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“Lights, Camera,….STOP!” – an Exclusive Interview With Pakistani Former Showbiz Actress and Model, Sara Chaudhry

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بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Sara Chaudhry was a household name in the Pakistani show business industry until her sudden departure from her acting career. The reason she gave up her career as a television actress and model was her repentance as a result of reverting to her faith, Islam, similar to the decision recently taken by Pakistani ex-musician Shiraz Uppal.

Here she gives an exclusive interview to MuslimMatters:

[Sadaf Farooqi]:  Can you please tell us how and when you joined the Pakistani show business industry?

[Sara Chaudhry]:  I joined it in 2001. When I was 14 years old, my father’s friend offered me an opportunity. I accepted because I always liked showbiz and I also wanted to financially help my parents; I wanted to be the son they never had.

[Sadaf]:  How did you feel working in this industry especially after you became successful and famous?

[Sara]:  It was not bad as all. I kept busy with my work. My jobs didn’t require many social appearances—just some awards functions. I always treated it as a job, except that I worked long hours. I got to know some good people, some of them are still in touch and good friends. There were both good and bad times. It was quite tiring compared to any other good job. I had to work in various conditions, sometimes in the summers without electricity, air conditioning, sweating from head to toe. There were days when I worked through the nights, sometimes working continuously for 3 days without sleeping or just few hours sleep. And, of course, there was a healthy dose of backbiting, gossiping, and lying.  It did have some perks, being famous did help at times, but mostly it was difficult.  I had virtually no personal life; I wasn’t able to go out with family freely and missed family functions. As a result it affected my relationship with my relatives. I lost touch with some relatives as well as good friends too because of my inability to spend time with the people I cared about.

[Sadaf]: Young girls usually admire and look up to glamorously portrayed women in the media. Is the life of glitz and glamour really what it appears to be?

[Sara]:  Not really, you might have noticed that many film and drama makers have made films and dramas whose themes are based girls who chased fame, and most often, these characters end up involved in things like drugs, or commit suicide or murder; they end up in really dark, depressing places. Granted, fame does give you money, and a little bit of happiness and enjoyment, but at the same time there is a negative side to the business that should not be overlooked. Many people involved in this profession struggle with all kinds of pain, both mental and physical such as, migraines, backaches, insomnia, and depression to name a few. To top it all off, your life is not private anymore; even if you sneeze it’s in the newspaper!

[Sadaf]:  What was the first step in your journey of relinquishing showbiz?

[Sara]:  I come from an average practicing Muslim family. Our deen (way of life) was limited to praying five times a day, hosting mehfil-e-milaad’s (celebrations held during the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal to praise Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and giving charity. Despite that, I always felt something was lacking, and finally I began searching for answers in the seerah of Nabi ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). I reflected on the ways in which Ummuhat ul mu’mineen (the wives of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) are known as the ‘mothers of the believers’) lived and conducted themselves, and I felt that I stood nowhere near them. That’s how and when the change started, and I decided to end my career. It wasn’t easy; many people called me a hypocrite and, they claimed that I would soon come back to “normal.” No one but Allah gave me istiqamah (steadfastness). Alhamdulillah, it was Allah who helped me in every way.

It was through my experiences and study of Islam that I learned that the hijab is a sign of modesty, a sign of respect. I learned that we shouldn’t judge people just because they cover their faces. I realized how wrong it is to assume thing about people before we meet them, and we shouldn’t judge the virtues of Islam through a cultural lens.

[Sadaf]: Did you face opposition from family for your decision to leave the industry and start hijab?

[Sara]:  Yes, a little bit. My family is religious, but unfortunately they are not practicing Muslims in that sense that they don’t read the Qur’an with tarjuma (translation) and tafsīr (interpretation) in order to understand what is written and commanded. In short, many of us (Muslims by birth) are only recognizable as Muslims from our names; our clothes, lifestyles, and actions suggest something else entirely. Only a few people actually practice Islam, and even they face criticism in their own country than Muslims do in the West.

[Sadaf]: How did you face and react to this opposition? 

[Sara]:  I just kept praying to Allah, and alhamdulillah He gave me the strength and determination to remain firm in my decision.

[Sadaf]:  Many people presume that the life of a veiled Muslim woman is restricted and dull. How do you feel about this? Please briefly compare your feelings about your life as a celebrity and your life now, behind the veil.

[Sara]:  Really, is that so? I was not aware of that. Now that it has been brought to my attention, I might start noticing if that is really the case. Currently, I am studying  and running a business with my husband’s help, I am surrounded by family and friends. Alhamdulillah, I feel so secure and respected—no longer a showpiece. And people don’t soothe their eyes on me; I am the coolness to my husband’s eyes only, alhamdulillah. As for comparing them both, I was happy before, but there was always something missing. There was always a sad part in life, my worries for the world which were never-ending; some new issue daily. I used to get irritated a bit at times that men were looking at me as if I was a piece of meat. Now, alhamdulillah, I feel peace, the only thing I am worried about is my akhirah. My goal is Jannah, insha’Allah.  I always used to worry about something going wrong; how we would deal with a difficult situation, but now alhamdulillah, I recognize that Allah is Al-Razzāq, The Provider. I’m no longer concerned with how much money I have, I am no longer afraid to face tomorrow.

[Sadaf]:  Please comment on the role your husband has played in your journey towards Islam, and give us your opinion about what makes a Muslim husband-wife bond more strong and supportive. What, in your opinion, should a husband and wife do or not do that can help them remain close, and become pillars of support for each other in deen?

[Sara]: My husband has been a blessing for me, and I have been the same for him. Allah made us a source of hidayah for each other.

My husband has stood strong by me, supported me when many people turned against me. We spend a year by ourselves in order to relax . He motivated me to study and become a source of inspiration for others. Alhamdulillah, he has always encouraged me to be active in something (within the limits of Islam) rather than being idle. He would always encourage me to try different things. He reassured me, telling me that I am talented. He told me that he did not want me to waste my abilities. He never held me back. Even though my first duty is to Allah, and then him and our future kids, insha’Allah (whenever Allah wills), my husband motivated me to pursue my own goals and interests.

Our ideal is Prophet Muhammad’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) married life. He is the best example.  First and foremost, we respect one another. We also try to fulfill our obligations to each other as husband and wife while recognizing our rights. Along with being spouses, we are friends too alhamdulillah.

A wife should be sensible; she should have knowledge of the world as well as buisness literacy. For examples, my husband he shares his work with me and even asks me for suggestions. Like any couple, we play games, we fight too, but we always make up. A husband and wife should be a complete package for the one another. They should know how to change their roles when needed.  They should be partners and friends, and whatever else may be required for each other. They should be true to each other; the more true and faithful you are to your better half the more peaceful your life will be insha’Allah.

********

We are extremely grateful to Sara for granting us this opportunity to publish her story here on MuslimMatters, and hope that it will be a source of inspiration in the future for countless people in the global blogosphere, inshā’Allāh.

For those of our readers who can understand Urdu and Hindi, we’d like to share the speech Sara gave at SIST in 2012, talking about her journey towards Allah after her marriage:

Sara Chaudhry’s speech

And here is her recent interview (again, in Urdu, sorry to our English readers) that was aired on a morning show of a Pakistani TV channel earlier during Ramadan this year:

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We ask Allah to grant Sara Chaudhry steadfastness upon the right path.

We ask Allah to bless her marriage and grant both she and her husband undying love that is pure and for the sake of Allah alone, especially since it was this blessed marital union that hallmarked and facilitated her transformation, and gave her the push that caused her progression upon the path towards Allah. We ask Allah to henceforth make Sara’s persona and identity a source of inspiration for the entire Muslim ummah, Ameen.

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Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan.11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette.Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'.For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    siraaj

    September 26, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    Great interview, jzk for doing it

  2. Avatar

    Um Malika

    September 26, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Masha Allah this is an inspiring article. I also liked how you did not include her before picture. I don’t like it when they do that on facebook or other articles, because its disrespectful of the sister and the hijab. Jazak Allah khairan :)

  3. Avatar

    Irfan Hussain

    September 26, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    masha Allah !
    May Allah make you steadfast in the religion !
    May Allah Guide more and more people like this !

  4. Avatar

    BintKhalil

    September 27, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Did she marry before or after her religious awakening? It is truly when a person becomes more religious and his/her spouse supports them instead of becoming a thorn in their side.

    • Avatar

      umm.esa

      September 29, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      if you listen to her interview in Urdu, she gives more details about her marriage life and how things changed for her.

  5. Avatar

    Umair Azhar Khan

    September 27, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Jazak Allah khairan

  6. Avatar

    umm.esa

    September 30, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    With all the dark side of Pakistani issues, the country always surprises me with some beam of hope. Such great musicians (like Junaid Jamshed, Ali Haider, Shezad Uppal), many cricketers, and now some actresses have turned to become better Muslims. May Allah continue to guide us all and bring a sea of positive change in a country that was once named as the Land of Pure.

    • Avatar

      shehzad

      September 30, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Since when does wearing a niqaab and believing the arts and culture is haram all of a sudden make you a better Muslim? These people think we should emulate the Gulf Arabs and discard our rich culture. Why does this site want to insist that music, film, and the arts is haram and want us to be carbon copies of Gulf Arabs? Thank God this site only represents the Salafis and not the majority of Muslims who don’t feel music is haram nor do they feel that covering your face makes you a better Muslim.

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        October 1, 2012 at 1:10 AM

        Dear Shehzad

        What made you think only salafis consider music haraam and call for the niqaab? I know a whole majority of Deobandi scholars/students of knowledge who hold this belief. I even know some Sufis of the Naqshbandi tariqa who hold this belief. And all of them are non-arabs. Amazing isn’t it! :)

        • Avatar

          malkslam

          October 6, 2012 at 6:24 PM

          @ Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi,
          Are calling to Deobandi and Naqshbandi idealogy? or what?
          make yourself explicit in light of qur’an and sunnah.

          • Avatar

            Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

            October 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM

            @malkslam:

            Please read the thread to understand my comment. In reply to the original comment (below) my reply is quite apparent.

            “Thank God this site only represents the Salafis and not the majority of Muslims who don’t feel music is haram nor do they feel that covering your face makes you a better Muslim. “

      • Avatar

        SYS

        October 4, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        The moment you mention ‘Gulf Arabs’ your comments lose their value because Nationalism is not a constituent of Islam-something ALL scholars and ALL sects would agree on. And culture?Really? Do you know what the word Deen means? Really bro, you’d do well to do some reading of your own. Just saying. Salaam!

      • Avatar

        khanbaba

        October 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        LOL! “Gulf Arabs”. Please bro you need to stop.

      • Avatar

        umm.esa

        October 18, 2012 at 6:06 PM

        lol. dunno why but i am getting a kick out of this comment.
        Brother, if you don’t like the “version” of Islam these people are following then you don’t have to bother coming here and vent. Go talk to them.

        I thought Junaid Jamshed & many crickets were influenced by Tableegh-i-Jamat.
        Ali Haider – – lol. come on bro, last time I checked he was shia.

        someone, please give this brother cold water to drink :)

  7. Avatar

    Laila

    September 30, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    there’s nothing haram about being in dramas…. just as long as it’s halal and youre in a hijab/ covered, just as you would be snywhere else. I actually love drams for the fact that they are extremely appropriate and portay lots of aspects of pakistani life.

    • Avatar

      Jibran

      October 9, 2012 at 12:11 AM

      Laila……………… when a lady is gonna expose herself in front of millions of people, its haram because you can’t judge the other person remarks n thinking what they have in their minds about you………. wherever you were talking about the pakistani dramas are the most best source to depict our society …….. its totally wrong……pakistani girls are wasting their precious time to watch fantasy dramas and dream the same guy as groom or boyfriend. its the human nature if you cant do anything you always imagine that thing and will be gonna happen in front of your eyes….. so that please come out this hollow sphere and get the real life as did sara chudhary……. May every muslim man has a best practising wife like her…………. Ameen

      • Avatar

        Carlos

        November 4, 2012 at 9:28 PM

        A woman is responsible for what a man thinks about her?!

  8. Avatar

    Shiney

    October 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    I enjoyed reading this…i love reading articles about how coming back to Islam/adopting full hijab helps sisters become better people.

  9. Avatar

    Ruby

    December 19, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    yar please get out of this extremist view of Islam. Islam is not only wearing niqab and looking horrible. It helps us in living a balanced life. and yes i agree with one of the comments that how a universal religion can be opposed to art and culture.

  10. Avatar

    Asma

    July 13, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    Ruby teachings of Islam will remain the same till qayamah. Your practicality can not change it . One day IN SHAA ALLAH YOU will realise that hijab doesnot make u horrible instead it enhances your inner and outer beauty both. Being practical is not bad but questioning ALLAH commands just because it doesnot seems practical to you is surely not advisable . Try to abide by the words of quran without any hesitation because those words are Undebatable instead you should try understand each and every commandment of ALLAH and the purpose behind it.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  11. Avatar

    Fareed

    June 5, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    May Allah give me Hidayat too. I have also led a life if sin and want to change. Allah pl help me.

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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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