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Readers Opinions: What’s a “Balanced” Lifestyle?

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So if you hadn’t noticed, there was this little ruckus a couple of weeks ago about some Cricket World Cup, specifically the India vs Pakistan match.  My fellow co-workers stayed up all night watching the game, as did many of my fellow MM compatriots.  I had a good friend who remotely (from the US) manages a team in India tell me that 15 of his team members called in Friday to inform him that they all would be having a family emergency…on Monday.

Much can be said about the antics, hysteria, and dare I say it, fanaticism that surrounds sporting events like cricket and football (either version).  Pakistan’s state-sponsored nawafil prayers for the team is easily fodder for condemnation and ridicule.

Yet, I must admit I was disappointed less in the cricket fans and more in some of the posts, tweets, and facebook messages from the religious class, if you will, calling out cricket fans and I say this as someone who cannot sit through sporting events easily any longer and didn’t watch even a minute of the cricket tournament.

I was disappointed because very honestly, as difficult as life has become for Muslims around the world, and as spiritually bankrupt as we are often pronounced to be, we still need to relax from the day-to-day grind of life when we can.  While I don’t think sitting through many days worth of matches is worth my time, I think the fun and excitement others get from it is important for their own life, and helps to recharge their batteries to get back up and take care of their other daily obligations.

But then that begs the question, where’s the balance?  What’s the balance between too much time having fun and unwinding vs too little?  In my mind, if you’re doing well with your life’s highest priorities (taking care of your responsibilities, and doing it well) then your free time is yours to do with as you please (within reason).

What are your thoughts on balance?  What truly is a balanced lifestyle, and where do you see other recreational activities like sports fitting into the whole equation?

Siraaj

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Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abu Rumay-s.a.

    April 14, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Good point and a timely reminder, spiritual bankruptcy. Jazak Allahu khairun.

    Just recently, my wife returned from her Qur`an class and brought back a bunch of food and when I asked what the occasion was, she said that the Indian/Pakistani sisters had arranged a party after the cricket match finals. They did that inspite of a rule not allowing students to bring food without prior arrangements with the school administration (Smile :) They sisters had mentioned that they were influenced by their husbands !! The fever is catching on!!

    I’d say balance is relative depending on the stage of one’s life. As a father of 6 young ones masha`Allah, I don’t have the time I used to have at an earlier stage of life where I was out in a basketball/volleyball court 4-5 days a week. Now, my leisure is dedicated to the kids in outings, picnics, barbecues, swimming, etc..

    there is typically a moral compass that nodes us when we are being excessive in leisure, i think this is innate, although we like to ignore it at times.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      Agreed, life circumstances often change what it means to be balanced in certain matters. Still, others have to be maintained regardless, like the priority of prayer, and there may be others in a worldly sense (like in one’s job, part of doing it right is keeping up and upgrading skills, health consciousness, community service as much as possible, and so on).

      Siraaj

  2. Avatar

    Bushra

    April 14, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    A heartwarming story from the life of Imam Ahmad:

    In this life of poverty, hardship and trials, Abdullah asked his father [Imam Ahmad] one day, “Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, one of the greatest revivers of the Sunnah, a role model for all Muslims, looked him in the eye and said, “With the first step we take into Jannah.”

    I love this story as it shows us that we won’t really relax until we get into Jannah and therefore we should make every single second in our life count…but this is not to mean that we shouldn’t relax and have a bit of ‘downtime’. I think it’s necessary, but it shouldn’t be in excess.

    Surah al’Asr sums it up quite nicely for us as to how valuable our time is.

    Here’s my definition of a balanced lifestyle (you may have heard of this elsewhere, too):

    This life and dunya is like a honey pot, and the flies that are attracted to it are us, mankind. Most of the flies dive straight into the honey, mesmerised by its sweetness and overcome by its smell, but they soon realise that they have gone in too deep as they begin to drown and suffocate in the honey.
    But there are some flies who stay on the rim of the honey pot, enjoying its sweetness from a distance, just a little at a time, because they know that there is a better place waiting for them, with more than just honey.

    So we should take what we can with caution from our time in the dunya, enjoying some of the good and refraining from the bad. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cricket match, or other sporting activities, if it’s only for one day and obligatory acts of worship are not left out because of the match. After all, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) allowed A’isha (radiallahu anha) to watch men play with spears and he stood there for as long as she was watching it. So really, nothing wrong with a few fun and games….but just as long as we’re not forgetting our true purpose in life.

    • Avatar

      Ameera Khan

      April 14, 2011 at 8:27 AM

      The honeypot analogy is wonderful… Masha’Allah! :) And of course, the incident you mentioned from Imam Ahmed! :)

      • Avatar

        Mariam Anwer

        April 15, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        Jazakillah Khair…lovely analogy of the honey pot & bees!! :)

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 12:58 PM

      Great quotes in there, jzk for sharing =)

      Siraaj

  3. Avatar

    DiscoMaulvi

    April 14, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    I had a good friend who remotely (from the US) manages a team in India tell me that 15 of his team members called in Friday to inform him that they all would be having a family emergency…on Monday

    ROFL! Yeah I can relate to that disappearance of staff! We had almost no work done on the day of the semi-final (official half day by government) or the final (unofficial half day).

    This World cup was the first I watched partially mainly since my wife complained that since I don’t watch sports she also has no clue what is going on. Her father (may Allah have mercy on him and forgive him) used to watch sports with the kids and she missed those moments of her childhood. So in the interest of being an outstanding husband (which i unfortunately am no where near), I watched cricket! :)

    Balance is something I struggle with a lot. Whether it is work-life balance or something more serious, balance of the religion. I find that routines help a lot in maintaining the balance. Prayer by jama’at at the masjid is one automatically provided by Islam. 5 prayers in the masjid (easier for us in Pakistan over those in the west) gives a great framework to your day and things automatically get scheduled around this framework. Sort of like filling the “big rocks” in the jar before the gravel and sand.

    However, it is indeed a struggle to get a balanced lifestyle. May Allah guide us and make it easy on us.

    -Aly

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 14, 2011 at 6:24 AM

      Hold up…I thought the match was on a Wednesday??

  4. Amad

    Amad

    April 14, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    I didn’t stay up all night… fortunately, it was daytime in Qatar :)

    I only get this excited about cricket once every 4 yrs or whenever Pak is playing India… I used to do the “nafal mannat” in the past, but I keep reminding myself that once all is over, the lives of 99% of people following the game will remain exactly the same. I am also humbled by how many Muslims support the “dark side” too ;) My point is that it reminds me that this isn’t Islam vs. Hinduism on the game field, it is merely two teams composed of people who we don’t even know. Once you get your emotions a bit more dis-invested and recognize that the end-game won’t effect you in any tangible way, then you might feel less inclined to do special tahajjud for a match.

    The balance issue is important… I remember the religious folks up in arms over the soccer world cup. Okay, there is an interpretation that the shorts might be too high, but there is another that it isn’t. And really, is soccer or cricket the worst thing that youth can watch?? I mean relatively speaking, the more playing/watching soccer, the more not in clubs…

    I think the balance for individuals gets seriously disrupted (in a wrong way) when prayers are missed and/or when celebrations include wild music and parties.

    Chill out…. it’s just a game.

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 14, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      Aaaarrghh…back to talking about cricket. What’s your definition of a balanced lifestyle, Amad bhai?

      Also, just to clarify…I, too, was wide awake as it was bright daylight here and I was at work. Working :D

  5. Avatar

    Abeer Khan

    April 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    True. Very true. Everyone needs a bit of fun time to unwind and enjoy with your family. I usually don’t watch sports – specially long test matches- because I feel they’re a waste of time (although I wish I made better use of the time I did end up saving while not watching those matches). Instead of watching the game all the way through, why not just watch the highlights later on or catch up on the latest developments in the news? An India/ Pakistan match is not one to miss though! :)

  6. Avatar

    Bint A

    April 14, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I think it’s important to really judge oneself and one’s situation in this.
    br. Siraaj, you mentioned that as long as we keep “within reason” and take care of our obligations, there is nothing really wrong with a bit of relaxation and entertainment. The problem is though that many people do not recognize this balance and often do compromise on limits and obligations in the name of a “bit of fun” -even those who normally do adhere to those limits and obligations.

    I mean if these type of things have the potential to cause slackness in terms of our Islamic values and essentials, why indulge in them?

    Also another point is that if those around us see us indulging in these type of activities (though it may be a rare outlet for us) will they not get the impression that this is the value we give our time and give them a go-ahead to make this a norm?

    I have myself wondered about where to draw the line in this issue: be it on expensive cruises, all-night cricket matches, etc. I would really appreciate a scholarly response (perhaps from one of our shuyookh) on this.

    BarakAllahu feekum.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      But is it that they compromise religious duties and obligations because of fun, or that they just outright ignore those? For example, some people will work long hours, come home exhausted, sleep, wake, and start the cycle again, and skip prayers.

      Now, we wouldn’t say, well you have to stop working, working is bad, or some other such thing – we would instead tell the person to keep doing their work, but to set aside some time for prayer. I think the same occurs with the way we spend our time (or even money).

      And this is where I find myself on the other side of the fence with the more religious folks who chose to condemn all the cricket-watching that occurred. The problem, I believe, is neither in cricket nor cricket watching, but the manner in which the priority of Islam is taught to people.

      In particular, I don’t like crossing up these discussions with one another – its almost like sporting events are haraam, go back and pray – is that really an invitation, or an arrogant, self-righteous, “Look at these foolish impious people wasting their time!”. Not the best daw’ah tactic, imho.

      What I would prefer to see is, go out and enjoy yourselves, and pray and thank Allah for the privilege and enjoyment you’re having.

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        Uthman

        April 15, 2011 at 1:47 AM

        Assalam o alaykum Siraaj, This is Uthman from Islamabad, Pakistan(formerly in Santa Clara).

        As a lecturer, the class suffered because of this cricket match. Does cricket take priority over learning?(especially when classes cannot be rescheduled because of time conflicts)? More importantly, does cricket take precedence over the fard salawat? Does cricket take precedence over using your time wisely? i.e. watching cricket for 10 hours straight! neglecting all the important functions of deen and dunya? That was a weeks worth of class gone. And the preceding week the entire country was again given a holiday for Pakistan Day.

        The problem is not cricket, the problem is the hype and what happened here on that day. IF there was a chakka(6 runs) girls would come and dance in front of the crowd. Mind you not they were not dancing girls. Girls who come from good familes would come and dance in the name of happiness. Music, women badly dressed etc. I saw a van that was open from the back and they had the radio on, listening to the match, and every time something would happen the driver would drive erratically and the entire car audience would go crazy chanting “Pakistan zindabad” (Long live Pakistan). Their faces painted green and white. What situation would they be in if they passed away in this state? need I say more? The Imam of the masjid here gave a small hadith “Part of a man’s perfection of his Islam is that he leaves that which is not of concern to him.” The Imam also said that on one ball here in Pakistan there are 13 different types of gambles. And people are indulging in this evil. In Pakistan. Which happens to be a Muslim country!

        Also I remember in Shaykh Jamal’s class on Purification of the soul, he said that, “when a game becomes more then just a game and there is energy, resources spent for the game, then this game has become more then just a game and has now left the realm of just a game. It has now become a goal. What is the goal of this life?” This is exactly what happened that day. People spent untold amounts on this game. The entire economy of Pakistan was at a standstill because of this match. The Prime Minister announced a half day holiday. A holiday! For what? For a game! That was just a game and will always remain a game.

        A place where majority of the people are very poor. If they dont work for a day they end up going home hungry to their wife and children. I read that a worker passed away on the street in Islamabad waiting for work. HE was a labourer who has his shovel and sits on the road that someone will see him and call him for work. He passed away waiting and he hadn’t eaten anything. While people were busy watching this match. The entire nation forgot about Raymond Davis case, Dr Afia’s case just because this match was their life.

        People coming to the Imam and asking him to make dua for the Pakistani team so they may win. What is this non-sense? Shouldn’t they be more worried about Dr. Afia Siddiqui? Shouldn’t we be careful how we are spending our time? Yes have fun. There must be a time for fun. But extravagant preparation for the event before and after the game was just mind boggling.

        Is this the balance? A balanced approach would be to engage in your duties i.e. work etc. and just follow the match every two hours or so imho. In a country where electricity is a problem. A place where load shedding happens daily. That day no load shedding. Why? because a match has become more important for the nation. Imagine if a foreign enemy wanted to take down this country! All they had to do was setup such a match and the armed forces, civilians etc. all levels of soceity would be engaged in this match and they would just walk in and take over.

        This also begs the question, isn’t this imitation of the kuffar? Isn’t this the way the kuffar are crazy about sports? Isn’t this their way of life? What are we doing as a muslim ummah? Where are our priorities?

        So how can one stay silent and not say this is jahiliyya and when they are invited to be moderate in their approach, the response is “Oh this match comes after centuries. Let us enjoy it and dont spoil the fun.”

        I really had to get that off my chest.

        The hadith of the Prophet(sallAllah u alayhi wasallam) comes to mind:

        Take advantage of five before five
        1. your youth, before you become old; and
        2. your health, before you fall sick; and
        3. your richness, before you become poor; and
        4. your free time before you become busy; and
        5. your life, before your death.”

        • Avatar

          Siraaj

          April 15, 2011 at 5:31 PM

          Salaam alaykum Uthman,

          I don’t doubt there was a lot of behavior worthy of condemnation, but bro, those are specific behaviors, whereas you’ll have religious people in the community condemning it as though people should be ashamed of spending some extra time keeping up with it.

          My point is, you don’t condemn the pastime, and that the pastime is part of passing time and unwinding (which we all need). Bring it back down to practical reality – how can I enjoy this pastime (or others) and simultaneously be a practicing Muslim? Can’t I do both?

          This is my point – I think balance can be achieved in both enjoying sports, and in practicing the deen, it’s not an either / or proposition, as some often make it look.

          Siraaj

          • Avatar

            Uthman

            April 16, 2011 at 7:55 AM

            walaykum salam Siraaj,

            if this behavior was confined to a group of people I would agree. This behavior is not confined to a specific group. All across Pakistan you could see the madness. And as I said, the amount of resources spent on it just shows how much this game has polluted the minds of individuals (at a national level) and made it more then just a ‘game’ so we can unwind.

            Western Muslims may just be looking at it as a past time. On the Eastern side,it was apparent that it was not just a past time and what happened that day is a testament to that.

            Unfortunately, when one extreme takes place in a society, another opposite extreme is born. And that is why there is condemnation of the sport by the religious clergy.

  7. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    April 14, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    I remember reading a few interesting answers about this issue on islamqa.

    My son wants to be the first “shaikh” with a beard who plays for real Madrid/Barcelona!! :)

    • Avatar

      Bushra

      April 15, 2011 at 5:58 AM

      Well, it’s not like that’s unattainable. Just look at Br. Hashim Amla for inspiration…masha’Allah, he’s one of the best batsmen in the world!

  8. Avatar

    Enosh

    April 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    balance is when each part adds to everything else and doesnt take away from it, and each gets their right.

  9. Avatar

    Dreamlife

    April 15, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    This is a rather appropriate topic, given that here in Cape Town, we’re about to have a Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference under the theme “Striking the Balance” (see http://www.msacape.org/ for more info).

    Essentially, balance means moderation – doesn’t it?

    Sports has become an industry – and moderation doesn’t make money.

    Sport – in itself – is not a bad thing. But in these times, sports events have become so commercialised and part of popular culture that it is, pretty much, a form of idolatry.

    Some people’s devotion to their sports teams is clearly far out of balance with reality…it’s something that’s epitomised in the statement that football (soccer) is like a religion in some places.

    Visiting their favourite team’s stadium is like a pilgrimage; and World Cups are like Hajj – in this distorted religion of sports fanaticism.

    The thing is – modern secularism is pretty much anti-religion. And as people turn their hearts away from faith, there’s a void. That void can be filled by sports (or entertainment, or lots of other things) – and people take the passion that should be for their faith, and place it in these artificial substitutes.

    So you’ll have such high emotions over sports events; and you even get sports-related violence – which goes to show how extreme it’s gotten.

    We absolutely should try to find that balance when it comes to sport (or anything else).

    But the reality is, that quest is made very difficult by the modern system which places so much marketing, time, and effort into making sports a profitable industry that people are addicted to.

    Like, last year when the soccer World Cup was on, matches would sometimes finish at Maghrib time here in South Africa. You can guess that some Muslims would either be at the stadiums, or stay glued to their TV sets – and only make Maghrib after the match was finished.

    We know what our priorities SHOULD be – but many of our hearts have become so corrupted by worldly pleasures or pasttimes that we simply don’t want to, or even can’t, live according to the correct priorities.

    Balance is the ideal – but it takes a very strong person to actively seek out, and CONTINUOUSLY work for that balance.

  10. Pingback: Muslims and Television Series Pt 1 | MuslimMatters Endorses Screen-Free Week | MuslimMatters.org

  11. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    April 15, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    I think sports are cool but I think the fanaticism around soccer and cricket are too much. Personally, I unwind with the following things:

    -reading
    -radio programs (not music but like talk radio documentaries)
    -outdoor sports (hiking, biking, fishing, etc.)

    I think those things are important, if only, to help you contemplate, make shukr and strengthen bonds of brotherhood and family. One thing I can’t get over is the gheebah and slandering habits people have.

  12. Avatar

    Olivia

    April 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Husband, I like what you mentioned about thanking Allah for the good time you’re having. Even relaxing and having fun can be connected with our religion, not simply a hiatus for it. Whenever we all go out and have fun, we always as a family say Alhamdulillah and thank Allah for our fun time and remember our brothers and sisters who don’t have the same luxuries and make dua’ for them, and while we have a good time we retain a feeling of thankfulness to Allah in our hearts.

    From a Screamfree perspective, recharging the batteries is not just optional, it’s essential, to performing at your best in other facets of your life, whether it be your deen, relationships, or job. Everyone needs a little time away and studies show that people who regularly reward themselves or take breaks, sustain successful levels of performance better than those who go full-throttle until they hit burn-out levels.

    I think if there’s a special event like cricket, superbowl, Eid, or a party, we should go ALL OUT. if you’re going to do something, do it right. we should always do our best and try to have ihsan, so let’s do it for both work and play, as long as we mind obedience to Allah =) As an analogy consider how the Prophet S told the Companions that they get rewarded for being intimate with their wives, which is sheer pleasure, because by default when they did so they stayed away from the haraam. All around us non-Muslims are indulging in the haraam to have fun, so perhaps inshaAllah we will get rewarded for our halal fun.

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      April 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      by the way, when i say ALL OUT i don’t mean to an insane level like telling people to pray nawafil salah and acting like an animal or spending thousands of dollars. but i do think something like having a party at your house for the cricket match and wearing a jersey and inviting people over and making a “day” of it, with of course breaks for salah.

  13. Avatar

    Leo

    April 18, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    I’m gathering all the cricket fans here are Pakistan supporters?

  14. Avatar

    someone

    April 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Has anyone ever seen that movie “big fan” with that actor Patton Oswalt, that movie basically sums up the consequences when you fall into that pit of honey. The movie is about this huge football fan that gets beat up by his football idol and decides not to press any charges because he still idolizes him in some way. The movie was great because it showed you, that kind of fanaticism and complete devotion becomes toxic at the end. Balancing your life really does equal happiness.

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#Current Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

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

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

By Fatima Asad

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

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

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

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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#Life

OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aameen.

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

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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