Allah’s creation, salallahu alaihi wa salam.

    Jazakallahu khair for the inspiration and reminder!

    We are all so fortunate and blessed with the opportunity to follow Rasulullah’s, salallahu alaihi wa salam, sunnah.

  26. Avatar

    Rafa

    August 25, 2010 at 6:17 AM

    SubhanAllah, such an amazing piece. I’m speechless. It reminded me of a particular ayah from the Quran that I read a few days ago:
    “Your real friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messengers, and the Believers, those who establish regular prayers and pay Zakat and they bow down humbly in worship.” [Quran 5:55]

    Truly he is the best friend we could ever ask for, Sal Allahu Alayhi wa Sallam.

    May Allah shower you with mercy and blessings, Ya Shaykh. This made me think of your lecture at Journey of Faith back in July. Masha Allah, truly amazing.

  27. Avatar

    Sajid

    August 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    tharrid – roasted mutton on buttered bread and broth…. anyone know the recipe for this?

    • Avatar

      Idil

      November 8, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      Try searching it up on google. I wasn’t sure what tharid was either. Basically, it’s slightly kinda like soup (in a very small quantity) only you eat it instead of drinking. It’s bread layered with sheep meat and vegetables and/or beans. Google images helps. :)

  28. Avatar

    Habib

    August 27, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    Salamu Alaykum

    Great Article indeed as it acts as a reminder to send more salams to our beloved prophet and messenger.

    Please recite this second part of the tashahhud ten times.

    Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin
    kama sallaita ‘ala Ibrahima innaka Hamid um Majid.
    Allahumma barik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala aali Muhammadin
    kama barakta ‘ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala aali Ibrahima innaka Hamidum Majid.

    O Allah! Have mercy on Muhammad and those related to Muhammad
    just as Thou hadst mercy on Abraham and on those related to Abraham. Surely, Thou art Praise worthy, the Great!
    O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and on those related to Muhammad,
    just as Thou sent blessings on Abraham and on those related to Abraham. Surely, Thou art Praiseworthy, the Great!

  29. Avatar

    yahya

    August 30, 2010 at 6:55 AM

    subhanallah

  30. Avatar

    Um Mouhamed

    August 31, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    Jazakum Allah khair, ya Sheikh.

  31. Avatar

    Olivia

    September 7, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    Very moving and nicely written.

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  33. Avatar

    Kiwi

    October 30, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Hey I’m not really sure but the translation that you gave of the durood shareef is it correct
    O Allah! Have mercy on Muhammad and those related to Muhammad
    just as Thou hadst mercy on Abraham and on those related to Abraham. Surely, Thou art Praise worthy, the Great!
    O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and on those related to Muhammad,
    just as Thou sent blessings on Abraham and on those related to Abraham. Surely, Thou art Praiseworthy, the Great!

    Isn’t it instead of related to the Prophet pbuh followers of the Prophet pbuh

    I just wanted to get it clarified

    oh and beautiful article

  34. Avatar

    Ansar Riaz

    November 4, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Jaza kallah khair Sheikh for this beautiful reminder about our beloved prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

    May Allah SWT reward you for your efforts to pass His sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam’s message to muslims around the world.

    Inshallh see you in London next month for “World on the Unseen” the belief in last day course hosted by http://www.alkauthar.org

  35. Avatar

    Fazilah

    February 14, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    Masha’allah, its just so lovely. Not only was He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, a tree hugger,He, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was also the original animal whisperer. Alhamdullillah, Thank you Sheikh for such a beautiful and touching piece. Such a right time to read this as tomorrow, here in Malaysia, we’ll be celebration Maulidur Rasul.

  36. Pingback: Muhammad (SAW), the greatest of creations | Darul Ilm – The House of Knowledge

  37. Avatar

    Mohamed Riyas A. M.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:55 AM

    I could not complete reading this article without wetting my eyes, which makes me feel like I have at least a few drops of Eeman with me. Jazzak ALLAH Khairan Brother for posting such a beautiful description of our dearest Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

    I posted the same in my website as well (www.mriyas.com | http://www.darulilm.tk) which can be accessed at http://www.goo.gl/4Dayz.

  38. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    June 7, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    As Allah is my witness-I love him

    • Avatar

      kamran

      November 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

      Alhamdulillah wal salaatu wal salaamu ‘alaa,rasulillah

  39. Pingback: More about the Personality of Prophet Muhammad PBUH « Islam; The Religion of Peace

  40. Avatar

    nafeesa

    September 16, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Ya salaaaaam, allahuma sali wa salam 3ala nabiyana muhammmad. I pray that I can sit a finger length away from him in jannah, being able to drink from his hands and inshaAllah in this dunya to see him in my dreams.

  41. Avatar

    anna

    September 16, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    MashAllah this is great article written by u.. May ALLAH bless us all

  42. Avatar

    Sarah

    September 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    That is actually a beautiul description mashAllah. Muhammed sallalahu alayhi wa salam was and is an inspiration to everyone may Allah guide those who think differently

  43. Avatar

    hiraad

    September 19, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    Subhana’Allah, Wa Alhamdulilaah, Wa laa ilaaha ilAllah, Wa Allahu Akbar, Wa laa hawla walaa quwatta illa billahil aliyul adheem…jazaakumullahu khairan sheikh for sharing such a beautiful, amazing and an inspirational article about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallalaahu alayhi wa sallam)

    may Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala) reward and bless you immensely for such a beautiful reminder (brings memories of the seerah of the prophet sallalaahu alayhi wa salam)

  44. Avatar

    R...

    September 19, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Ma sha Allah. What a great article. So glad I came across it, alhamdulillah. Peace be upon Prophet Muhammad (SAW) ^_^ #aPerfectRoleModelForAll

  45. Avatar

    Nurina

    October 1, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    “And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter are filled with aversion; and when others are mentioned beside Him, they rejoice!” (Qur’an 39:45)

    • Avatar

      kamran

      November 9, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much. 33:21

      It is related in the Sahihain of al-Bukhari and Muslim, rahimahumallaah, from Anas, radhiallahu `anhu, that the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his father, his child and all of mankind.”

      We ask Allah to give us the love of who He loves most!
       

  46. Avatar

    shahi

    May 13, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Why is it that I can’t read the article now??

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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.

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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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