I pass by it every time I go shopping to the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles, you cannot avoid it. Right past the diamond district and the wholesale flower market in the richest country in the world, in one of the richest state’s richest counties, under the shadow of Hollywood actors’ condos is the human stain that is Skid Row. You forget that you are in the US when you enter the urine-drenched, graffiti covered streets of the homeless capital of the world. There is nothing like this anywhere in the country: complete desolation for 50 blocks. Ten of thousands of homeless individuals on the streets, shopping carts full of their only possessions. Signs etched in the parking meters demark territories, while blue tarps cover makeshift cardboard box condos. Trash is strewn on every corner. They come here waiting to die, the addicts, the mentally ill, war veterans but many are there crippled by financial crisis or foreclosures. Some can’t get a job even if they want to because they do not have an address; it is a vicious cycle that they may get trapped into for years. Other have jobs but cannot afford housing.
The guilt of speeding past them, ignoring them, scared to look lest one of them caught my eye, haunted me. Back in Pakistan you would just feed someone who was so obviously hungry. “They have a right over you, you live in this country,” whispered my soul. I started volunteering at our local homeless shelter. “Not in our backyard” signs cropped up, funding dried up and they shut it down after the worst of winter was over. What now?
Then I found out about Humanitarian Day – an event that allows me to put my Islamic beliefs of charity into practice, one the organizers choose to hold in the month of Divine Rahmah, Ramadan.
From the press release: “The Los Angeles Muslim Community under the banner “Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity (CPHD)” successfully reflect true Islamic principles around social/ civic duties by engaging in America’s domestic problems. Collectively organizing supporting resources; both intra and interfaith organizations for effective collaborations that serve the homeless with “Dignity, Love and Respect.”
The founding organization ILM Foundation has organized events serving the needy, where line items are distributed such as; hygiene kits, warm meals, clothing and medical services by the UMMA Community Clinic; all are administered and given free of charge.
Humanitarian Day is hosted in Oakland, CA; Santa Ana, the Inland Empire, Long Beach, Baltimore, MD, 20 other cities in US and internationally in Ghana and Indonesia this Ramadan. A Humanitarian Day event is “Faith in Action” counteracting negative stereotypes of Muslims in America.”
Those kids cheering and greeting the homeless in the beginning of this clip are my ‘girls’- MYSCV. Our youth group boys were manning the canned food stand. We go there every year, alhamdulillah it has become a Ramadan tradition – these iPhone-toting, overprivileged kids see for themselves how the have-nots in this country live. They fundraise their contribution through bake sales and experience the bliss of actual giving. See, kids who grow up in the ‘third world’ see poverty on the streets everyday but here in the US, we are surrounded by the false security of Wal-Marts and Pizza Huts on our suburban street corners. So we forget to remember our blessings, to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.
On Humanitarian Day, every homeless person is greeted, handed a bag and escorted through the line. Booths of hot food, socks, blankets, are lined with balloons, manned by Muslim vlounteers. As many as 2000 are checked by volunteer doctors, given medication, eye exams. The atmosphere is festive, a huge celebration, a party in an otherwise miserable life. ” You are so nice, I feel like a human today,” smiled a lady as she tucked newly acquired undergarments into her bag.
“We are fasting and want to share our joy for fasting by feeding the people, loving people, immigrants, indigenous Muslims, universal Muslims, together.” I sat down with Imam Sadiq, the retired Imam of Masjid Ibaadilllah and one of the founders of HD. He, along with Naim Shah Sr. affectionately known as Papa Shah, started feeding the homeless during Ramadan but were urged by the World Trade Center bombings to coordinate a united effort to solve domestic issues. “We don’t want to proselytize, we are just concerned about humanity.”
Every year, the dynamics of the homeless change – last year there were many more middle class homeless individuals who had lost their homes due to the recession. A gentle, proud man, with searing blue eyes, his milk chocolate skin giving away his Caucasian and African heritage, walked up, a polo shirt neatly tucked into his khakis. His wife urged him to take a pair of socks from the booth, “I can’t” he said, shoulders slumped in defeat. As he walked away, I saw his laptop carrier slung on his shoulder – Kuwait Oil Co. embroidered in a corner. She reached out, her wedding ring glistened in the sun, “Lord bless you, may I take two?” she asked pragmatically.
There are some familiar faces too, the crack addict whose nails are always done, the old man with coke bottle glasses and a sweet smile. They are friendly and very concerned about each other. I see babies grow up to become children. This is not a place for children. We have billions of dollars to spend on wars across the world, while children sleep on the street and we turn the other way. Omar Ricci, a police officer, has helped provide security detail for the past ten years. A Muslim, he comes back every year because “this well-planned event shows an alternative image other than the mainstream narrative of Muslims.”
What would you say to Muslim Americans today, I asked Imam Sadiq, who is also the founder of Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, “We need to stay positive, look past the grievances…the most important thing is to keep being Muslim. People are tired of words, we need not be more vocal but be more active. Actions speak for words.” Islamophobia was on my mind, as I spoke to the Mormon partners of the coalition, Steve Gilliland and his wife, Judy. They are from the Church of Latter Day Saints’ Southern California Public Affairs Council and have supplied the lovingly hand packed school and hygiene kits for HD for seven years. “We have more in common with Muslims, socially, culturally, in areas of health, community service, family values, I could go on for a long time,” the Mormon clergyman advised us to “not let the hate intimidate (us), let people know who Muslims are, to know Muslims is to love them.”
Sister Taswiyah Matazz is the director of food programs for ILM. “A lot of us are a paycheck away from being on the other side of that line;” as tears formed in her compassionate eyes, she recounts countless stories of the challenges women and children face on these streets. This was the first year, I heard so many reports of homeless Muslims, men and women, too ashamed to walk into a masjid, without access to a place where their faith can help them recover.
This isn’t just a feel good once a year event – these people live near here, they are here every other Sunday with homecooked and sack lunches, sponsored by Muslims communities across Southern California. However, HD 2010 brings demands for a permanent Muslim mission on Skid Row. General Jeff, “the mayor of skid row,” pleaded on behalf of his community. ” That center near close to ground zero – no disrespect to the victims but 9/11 was a one day disaster, skid row is a lifetime disaster.” “If they are caught sleeping on a bench, they get a ticket, enough tickets earn a warrant, [which] lands them in jail,” stressed Naim Shah, Jr. the Excecutive Director of ILM Foundation. “What we do right now is direct service, now the coalition needs to move and work on policy, find the systamatic cause of why those people are in that line and help change the way people, children, and the elderly are treated. Muslims do not have anything substantial to show about everyday American issues.”
They are dream of a place with a soup kitchen, a mussallah, life assistance programs, where people can take showers, and a shelter for women and children – open 24 hours. A place that breaks the status quo – most missions here are single-room occupancy and do not accept anyone after a ‘certain time at night’ and make the homeless leave every morning. May their dream become reality. Ameen.
My girls learn face-to-face how to treat every human with dignity, whether Muslim or not, rich or poor. They didn’t just hand out Qurans but follow the mighty example of the Prophet (SAW), who showcased Islam with his blessed behavior, not just words. As I drive the girls back to our cushy homes – they are unusually quiet, thankful, energies well-spent, their fasts finally kicking in.
If you want to start Humanitarian Day in your city – call Imam Sadiq at 626-398-3900 or Naim Shah at 626-644-8291. The Coalition to Preserve Human Dignity will supply you with guidelines, send a crew to show you how to set up the event and train your organization in working with the homeless. Their email address is email@example.com
Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman
Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.
In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.
But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.
Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.
Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”
In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”
Compare these two statements:
The Prophet said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”
He also said:
“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”
Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.
Can I Give My Zakat To An Islamic Educational Cause?
As Ramadan nears its end, many Muslims are thinking about paying their zakat in the last ten nights. But what is a worthy cause to which we can give our zakat and, in particular, what do the scholars have to say on this issue?
A number of Islamic educational and media institutions in the West have in recent years been highlighting their ‘zakat-eligible’ status. The list of these institutions is quite long. In the US, they include this website, the al-Madina Institute, the Yaqeen Institute, Zaytuna College, and the Ta’leef Collective. In the UK, they include Cambridge Muslim College. Some of these institutions focus on covering the cost of tuition for students who would otherwise be unable to pay, but others are focused on running an institution whose raison d’etre is Islamic education.
But some might wonder how such institutions can receive zakat? A common belief is that zakat is meant only for the poor and destitute and that such institutions would, therefore, be ineligible. This is sometimes reinforced by the way that a minority of scholars, including learned ones, might deal with these issues.
Last year in the UK, a respected scholar stated emphatically that “none of the scholars” in Islamic history until modern times had ever said one can give zakat to causes like supporting institutions that promote Islamic education. He asserted that only modern scholars permitted the spending of zakat on such matters in the name of the fī sabīli-Llāh category (which I will explain below). The same British scholar reiterated a similar view in the past couple of weeks, but this time said that his view was the opinion of the “vast majority of scholars”.
The average Muslim may find such conflicting claims confusing. How is it that some scholars say zakat cannot be given to Islamic educational causes, while a large number of prominent Islamic educational institutions, presumably led by Islamic scholars, are directly soliciting zakat funds?
The main reason for this is the existence of difference of opinion (ikhtilāf) among scholars regarding who or what is deserving of zakat payment. The Qur’an (9:60) sets out eight categories of zakat-eligible recipients. While people today often think of zakat as being due to the poor and needy, they only explicitly form two of these categories.
The basis on which many of the aforementioned scholarly institutions claim zakat-eligible status is the category of fī sabīli-Llāh which translates to “in God’s path.” Historically, the more dominant interpretation of this zakat-eligible category was that it referred to jihād in God’s path, i.e. zakat was to be given to people engaged in military expeditions on behalf of the Islamic community.
However, some medieval scholars, and a remarkably large number of modern scholars, appealing to the fact that the Prophet highlighted that jihād was ultimately for the sake of making God’s word prevail (li-takun kalimat Allāh hiya al-‘ulyā), have argued for a far broader understanding of this zakat-eligible category.
Jihād, as a concept, is of course incredibly broad in Islam. For example, one finds in a sound hadith that the Prophet said: “Engage in jihād against the polytheists with your wealth, your lives, and your tongues.” Additionally, some of the verses in the Qur’an that enjoined jihād were revealed in Mecca where military jihād was not yet permitted.
Because of this, a minority of medieval scholars argued that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients could entail payments made to support any righteous acts, while others argued that the category was ultimately about upholding and strengthening Islam specifically through da‘wa initiatives that cause God’s word to prevail of which education is one of the most effective tools.
Indeed, giving seekers of sacred knowledge (ṭullāb al-‘ilm) was deemed a legitimate form of zakat payment according to all four schools of law. Clearly, the respected British scholar cited above was inaccurate in his claim that “none of the scholars,” or only a small minority of them, viewed the fī sabīli-Llāh category as referring to anything other than military engagements.
Among modern Arab ulama, the view that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients can apply to Islamic da‘wa and educational initiatives has perhaps become the dominant position on this issue over the last one hundred years. This is true of all major ideological orientations, whether Salafi, Neo-traditionalist, or Islamist.
Thus, for example, arguably the most important Salafi scholar of his generation, the first Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm Āl al-Shaykh argued that the most deserving recipient of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat was the cause of da‘wa, and responding to sources of doubt about Islam. Reportedly it is also the final opinion of his most important successor, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Bāz. Among living Salafis, this is the position of senior scholars outside the Saudi religious establishment as well, such as Shaykh Salmān al-‘Awda and Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Munajjid (may Allah liberate them from their unjust imprisonment).
It is also the position of senior scholars of the Azhar and Egypt’s Grand Muftis for many generations from the 20th and 21st centuries. In our own time, this includes Neo-traditionalist scholars like ‘Alī Jum‘a and Abdullāh b. Bayyah. While the latter prefers a more restrictive interpretation for the category, he permits the more expansive interpretation in his fatwas.
Among Islamist (Ikhwān) oriented scholars, one finds Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, author of what is perhaps the most comprehensive work to be written on the fiqh of zakat in Islamic history, promoting such an understanding as well. His two volume work, which addresses the major debates surrounding the fī sabīli-Llāh category in great detail, has also been translated into English. Among younger Islamist-leaning scholars, the encyclopaedic Mauritanian scholar and master of the Sharia sciences, Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ḥasan al-Dadaw argues that the fī sabīli-Llāh category may even be used in the establishing of educational endowments.
The above is only a selection of voices among those who are supportive of promoting Islamic educational causes on the basis of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat. With due respect to scholars who would argue otherwise, it is clear that this is not only a legitimate legal opinion on this question but may well be the dominant view of many of the leading scholars of modern times.
Our communities are best served by an Islamic discourse that acknowledges the richness and diversity of our great religious tradition rather than restricts it to a narrow range of opinions. As the Prophet said to the Bedouin who prayed for God to exclusively show mercy to himself and the Prophet, “You have constricted what is vast!” (laqad ḥajjarta wāsi‘an).
Since there are a very large number of scholars who have recognised initiatives that promote the sound understanding of Islam to be eligible for receiving zakat, our community is best served by the accurate portrayal of the valid difference of opinion on such matters in which members of the community may legitimately seek to follow either opinion without claiming that the position adopted by others is illegitimate.
In an era in which the sound understanding of Islam is threatened by Islamophobic forces from without and extremist forces from within, we all recognise the importance of Islamic education as a central concern for contemporary Muslims to prioritise. May we all support this cause, whether through zakat or by some other means.
#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives
Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019 at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.
Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.
News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.
Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.
The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.
“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”
MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.
You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar
At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com
The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News
“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Bend The Arc
“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman
Source: Kera News
Source: The Carter Center
Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred
“My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN
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