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A Deeper Look at Malcolm Shabazz- Grandson of Malcolm X Murdered in Mexico

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By Dawud Walid

Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, was viciously murdered last Thursday in Mexico.  Two men thus far have been arrested, yet there are many unanswered questions regarding his tragic demise.

Much to do has been made in the media of the troubles that Shabazz went through as a youth from the fire he set as an adolescent, which killed his grandmother Dr. Betty Shabazz, to later brushes with the law.  However, little has been spoken about the positive maturation of Shabazz.

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I met Shabazz along with Hamza Perez, the focus of the “New Muslim Cool” documentary, approximately three years ago at the Ershad Center in Miami.  Shabazz gave a lecture about his recent stay and studies in Syria and some of the challenges he faced being a Blackamerican in the Middle East.  He also spoke of the impact of his grandfather and his decision to follow the Ja’fari school of thought.

After this meeting and having some conversations with Shabazz the following three days, I interacted with him later at conferences in other states and spent time with him when he visited Michigan.  My last discussion with him was after he gave a lecture at Michigan State University last year in which he later attended the Islamic center off campus in which I was the khateeb for Jumu’ah.  I definitely noticed an evolution in his ideas and purpose.

Shabazz was more than a man with brushes with the law.  He spoke at conferences about human rights and joined in solidarity with immigrant and workers’ rights activists in the Latino community.  He made Hajj and was a reader of philosophy.  He was a father who was beloved by his family and was respected by many Muslim youth, Blackamerican community organizers and leftist activists.

I am not delving into conjecture about the veracity of media reports surrounding his demise or if his homicide was part of a broader conspiracy.  Shabazz was Muslim, who went through many struggles in life.  I ask that we pray that he receives ease in the grave and that his family is grant patience during this difficult time.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gibran

    May 15, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Why do Shias say they follow the Jafari school of thought? Isn’t it just Shiasm?

    • Avatar

      Jihad Rashid

      October 24, 2014 at 7:50 AM

      Because Imam Jafar was the one who taught the most about Fiqh.

  2. Avatar

    Dawud Walid

    May 16, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    WS WR WB,
    There are 3 schools of thought within Shi’ism. That’s why.

    • Avatar

      Jihad Rashid

      October 24, 2014 at 7:51 AM

      No that Is Wrong.

  3. Avatar

    Tanveer Khan

    May 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Im confused. Is Malcolm Shabazz shia?

    • Avatar

      Jihad Rashid

      October 24, 2014 at 7:52 AM

      Yes, Malcolm Shabzz became Shi’a, Alhuduillah !

  4. Avatar

    Tanveer Khan

    May 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Nevermind, Ive found out now.

  5. Avatar

    umm.esa

    May 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    May Allah allow us to have good opinion of our brothers and sisters in faith, whether they are living or dead. Allah is the Ultimate Judge and Possessor of all knowledge. May Allah have mercy on our brothers and sisters in faith, both living and dead.

  6. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    May 17, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    Prayer Service for Malcolm Shabazz (Malcolm X’s grandson) tomorrow, Friday, May 17th at 10am ICCNC 1433 Madison Street Oakland Ca. Please spread the word.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 18, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Look, that’s very well intentioned I assume, but I think you might want to remove this comment. In light of what another commentator said, I don’t see how it’s possible for us to pray for him. We aren’t allowed to pray for dead mushrikeen and making dua to other than Allah aza wa jal is shirk. Hence the hadith “dua is worship.” Now, it may be that this man reverted before his death, but I don’t know any evidence than he did.

      So please remove this comment.

      I believe the following clarifies what should be clear to every Muslim.
      http://aqeedah.wordpress.com/2007/03/17/to-call-upon-other-than-allah/

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 18, 2013 at 9:45 PM

      Allah has made it clear what we ought to avoid so lets avoid what we should. He is not in need of us and he can bring up Muslims to replace us who will be cautious.

      http://quran.com/9/113-115

  7. Avatar

    Osama Hamza

    May 18, 2013 at 4:54 AM

    Imam Jafar was not Shia. He hated the Shias and said that they claim to to love his family (ahle bait) but in reality hated them them. The Shias claim to follow the Jafari school of thought, while the real Jafari school of thought is followed by Sunnis today which is very close to the Hanafi School of thought. Regarding Shahbaz, i don’t know whether he was sunni or shia… but i do know that his grand father had converted to Sunni Islam after leaving the Nation of Islam cult and was martyred by them.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 18, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Good comment.

      This article was not a good idea, however may Allah have mercy on Dawud Walid for not censoring these comments.

  8. Avatar

    Abdus Samay

    May 18, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Asalamalikum

    Most scholars say that the Jafari school of thought is unauthentic due to it coming from Al Kulayni. Furthermore, Malcolm Shabazz said in a clear comment “Ya Ali, Ya Hussein” on facebook. I’m with holding judgement but that is NOT a good sign.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      wa alaykumusalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      If he really made dua to them then we aren’t even allowed to pray for him. I’m not trying to be sensitive, this is a commandment from Allah and His Messenger.

      Also, I disagree with this article. We all know where this man died. Respectfully, lets keep silent and let the family grieve. We find it in the sunnah that some janazah’s were REFUSED.

      Glorifying how a man was right before he swerved one way is a disturbing thing and I’m afraid it may even become a trend.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      May 26, 2013 at 8:49 AM

      Salaam brother Abdus Samay.. Imaam Jafar was one of the great muhaditheen of Madina during his time and he was a pure Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. He despised the shias. Unfortunatey, the shias twisted, innovated and misinterpreted many ahadith and pointed to him as their source. This work by the shias was pioneered by Kulayni (la’natul Lahu alayh) in his book Usuli Kafi.

  9. Avatar

    Greg Abdul

    May 18, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Thank you for telling us about this. He belonged to Allah and he returned to Allah. We all belong to Allah

    • Avatar

      Greg Abdul

      May 18, 2013 at 10:45 PM

      a quick ps.

      The family is not exactly strict in its practice of Islam. I always wonder why Attallah thinks that kufi she wore was cool. But the fact is, Malcolm X 50 years ago, was a pioneer Muslim in America. His autobiography has brought many people to Islam (like me). So we should praise the good. A Muslim’s grandson was killed. Yes in a bar, where no Muslim should be. But going to a bar does not automatically put you out of Islam. Young Muslim men in America do stupid things. The Minnesota four who went to train in Somalia come to mind. Unless we have absolutely solid evidence, I am no scholar and Allah knows my mistakes are legion, but my weak understanding is that we take all positive evidence that he was Muslim and give him every benefit of the doubt as we hope Allah gives us every benefit of doubt for our bad actions and we pray for Allah’s Mercy, we should be merciful in our judgement of this troubled young man. May Allah have mercy on him and accept his Islam….

      Ameen.

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        May 18, 2013 at 11:58 PM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        No, going to a bar does not put you out of Islam. I was not referring to that after all.

        I was referring to this:

        “Furthermore, Malcolm Shabazz said in a clear comment “Ya Ali, Ya Hussein” on facebook.”

        That definitely takes a person out of Islam. Dua is for Allah alone. Faduallaha mukhliseena lahudeen wa law karihalkafiroon.

        I don’t know why my comments above haven’t passed the censors. It is pretty clear we aren’t supposed to be making dua for him or giving him a janazah.

        • Avatar

          Muslim

          May 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

          @Gibran – when did you become the Islamic Qadi of the Internet that authorizes you to declare if someone is Muslim or not?

          The fact that you pull a comment off of a facebook website and declare Takfir on another person just shows how ignorant you are. Why would MuslimMatters allow you to rant and post over and over again?

          1.) Common Sense which apparently isn’t so common: Just because there is a comment on someone’s facebook website is not proof enough that the person made those comments. And it is definitely not enough evidence to declare Takfir on another individual. Did you ask him or his family members yourself? Do you know if those statements are old, recent or said right before his death? Did you verify his IP Address and match that with the IP address of the post on facebook??

          2.) There are hundreds of millions of Sunni Muslims around the world who use phrases such as “Ya Muhammad, Ya Rasullullah, Ya Ali, Ya Hussein, etc” in poems, nasheeds, slogans, etc. Are you saying all of them are Kafir and are praying to other than Allah, when they themselves will tell you they would never worship anything other than Allah?? This is a concept of Tawassul & Istigatha and a significant majority of Sunni Ulema allow it. But even if you disagree, you are willing to use a phrase you read on facebook to officially declare that he is not a Muslim and try to dissuade other Muslims from making dua for him? Did you ever get your lazy self off of your chair and have the decency to make a phone call to his family and find out his true beliefs before you declare him a Kafir before thousands on the Internet after he has died and cannot defend himself?

          I personally advise you as a Muslim brother to do yourself a favor and not post on Islamic websites for some time until you gather your thoughts and attain some more practical sense.

          Wasalaam

        • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

          Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

          May 27, 2013 at 12:26 PM

          Gibran

          Akihi as advised to you, your comments are on full moderation and do not go through without authorisation from the CommentsTeam or author. So please do not keep asking why your comments are delayed and why some do not show up. JazakAllahu Khairin for your understanding and compliance.

  10. Avatar

    Gibran

    May 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    It’s not necessary to be a qadi to make takfir in a lot of cases. For example, if an alleged Muslim started saying that Hindus are not disbelievers, no one obviously would attend his janaza.

    http://forums.islamicawakening.com/f15/all-about-istighatha-istishfa-and-tawassul-etc-3306/
    1) To call upon other than Allah for a need, such as rain, etc, while believing that the one being addressed will answer the call is Shirk by agreement. For example: O Prophet! Send us rain!

    2) To call upon other than Allah for a need, such as rain, etc, while believing that only Allah will answer the call is Shirk, by agreement. For example: O Prophet! Send us rain!

    3) To call upon other than Allah, asking them to intercede for us with Allah is also Shirk. For example: O Prophet! Intercede for us with Allah!

    4) To call upon the Prophet, asking him to make du’a for us is Shirk. For example: O Prophet! Ask Allah to grant us rain!

    5) To call upon Allah alone, asking Him by His Prophet is a valid difference of opinion in Fiqh where none is censured. For example: O Allah! I ask you alone by Your noble Prophet!

    Detailed evidence is provided in the link.

    Also, people saying they will never worship other than Allah subhana wa ta’ala can be different from what they do. For example, Christians say they worship Allah aza wa jal alone however we know that they are mushriks and we cannot give them janazah or pray for their forgiveness after they have died.

    barakallahu feek

    • Avatar

      Muslim

      May 21, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      @Gibran

      AOA – like I mentioned before, common sense is not so common.

      You have not mentioned that you know this brother Malcolm Shabaz? Have you ever seen him? Have you ever talked to him or his family? Have you ever heard any words of Kufr actually come out of his mouth? If so, did you ever ask him about it? Do you know any other legitimate scholar who has made Takfir on the brother? How do you know if he ever took certain statements back in his life?

      Like I said before, you are not a Qadi nor do you possess common sense or have any intellectual integrity. You need SOLID PROOF before you claim that someone is a Kafir. Internet blogs and evidence from others’ comments that you don’t even know in real life are not sufficient evidence. Therefore, you blasting this dead brother on the internet and advising other Muslims not to make dua for him or go see his family at a prayer service is wrong. There is a possibility he might not have been a Muslim, but that possibility applies to everyone as no one really knows what anyone else believes. For example, you might not be a Muslim either. You might be an Extremist Zionist Jew in disguise whose job it is to plant the seeds of hatred and disunity among Muslims online. But unless I have 100% proof of this, I cannot label you a Kafir.

      Whatever links you provided up there don’t matter when it comes to the points I am asking you above. You chose to ignore that fact that you did not use appropriate evidence to do takfir on this brother and you also ignored the fact that a large portion of Sunni Muslim Scholars around the world do not believe statements such as “Ya Muhammad” or “Ya Ali” are Kufr as long as the person knows their proper beliefs. Do you want to do Takfir of them? (Please don’t)

      Anyway brother, some food for thought:

      1.) In the hadith Ibn Umar related that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If a Muslim calls another kafir, then if he is a kafir let it be so; otherwise, he [the caller] is himself a kafir.” (Abu Dawud)

      2.) Abu Zarr reported that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: No man accuses another man of being a sinner, or of being a kafir, but it reflects back on him if the other is not as he called him.” (Bukhari)

      3.) “Withhold [your tongues] from those who say `There is no god but Allah’ — do not call them kafir. Whoever calls a reciter of `There is no god but Allah’ as a kafir, is nearer to being a kafir himself.” (Tabarani)

      There are many, many more narrations in the books of Hadith and books of the Scholars in Islam about this topic.

      Why would you risk your own salvation by taking it upon yourself to label another person as a Kafir without sufficient evidence???

      Wasalaam

      • Avatar

        Gibran

        May 23, 2013 at 1:53 AM

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa baraakatuh

        There is no need to argue. Tawheed isn’t common in this world and it is the reason most people are headed to the fire.

        “you also ignored the fact that a large portion of Sunni Muslim Scholars around the world do not believe statements such as “Ya Muhammad” or “Ya Ali” are Kufr as long as the person knows their proper beliefs. Do you want to do Takfir of them? (Please don’t)”

        If the person says “Ya Ali” as in longing for a long dead relative like “Oh mother I wish you were here” then that is one thing. He is not asking for intercession or any assistance.

        But if he is calling upon him for intercession while believing only Allah created everything, nothing separates him from Abu Jahl the mushrik Arab.

        Any person who does this is neither from the group that is upon what an-Nabi sallahualayhiwasalam and his companions were on, nor is he a Muslim nor is he a scholar. On the contrary, he is indeed a mushrik. The links I provided contain ample evidence from even scholars of perverted beliefs that dua to other than Allah is shirk. Any modern day scholar who justifies such a thing is a mushrik.

        As for the last hadith, I do not know its authenticity, however I do know we cannot misinterpret it. Jews and Christians have there own version of la ilaha illallah but we still kaffirize them. If a person claims to be Muslim yet worships a dead, rightious slave of Allah subhana wa ta’ala, I will still kaffirize him without hesitation like I kaffirize Hindus who worship Krishna.

        Allah is the only one we enslave ourselves to. La ilaha illallah.

        • Avatar

          Muslim

          May 25, 2013 at 12:04 PM

          @Girban

          You keep dodging my question about how you declared Takfir on this brother without proper evidence. I am sure at this point anyone reading your comments will realize you are not answering that question.

          For arguments sake, I will agree with your hardcore stance on saying or writing “Ya Ali” etc. Even if that is the case, how do you know the brother said it? Did you get a confirmation that he actually wrote it on his facebook page? Did you talk to his family about his beliefs. Did you ever call him to talk to him about his beliefs? Yet, you publicly declare Takfir of this brother on the internet and advise people not to make dua for him and visit his family at their prayer service.

          You keep dodging that point which is the real problem with your attitude and your intellectual integrity.

          • Avatar

            Gibran

            May 27, 2013 at 6:41 PM

            I was thinking of answer the question, but then I decided against it.

            “For arguments sake, I will agree with your hardcore stance on saying or writing “Ya Ali” etc.”

            I’m not here to argue. Making dua to any other than Allah aza wa jal is shirk. So come to me with the right idea of tawheed (those links show that Allah and His Messenger commanded us to make dua exclusively to Allah) and I will answer the rest of your prompt. Until then, peace.

        • Avatar

          Greg Abdul

          May 27, 2013 at 11:07 PM

          Brother Gibran,

          The Ummah has many problems. We have an international hate network that spends millions to misinform the world about Islam and to generate hate against Muslims. It’s hard for me to believe with all the problems we have that you are spending time kicking a dead boy out of Islam. Do you really think this is a productive halaal use of your time?

  11. Avatar

    Dawud Walid

    May 20, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

    @gibran

    I’m not the moderator of this site. I simply wrote the article.

    I will say the following regarding madhhab Ja’fari (which by the way I am not an adherent of this madhhab and disagree with them on a few issues):

    1) Al-Azhar recognizes madhhab Ja’fari has a legitimate school of thought. It is even taught there.
    2) I’ve been to Hajj twice, and the Saudis allow them there. I’ve prayed next to them in Al-Masjid Al-Haram. If the Saudis considered them to be kuffar or mushrikeen, they would not allow them in Makkah and Al-Madinah as non-Muslims are not allowed in the Haramayn.
    3) Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad narrated from men who were known Shi’ah.

    The three above points are statements of fact, not opinions on what such and such thinks.

    May Allah (SWT) guide us all to what is best.

    Was-Salaam

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      May 20, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      wa alaykumusalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
      @ Dawud Walid

      1) I know it was accepted by the head of Al-Azhar a few decades ago, didn’t know it is taught there now. Anyways, it doesn’t matter. I, and probably thousands of other Muslims don’t have any respect for Al-Azhar the institution. There are reasons for that.

      2) Yes, Saudis allow them there, otherwise hell would break loose. That doesn’t mean ulama from various backgrounds don’t consider them kuffar. In any case, we don’t kaffirize ALL Shia. My grandmother, uncle and aunt are all Shia and I love them to death. I hope they haven’t done any shirk (especially my grandmother-smiley face.)

      3) I know hadith narrators narrated from various types, even Qadari people who are the Magians/Zoroastrians of this ummah.

      May Allah (AWJ) guide us to what is best.

      • Avatar

        Syed Siraj Patel

        May 25, 2013 at 9:10 PM

        May Allah Blessed his soul and grant Him Jannat ul Firdaus.

        @ Gibran, Just seen your messages and would like to ask you some questions?
        1. Will it be shirk saying ” asking XYZ Doctor to cure the disease or sickness ?”
        2. Will be it shirk asking money from the people ” to construct Community centre or needy work?”
        3. Will be it shirk asking for food ” needy people asking for it”

        Looking above, asking for Cure, wealth, food other than Allah is SHIRK then majority of Muslims will be out of Islam (as per your analogy)

        My brother asking help or assistance or helping fellow human being doesn’t take you out of the Islam but make you better Human who follows the Humanity. The only way the person will be out of Islam when a person reject Tawheed ” There is no God but Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is his Messenger”

        Wasalaam

  12. Avatar

    Sana

    March 2, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    A “Shaheed” is not Dead… n a prayer can be made for all beings that is what Huqooqul Ibaad is.. n it comes first before Huqooq Allah. Our Prophet pbuh was Rehmatulil Alameen. . Not only for a particular sect of extremists.. He always made dua for his non Muslim brothers n never rejected them calling Kafirs days how he managed to change them. We all claim to be some one higher than him Astaghfirullah. Through love n humanity we win hearts n inspire others not by hatred. We shud learn to be a Good Human First. Islam teaches us Ethics, No Arab is better than Non Arab! Remember Prophet pbuh’s last Sermon? It is for all humanity. We shud leave the Judgement part with Allah… only having a Muslim name isn’t a guarantee that someone deserves Jannah. Allah does only “Justice”
    Our job is to pray for all Humanity, dats how an Ummati of Rehmatulil Alameen shud be!

  13. Avatar

    Fareedah A.

    August 15, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    As Salaamu Alaikum,

    Thank you Br. Muslim. You are on target.

    Gibran, may Allaah (subhana wa ta ala) guide you. You are in error to speak as you have, to make takfir on him. The rules of Islam are clear but you are not clear about what he believed or didn’t believe. If you feel this way, you should keep it to yourself and do as you please. You are wrong to declare him a kafir and discourage other people from praying for him or for visiting his family. May Allaah subhana wa ta ala raise the rank of Malcolm Shabazz and have mercy on all of his family members and guide them to the haqq. Aameen

    And who cares what you think about Al Azhar University. Who died and gave you ultimate authority and judgment as if you sit in the station of our nabi? You don’t. Mind your manners.

    May Allaah Subhana wa ta ala have mercy on his soul and guide his family and console them for their losses. Aameen

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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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

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.

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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. 

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.

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“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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