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US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies

Haytham Soliman

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The issue of purchasing a house through Islamic financing has been written about in detail by experts and intellectuals for the past decade or so. However, it appears that majority of American-Muslims are either in doubt or are misinformed about the validity of the actual practice (buying homes through ‘halal mortgages’ or loans). Many prospective home owners dismiss all Islamic home loans as problematic or interest based loans candy coated in Islamic terminology.

This led the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) to invite a group of 230 Imams from all over the United States to its annual Imams’ Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 2014 to discuss current Islamic finance companies and their contracts from theoretical and practical perspectives (read about the conference here).

After discussing and debating various clauses of the contracts, AMJA announced that it will take a few months to further discuss their concerns with the named companies and then issue a final verdict with regards to their contracts. This declaration was released yesterday.

What is AMJA

AMJA stands for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. It’s a nonprofit established in 2002 with the goal of conducting research about contemporary issues facing Muslims in the West and issuing Islamic verdicts with the findings. This research is conducted and supervised by the Resident Fatwa committee (RFC), which comprises of scholars with Doctorates of Philosophy in various Islamic Sciences.

Their website finds a long list of publications and research papers (mainly in Arabic) covering various subjects including interfaith, youth, food and nutrition, careers and arbitration. Over the years this organization has built a reputation of scholarly work and has shown dedication to tradition and authenticity through their research. You can find more about their published research papers here.

The Findings

AMJA requested and received copies of the contracts of various Islamic home finance companies and studied them. Their conclusion was divided into two main categories: (a) three classes of Islamic home finance companies and (b) ruling on individual companies. I have included both below:

The Three Classes:

(1) Companies that use interest-based loans: AMJA’s description of such companies is that they are using contracts that are an offshoot of traditional interest-based loans. AMJA’s ruling with regards to these companies is that it is not allowed to deal with them.

(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law. Generally speaking, these companies are of very little reach and are not supported by government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac etc.). This means that they do not receive funds from such enterprises, which permits them the freedom to control their contracts without any restrictions or regulations from the government (loosely speaking- obviously there are government regulations but they are nowhere close to those imposed by Freddie Mac, for example). The downside of such companies is that they don’t have enough funds to sustain a large operation when compared to those who have the support of government-sponsored enterprises.

(3) Companies that use contracts that avoid explicit Riba in their contracts, however their contracts contain some components that are forbidden from an Islamic prespective. The contracts offered by such companies usually utilize one of the following three modes of finance: Ijarah (Lease-to-purchase), Musharakah (Declining Balance co-Ownership) or Murabah (Cost plus profit). Within these contracts there might be some clauses that are in violation of the essence of Islamic rule, according to AMJA.

Some of the clauses that you might want to pay attention to include, but are not limited to, what happens when one defaults or is late in making their payments? Is the arrangement of paying taxes, maintenance and other costs considered fair (since the majority shareholder in any company is expected to pay according to their shares, the loaning company in a Musharakah contract should participate in such costs and not only the minority shareholder)? What happens in the case of eminent domain? Other examples of the components indicated above include invalid clauses, inequity, undue risk, unknown quantities and the like. For more information about the fiqhi debate as why such components are forbidden in Islam, please consult with your local Imam or contact AMJA directly. It is highly encouraged that you request a copy of the contract before signing, read it and inquire about any unclear or ambiguous aspects of it. It’s also highly recommended that you speak to your local Imam/scholar or reach out to AMJA for more clarification.

The concept of “Need” and “Dire Need”

Although there are some violations in the aforementioned contracts, AMJA views owning houses to be a general need of the Muslim population in America. AMJA defines need as:

that which is desired by an individual or society to make things easier on them and remove constraints. If one is lacking what is determined to be a “need,” then the individuals or the society face hardships and difficulties that go above and beyond the customary efforts required of individuals by the Islamic Law. People may differ in estimating those hardships.

As for determining the level of need for specific individuals, this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

What I found interesting about this definition is that although AMJA believes that there is a general need for Muslims to own a house, it leaves the determination of such need to the individual(s) interested in buying the house. This indicates that even though there is a general need that allows for using imperfect contracts, the individuals’ situation is still a critical factor to decide the actual level of need.

Another interesting aspect of this definition is following statement:

…this would depend on the availability of a substitute in the form of being able to rent without being caused harm.

How can rent be without causing harm? Financially, obviously those who choose to rent are not worried about property taxes or devalue of the property and more importantly aren’t responsible for any major maintenance or insurance. However, renters do not take advantage of any equity or tax incentives. Moreover from a social perspective, owning a house may encourage home-owners to sustain long term relations with their neighbors, the Muslim community around them, and even the grocery stores in the area. Children in the family increase the chances of  having the same friends, attend the same schools and masjids which helps in cultivating a stable childhood.

AMJA also used the terms “need” and “dire need” in what appears to be an attempt to create a distinction between the contracts below with regards to how islamic their contracts are. There was no definition as to what a “dire need” constitutes. The natural consequence of such distinction is the advantage it lends to certain companies over others. This might be a way (a good way) of placing pressure on companies whose contracts have more violations than others. This also will decrease the competition between companies (given that people actually follow AMJA’s recommendations), which might backfire with regards to consumer protection. Only time will tell.

Rulings with regards to the Individual Companies:

Disclaimer: It should be noted here that the opinion below is that of AMJA and that neither MuslimMatters.org nor the author of this article have an opinion on this matter. The AMJA declaration can be found on their website here. It also should be noted that Guidance Residential advertises with MuslimsMatters, however they were not consulted with about the actual content of this article.

Before listing the rulings per each company and their contracts, AMJA highlighted the following two very important points:

– The current verdicts apply only to the version of the contracts that were presented at the time of issuance of the verdict as well as the manner of execution of the contract. This makes sense as such contacts are often edited and updated.
– AMJA requested more clarification from some of the below mentioned companies with regards to their relationship with federal financing institutions such as Freddie Mac and others. However a detailed clarification was not received.

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contract is sound in general. However, it contains some Shari’ah violations with respect to maintenance, taxes and insurance, as these expenses are not distributed in a just manner according to percentage of ownership.

The ruling of the RFC Committee concerning Guidance Residential is that it is permissible to deal with them in the face of need. The representatives of this company are advised to review those defective portions of their contract.

Ameen Housing:

They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contracts are not sold to the federal institutions [such as Freddie Mac]. They also avoid explicit interest in their transactions. However, their contract does contain some Shariah objections glitches, such as unfairness in the percentage that they discount in the rent to take care of basic maintenance, expenses that be more or less than that discounted amount. Additionally, they have just introduced a late payment fee [which is another violation of Shariah principles].

The ruling of the RFC Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this company in case of need, although one should do one’s best to make one’s payments on time in order to avoid the late payment fee. The Committee also encourages the company to abstain from those aspects pointed out by the Committee.

Devon Bank:

This company has two types of Islamic contracts:

The first contract is Murabahah a cost-plus purchase. This contract is surrounded by doubts concerning whether the bank truly owns the property before it is readied for sale. In addition, this contract also contains some defective or problematic conditions or aspects of great unfairness, such as with respect to (a) the bank having exclusive benefits from insurance payouts while requiring the purchaser to pay for the insurance, (b) the bank’s right to freeze the purchaser’s account simply on the suspicion that he will not be able to make his payments, (c) the bank’s right to declare the purchaser in default if he does not use the property as a residence or due to his death although heirs have the right to continue the contract after his death, in fact the cost-plus purchase contract states that the heirs are bound by the contract.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [Murabahah contract of] this company in the presence of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee advises the Bank to correct these aspects and to affirm the ownership of the property before selling it and to avoid the other invalid conditions as much as possible.

The second contract is a rent to own contract. This also contains a number of Shariah violations and invalid conditions, including having two different contracts (sale and lease) at one time, about one item during one time period. Various Fiqh councils have ruled that this model is not permissible as the legal effects of the two types of contracts are contradictory. This may be corrected by separating the two contracts by making them independent of each other time-wise, such that the sale contract is done after the lease contract, which must be a true lease and not something meant to simply hide the sale. Or, they [may replace the sale] with a promise of handing over ownership at the end of the lease.

From among the defective or void stipulations that this contract embodies are the fact that the bank can evict the lessee upon default but the bank still holds him responsible for the rent until they can find a new renter, the fact that the bank does not pay for the basic maintenance of the property and the fact that the lessee is required to pay insurance while the bank retains the right of any payments from the insurance, allowing the bank to benefit while the lessee bears the cost.

The ruling of the Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this [rent to own contract of this] company when one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. The Committee emphasizes its recommendation to the bank to rectify the current model by separating between the two contracts and avoiding the defective or void stipulations as much as possible.

University Islamic Financial (UIF)

The same comments concerning their cost-plus model and lease-to-own models as were stated concerning Devon Bank can be repeated here. Thus, their models have the same rulings and the Committee offers them the same advice. There is an exemption to deal with this company only if one is in a state of dire need. Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor.

Ijara Loan:

This company starts by directing the purchaser to get a standard interest-based [mortgage] loan and then creates a trust with the purchaser a partner in the trust, in order to borrow from the bank and then get ownership of the property. After that, the trust will sell the house to the purchaser with a rent-to-own contract. The purchaser is alone in getting the interest-based loan at the beginning and then shares in it at the end.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.

LaRiba:

The contract of this company does not differ from a traditional mortgage that interest-based banks provide. This is the overriding contract between this company and the purchaser and what they present as an Islamic form to it actually has no existence in reality and has no legal authority in case of dispute.

The ruling of the Committee is that it is not allowed to deal with this company as their model contains clear and explicit interest. We advise those in charge of this company to review and correct their model and to fulfill the trust that has been put in them by those who wish to avoid interest in their financial dealings.

In Conclusion

As one of the fortunate individuals who witnessed this journey of how this resolution transpired,  I have come to appreciate the amount of work it takes to build these contracts. It was inspiring for me to see that even though our scholars disagree with each other, they show respect and honor to each other. Observing scholars debate over some of the most detailed aspects of these contracts assured me that our Muslim faith is in good hands. It assured me that Allah has blessed us with scholars who differ in opinion but are united in their quest for the truth. I ask Allah to have mercy on our scholars, to cover and forgive their sins, and to make them amongst the people of paradise.

Ameen.

 

67 Comments

67 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abdul

    October 15, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    SubanAllah after reading this I am not sure what to do since I have guidance financial. Now the question comes is do we take any loan from this companies since all of them in one way or another unfair to the Muslim customers. Can’t even imagine living in Northeast to buy a house with full money down, any advise from anyone inshaAllah.

    • Avatar

      Adam Taufique (@adamtaufique)

      October 15, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      I thought they said that 1) housing in the US is a need and 2) you can use Guidance in the case of a need. Wouldn’t Guidance be permissible in that situation?

      Guess I’m unsure where your doubts are.

      • Avatar

        Zeeshan Mohammed

        May 19, 2016 at 7:13 PM

        That’s correct. The resolution from AMJA states that they believe buying a house in the US is a need, and you can use Guidance for this need.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 15, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      I think the takeaway from this resolution by the AMJA scholars is that if you have a need to buy a house, then using Guidance or Ameen Housing is OK.

      • Avatar

        Zeeshan Mohammed

        May 19, 2016 at 7:16 PM

        Agreed. That’s exactly what the resolution is saying, and it goes as far as considering buying a house a general need of the Muslim’s in the US.

    • Avatar

      Mohammad Ali

      October 26, 2014 at 6:04 AM

      So it is not OK to finance your home through explicit riba but it is OK to do so if the “contract” is written in this way or that?

      Mahmoud El Gamal quotes classic Shari’a scholar Ibn Qayyum, in the following words: “It is impossible for the Law of the Wisest of the wise [God] that He would forbid a harmful dealing [riba, or usury], curse its perpetrators and warn them of a war from God and his Messenger, and then to allow a ruse to result in the same effect with the same harm and added transaction costs in constructing the ruse to deceive God and his Messenger.”

      I say: If you believe you have a dire need, take the home financing that suits you best, don’t try to fool yourself with contract mechanics, apply your common sense for God’s sake!

      • Avatar

        Mohamed Hussein

        October 27, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        There are many aspects of our religion that are governed by guidelines and technicalities. The essence of worship is to obey divine law. With that said, within Islamic finance, there are different mechanics and types of contracts. To equate them all is simply to be ignorant of them. What Dr. El-Gamal is referring to are contracts that simply mimic promissory notes. They certainly aren’t the perfect solutions to the problem, but are efforts to find a solution.

  2. Avatar

    Shahab

    October 15, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Jazakallah khair for this eye opening article. Then perhaps the first order of business for Muslim Matters is to remove the advertisement banner for Guidance Financial that is on this site. this is the first thing to do in order to avoid putting muslims into sin.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      I think you might be stepping your boundaries by calling out MuslimMatters as a promotor of sin! I believe the article (and the actual text of the resolution itself) are clear with regards to Guidance and others. They fall under the category of those who avoid Riba but they have constrains due to their relationship with fannie mae freddie mac. Those constrains are overlooked in the case of need (as defined above) in the case of Ameen and Guidance and in the case of dire need in the case of others who fall under that category.

      • Avatar

        Habib D.

        October 16, 2014 at 12:42 AM

        Have a look at this hadeeth:

        Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Allah has cursed the one who consumes usury, its client, its witness, and its recorder.”

  3. Avatar

    Fahad M.

    October 15, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    I think even Muslims have fallen into the mind trap of
    thinking that owning a home is better than renting.

    but today, experts are telling us that the math is not adding up.
    The math tells us that owning a home does not make sense
    in today’s world

    Yes….its much better to own your own home, but not through
    financial institutions. They are designed to keep you locked in
    and imprisoned to a house for 30 years.

    Every person who I know who has tried to sell his home
    before completing the 30 year mortgage has incurred a loss.

    Also…owning a home is expensive. Here are a few things
    to think about:

    1) Property taxes (they keep going up every year)
    2) Maintenance (even in a newly built house, things will break and need fixing)
    3) More maintenance (you may have to pay for garbage removal, snow plowing, etc)

    Have a look here at the video by Khan Academy that will show you
    why the math just doesn’t add up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNL6f1xkie4

  4. Avatar

    writeousbum

    October 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Salam, thank you for sharing this Haytham!

    One point I’ve realized is that, when someone has disposable income, its easier to make certain decisions…like, to rent only…even in a high priced area, since they may be able to have a large emergency fund for moving or going to a high rent home for a few years
    but those that have lower income…meaning about 50% or more of their income goes into their NEEDS (bills/rent)…for them, it may be harder to avoid thinking about long term costs
    ie. rent now vs rent ten years from now, or a mortgage that might be less than their current rent or a potentially high future rent.

    in general, rent may not be the best option for all (and you may have to actually be ‘rich enough’ to rent forever), and mortgaging may not also be a solution for all.

  5. Avatar

    Siraaj

    October 15, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    What I love is that people in the comments read the entire fatwa, not just the “general need” paragraph out of context. The contracts remain defective and one should only engage I’m them if the need crosses a threshold. They say it so many times, and even right after the general need speak about specific need varying on individual based on ability to rent. That also needs more clarity, but I’m happy this fatwa isn’t a blanket endorsement.

  6. Avatar

    Shoeb Sharieff

    October 16, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Kindly note that :
    1) Customers apply to IjaraUSA directly
    2) Ownership goes to a Trust which is on title to the property for 100 % throughout the whole transaction – the trust does not sell the property to the customer, but leases it out (ijara concept)
    3) The transaction structure has been formally approved by Mufti Muneer Akhoon, Sh. Mufit Umer Esmail, and Imam Yahya.
    4) we are working with AMJA to clear up this confusion as one of their scholars is already our customer and another used our services to finance their Masjid in Katy and yet another to finance Islamic American University.

    • Avatar

      Khalid

      October 17, 2014 at 1:31 AM

      The mentioned scholars are not renowned at all for their IF expertise.

      Just because the scholars dealt with you in the past does not mean they have not changed their view now about your company. After detailed discussions with other scholars, they probably changed their opinion now. You might be approached by them to cancel their loans becuase they are unIslamic according to AMJA.

  7. Avatar

    Tamer

    October 16, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Two things:

    Are you allowed to publicly announce that one of 7 people financed their home with your company? Also, the only one in Katy TX is Dr. Main AlQudah, are you saying that he is okay with your contract? Also do you have permission to announce that they’ve financed through your company?

    Secondly, when you participated with them in the conference, did you get a chance to present your contract? If so, what is/was your comapany’s response to the specified violations?

    :) im just curious

  8. Avatar

    nur

    October 16, 2014 at 7:29 PM

    we went through lariba bank to get our mortgage and they use a rent to own contract like Devon bank but it didn’t state that in the article. I am confused so did lariba lie to us, please if anyone has info regarding lariba please comment, JAK

  9. Avatar

    Khalid

    October 16, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    It’s interesting how the company is called LaRiba but out of all of the mentioned companies, they are the most involved in Riba! Once again Muslims hoodwinking other Muslims for worldly gain.

    • Avatar

      Tamer

      October 16, 2014 at 9:34 PM

      Why do we always presume the worst of each other? I’m sure those who are running LaRiba truly believe that their contracts are legit. I don’t believe that they knowingly are deceiving Muslims.

      • Avatar

        Khalid

        October 17, 2014 at 1:02 AM

        Scholars have been telling LaRiba for years that they are directly dealing with Riba, but the Asian scholars were ignored. We’ll see now if they listen to Arabic scholars.

      • Avatar

        Tamer

        October 17, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Why Do you have to being race into this bro? Lol

        And just for the record, AMJA has also issued fatawa opposing LaRiba’s contract for the past 8 or so years ago.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 21, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Tamer, Khalid’s point is valid. He is bringing race into it because many groups of people purposefully ignore scholars of one ethnicity or another. “Oh, he’s a Pakistani Alim, his fatwa doesn’t apply to me because I’m Arab.” or “Oh, he’s a Malaysian Sheikh, his opinion is irrelelvant to Indian Muslims.”

        It happens A LOT and if you’ve never encountered it then alhamdulillah you are blessed; however racism is a HUGE problem among Muslims and we cannot ignore it.

        All Khalid is saying is that since they ignored the Asian scholars, maybe they will pay attention now that Arab scholars are saying it too. Meaning that they will be forced to look beyond their own bigotry.

        This exchange is important, I hope people don’t ignore it just because it is shaded out.

      • Avatar

        Tamer

        October 21, 2014 at 9:02 AM

        I’m afraid thats not really convincing. I agree that people, unfortunately Muslims included, have elements of racism. However, when it comes to money and halal-and-haram, I believe that Muslims follow those who posses knowledge because of their knowledge and not because of their race. Putting it in terms of Arabs vs Asians turns off the up and coming generation (me included) and creates (by bringing attention to) unnecessary divides (that although exists, no one wants to hear that his people are racist).

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Tamer, you said “I believe that Muslims follow those who posses knowledge because of their knowledge and not because of their race”

        I wish I could believe that.

        I sincerely wish that I hadn’t personally heard disgusting and hateful bigoted statements coming from educated people against Scholars of other ethnicities.

        I wish that I had not heard people being denounced as “idiots” or “munafiq” because of where they came from or what their background ethnically was.

        The reality is that I’ve heard Arab scholars refer to Southeast Asian Alims as “stupid monkeys” while calling their fatwas (rooted in Qur’an and Hadith) “Idiotic ramblings”

        Racism is real, and somehow intellectualism hasn’t purged it.

        I sincerely wish that it wasn’t the case.

  10. Avatar

    Hamayoun

    October 16, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    Salam, can we get Guidance to comment on this?

    • Haytham

      Haytham

      October 21, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      I think they just issued a statement. Here it is:

      Guidance Encouraged by AMJA Resolution

      Reston, VA – Guidance Residential (“Guidance”), the leading US provider of Sharia-compliant home financing, is encouraged by the recent statement of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (“AMJA”) declaring Guidance’s home financing program as being permissible from a Sharia-compliance perspective.

      The AMJA resolution, which was released after a review of all US home financing programs that claim to be compliant with Islamic finance principles, named Guidance Residential and its Declining Balance Co-Ownership Program as the only permissible path available to Muslim Americans in need of home financing.

      “It was profound to learn of the AMJA Resident Fatwa Committee’s decision that outside of Guidance’s Program and a small cooperative, all other programs are only permissible in dire need or not permissible at all”, said Khaled Elsayed, President and CEO of Guidance Residential. “This is a great testament to the level of commitment our leadership and Sharia Board demonstrated in structuring our Program over 13 years ago.”

      To ensure strict standards of Sharia compliance, the Declining Balance Co-ownership program was developed under the close supervision of Guidance’s Sharia Supervisory Board. An independent body, the Sharia Board comprises some of the world’s leading experts in the Islamic law of financial transactions and includes;
      Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani Board Chairman – Pakistan
      Shaykh Abdul-Sattar Abu-Ghuddah Board Member – Syria
      Shaykh Nizam Yaquby Board Member – Bahrain
      Shaykh Mohammad Elgari Board Member – Saudi Arabia
      Shaykh Mohamad Daud Bakar Board Member – Malaysia
      Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo Board Member – US
      Dr. Muhammad Imran Usmani Board Member – Pakistan

      With over $3.4 billion in transactions, Guidance is the leading US provider of Sharia-compliant home financing. It is a subsidiary of Guidance Financial Group, an international company dedicated to serving the market for Sharia-compliant financial products and services. Guidance Financial Group offers unique investment products to institutional investors and financial intermediaries worldwide, and provides financial services to its retail customer base in the United States. The company’s commitment to intensive research and development and solid operational support for its products has allowed it to develop unique financial solutions that address unmet needs of the Sharia-compliant market.

      • Avatar

        Hamayoun

        October 21, 2014 at 9:51 PM

        Salam, that is very strange. That’s not the way I understand what AMJA said about Guidance.

      • Avatar

        Nasir Chhipa

        May 16, 2016 at 12:47 PM

        How can the Guidance Financed house is a Saraiah compliant? If he/she is claiming interest when filling tax return at the end of the year.

  11. Avatar

    Hassan

    October 17, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    This is weird, I read article differently. Why are you not highlighting the following part in most of their fatwa

    “Whoever remains away from it has kept himself safe and has protected his faith and honor. “

  12. Avatar

    Sharif

    October 17, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Anyone have names of the smaller companies whose contracts are generally permissible but their ability to fulfill the needs of the general Muslim community are somewhat limited? “(2) Companies whose contracts are in agreement with Islamic law”

    Depending on the location and situation of the readers, those companies could be a viable option.

    Is there a list available somewhere?ra

  13. Pingback: Weekly industry update | Islamic Finance Expert

  14. Avatar

    DustonB

    October 20, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    Wow… I typed out a complete thought and it was blocked as being “spammy” even though there wasn’t a single link or anything of the sort.

    OK; simple statement then:

    My problem with all of these so-called Islamic Financial Institutions is that they have no provision for building a home from scratch.

    Basically Muslims aren’t allowed to have anything new, we have to buy used homes from non-Muslims.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      October 27, 2014 at 1:24 AM

      Dear DustonB

      We apologize for the inconvenience. Since spam filters in WordPress (the back-end for most websites) are not very customizable, sometimes valid comments seem not to go through. It possibly stems from a combination of things that combined create a red flag. We sincerely apologize for this. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on MuslimMatters.org.

      WasSalamuAlaikum
      Aly Balagamwala

      Comments Team Lead

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        October 28, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        Salaam Alaikum,

        Thank you for the response on that issue. I appreciate it.

  15. Avatar

    Hustry

    October 20, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    Why not use the systems that muslims have been using for centuries? I’m sure this is not the first time in history that muslims wanted to buy houses? Maybe the historians should dig up the old records and see what we were doing before?

    • Avatar

      Haytham

      October 21, 2014 at 9:12 AM

      Hustry, I wish it was that simple. The problem is that we live in a society that uses debt as an investment unlike the traditional understanding of debt (which was a means of assistance). Additionally, we live in a system that mandates the use of riba (and if not riba then it mandates the use of conditions that are in violation with the Islamic principles of finance and loaning). Additionally, Muslims aren’t like they used to be back in the good ol days and hence there is less trust from each other. These, amongst other points, are the reasons why Muslims in America cannot have a simple traditional Qard Hasan system.

      • Avatar

        writeousbum

        October 21, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        Thank you for this Haytham. I am truly a fan of yours. ‘The good ol’ days’ don’t exist, and what is ‘ideal’ must be acheived by first dealing with the ‘real’.

        Thanks for the reality check shaykh!

  16. Pingback: US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies « Loan Marketplace

  17. Avatar

    Siraaj

    October 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Guys, the investment industry as a whole in this country is a gigantic sham. There is more than enough academic and journalistic content to fill a lifetimes worth of reading discussing every single one of these scams. Wall Street has lobbyists galore selling us debt and investments to clear our bank accounts and fill their own pockets.

    Want an education? Take a loan that can’t be paid back to attend a big name university while will have zero impact on your life after you get in the door of your first job.

    Want a home? Don’t rent bro, buy a house because rent is just money down the drain – yearly property taxes, interest (or you can call it rent if you like), and maintenance costs on your personal time and finances are obviously not. Bad credit? No problem, here’s your sub-prime loan with jacked interest rates (sorry, “rent”).

    Want furniture – finance your furniture.

    Want to survive old age? Drop it in a 401(k), we’ll definitely make sure we only make safe investments.

    Please bear in mind that not one single one of these organizations escapes the “do this is if you absolutely must, it’s better not to” clause. If you want to test your own sense of taqwa about this, here’s the litmus test – upon seeing the fatwa, were you intent on buying the house that maxes out your creditworthiness? Or were you intent on getting a place to own because you “need” rather than emotionally want to spend on a house because everyone else does?

    If you truly “need”, I would like to see all of you avoid costly new homes, costly upgrades, costly anything. Buy a manufactured home for pennies on the dollar and put it on a property that doesn’t break the bank, that you can pay off within five – ten years. I sincerely doubt most people will do this.

    For solutions to all these issues:

    1. Stop investing your cash like lambs lead to the slaughter – invest it towards increasing your earning potential. Tech careers continue to explode and do not require a four degree, but mastery of the technology you want to work with.

    2. Learn to save money – learn how to save on groceries, learn how to purchase lightly used goods whose value only depreciates at significant discounts (cars, furniture, etc).

    3. Save up for a reasonably priced home that meets your needs – most people don’t need more than 2000 sq ft of home. Look into getting a manufactured home:

    https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=manufactured+homes

    In summary, don’t believe the hype. Every single org that has commented here and elsewhere stands to make money from your business. Most of you do not care about shari’ah compliance – you’re looking for the cheapest loan, and you’ve already determined, ironically, that despite the fatwas from various scholars who support one org (and not another, and vice versa), they are the exact same as banks, so you’re going for the bank loan.

    There’s a small percentage of you that want the home, but were waiting for a fatwa, and once you got it from anywhere, you were ready to take the loan. If you’re in this group, slow down and so do some more research.

    There’s a tinier percentage that remains skeptical, but still wants a home – what I’ve written above is mostly for you. You can have that home, but you need to be smart about it.

    And then there are the almost nonexistent people like myself who rent, who save up and pay cash for everything, who are thrifty, who mostly stay out of debt, and realize the system for what it is – do items #1 and #2, ignore #3, whoever said you can’t participate in society without home ownership doesn’t seem to have done their homework.

    • Avatar

      DustonB

      October 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      Akhee, no offense intended but if you really think that the average person can just “save up” for a manufactured home then you are way out of touch with reality.

      At 1400 square feet the manufactured home that my wife and I are getting is still going to be $145,000

      Do you really think that the average person can just “save up” that amount of money?

      • Avatar

        Siraaj Muhammad

        October 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM

        Absolutely. Have you researched how “average” people are buying homes without debt? I would encourage looking into this.

        Groceries are one of the biggest expenses. Strategic couponing can cut grocery bills over 90 – 95%. Have you investigated this?

        What is your profession? Have you first considered upgrading your professional skills and then saving for a home?

        • Avatar

          DustonB

          October 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM

          Siraaj, Median household income in the United States is $44,000
          How can a family with a household income of $44,000 buy a house without taking out some sort of loan?

          In order to save up the $150,000 it would take to buy a modest home it would take nearly 20 years to save up the money barring any emergencies and assuming that they are able to find an apartment to fit the family for less than $1000 per month.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        December 3, 2014 at 9:47 AM

        Siraaj, you’re still not answering my questions.

        It’s okay to admit that you’re wrong.. it doesn’t make you a lesser person just because you hadn’t considered a perspective outside of your personal experience.

  18. Avatar

    Yasir S.

    November 10, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Assalam U Alaykum,
    I was comparing Guidance & University Islamic Financial for last couple of months for buying a home at right time and did lots of research. I saw AMJA ruling on MM web site on weekend which puzzled me more. With all due respect to AMJA scholars, I do not see any difference on both besides financing model or contract but no sure why scholars have little bit favorable ruling for Guidance.
    Guidance is using this ruling as the only Sharia compliant company in USA which is totally wrong. I think AMJA should clarify their position on Guidance’s claim.

    Here is why I do not see any difference:
    1: Both works with Freddie Mac but AMJA ruling did not mentioned about Guidance.
    2: Both charge late fee but AMJA ruling mentioned about Ameena but skipped Guidance…
    3: AMJA mentioned insurance payout for Devon & UIFC but this applies to all companies regardless of Musharikah or Murabaha. Insurance company always issues a check for both mortgagee & customer for repair. If house fully paid off then check will go to customer only. Even if we consider it is ok to have both names for Guidance because of Musharikah then Guidance should keep portion of claim as their % of share but they do not or cannot.
    4: Bank’s right to freeze the purchaser’s account: This applies to all contracts but AMJA mentioned only for Devon & UIFC… I don’t think anyone can freeze account because of suspicion until customer stopped making payments. Please keep in mind both UIFC & Guidance follow same investor FREDDIE MAC guidelines.
    5: Bank’s right to declare property in default mentioned for Devon & UIF. Same rule applies to any company who work with Freddie.
    I apologize if I offended anyone but based on my experience and little research I don’t see any difference between UIFC & Guidance unless someone can explain.
    Jazzak Allah Khair.

    • Avatar

      asim

      October 26, 2016 at 5:46 PM

      I agree with you. I went by the Fatwa as well and purchased a house through Guidance. I see no difference in terms of paying back loan. It is same as the regular bank. I feel betrayed and am frustrated. You would think that Im not a scholar in Islamic finance but any lay person who pays a monthly mortgage bill would understand that so called islamic banks are not much different than the regular banks.

  19. Avatar

    Samuel

    November 16, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    I am puzzled by this declaration by US Muslim Jurists Resolution on Islamic Finance Companies as one of these companies listed OK to do business with sold my brother’s mortgage loan after few months to another conventational bank. I would like to see more documentation published AMJA backing their “fatwa” declaring some banks halal and some are not.

  20. Avatar

    kamal hassan

    December 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    I need some one realy to convince me with,: Now if i rent i will pay around $1200-$1400 a month, where if i buy a house will cost me around $900 and the house will be mine, where when you rent you throw money a way. Where the sense in this matter. And by the way when you pay your mortgage of $900 a month for example, you will get about half of that back in the saving if you pay 3% interest. where the 3% doesnt cover the bank expenses to cover the loan.

  21. Avatar

    DustonB

    December 3, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I notice that NONE of the Islamic finance institutions have stopped in to explain why they refuse to provide any form of loan or financing package for the construction of new homes.

    If their structure doesn’t allow for new home construction then I challenge that the entire structure is flawed and cannot possibly be 100% Islamically compliant.

    • Avatar

      SS

      January 13, 2015 at 12:31 AM

      http://www.amjaonline.org/en/articles/entry/amja-resident-fatwa-committee-resolution-about-islamic-home-financing-companies-in-the-us

      AMJA resolution about Islamic Home Financing Companies in the US

      The AMJA Fiqh Committee Resident Fatwa Committee met in Houston on the 20-22 of Dhul-Qadah 1435 A.H. (September 15-17 2014 C.E.) in order to issue a resolution concerning Islamic Home Financing in the United States. This meeting took place after an entire conference had previously been held on this topic, in which papers were discussed in the presence and with the participation of representatives of most of the relevant companies. This was followed up by correspondence between the Resident Fatwa Committee Fiqh Committee and those companies with an attempt to clarify and respond to the Shareeah issues that are present in their contracts. Sh. Jamaal Zarabozo (may Allah preserve him) also participated in this meeting in Houston. Click here read the full declaration
      Ameen Housing: (See updated Fatwa below) They are based on a diminishing partnership with rent to own ending in ownership model in their relationship to the purchaser. Their contracts are not sold to the federal institutions [such as Freddie Mac]. They also avoid explicit interest in their transactions. However, their contract does contain some Shareeah objections glitches, such as unfairness in the percentage that they discount in the rent to take care of basic maintenance, expenses that be more or less than that discounted amount. Additionally, they have just introduced a late payment fee [which is another violation of Shareeah principles].
      The ruling of the RFC Committee is that there is no harm in dealing with this company in case of need, although one should do one’s best to make one’s payments on time in order to avoid the late payment fee. The Committee also encourages the company to abstain from those aspects pointed out by the Committee.
      Addendum about Ameen Housing contract (As for Jan 2015)
      All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the blessings and peace be upon the final Prophet and upon all of his family and Companions.
      The Fiqh Committee of AMJA had issued a declaration explaining the issues in the contracts of the Islamic Home Financing Companies in the United States. That ruling was based on the contracts that they used at the time of the issuing of that declaration. With respect to Ameen Housing, two issues were of major concern. One was the late payment fee when a person paid his rent late and the other was the issue of the cost of maintenance being properly distributed between the two parties wherein Ameen returned a fix percentage of the rent to the buyer/renter regardless of the actual amount of maintenance expenses.
      After the issuing of that declaration, Ameen Housing—may Allah reward them for responding positively to that declaration—have now discontinued their late payment fee policy and have clarified to the Committee that the distribution of the maintenance expenses is handled in a way that is just.
      Based on the above, the Fatwa Committee now rules that the contracts that Ameen Housing is now using are consistent with the laws of the Shareeah. We have now no Shareeah objection to their practice and it is permissible for Muslims to purchase homes through them.

      • Avatar

        DustonB

        January 13, 2015 at 9:47 AM

        Thank you for completely wasting your time and not coming close to addressing the issue that I raised. By all means, continue posting long paragraphs of useless information.

  22. Avatar

    SS

    January 13, 2015 at 12:33 AM

    Addendum about Ameen Housing contract (As for Jan 2015)
    All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the blessings and peace be upon the final Prophet and upon all of his family and Companions.
    The Fiqh Committee of AMJA had issued a declaration explaining the issues in the contracts of the Islamic Home Financing Companies in the United States. That ruling was based on the contracts that they used at the time of the issuing of that declaration. With respect to Ameen Housing, two issues were of major concern. One was the late payment fee when a person paid his rent late and the other was the issue of the cost of maintenance being properly distributed between the two parties wherein Ameen returned a fix percentage of the rent to the buyer/renter regardless of the actual amount of maintenance expenses.
    After the issuing of that declaration, Ameen Housing—may Allah reward them for responding positively to that declaration—have now discontinued their late payment fee policy and have clarified to the Committee that the distribution of the maintenance expenses is handled in a way that is just.
    Based on the above, the Fatwa Committee now rules that the contracts that Ameen Housing is now using are consistent with the laws of the Shareeah. We have now no Shareeah objection to their practice and it is permissible for Muslims to purchase homes through them.

  23. Avatar

    DustonB

    January 13, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    This whole conversation is just underscoring a fundamental disconnect that most Muslims seem to have from the reality of the American experience. an overwhelming majority of immigrant Muslims came here based on their high level of professional skills and therefore obtained occupations in the high income brackets, which then led to their children having a huge advantage in educational opportunities.

    There’s nothing wrong with that and I have nothing against them for that. Alhamdulillah for their success.

    However, they seem to think that the experience they have with household incomes in the six figures is the norm in America and don’t have any comprehension that there are literally MILLIONS of Muslims in American who are struggling to get by and who have no choice but to take a loan in order to get a house or else be stuck renting for the rest of their lives.

    I’ll say again, the median income for America is $44,000. If your plan does not include or help people in that income bracket then your plan is already flawed.

    If your plan has no place for people below that bracket then it is also challenged.

    Islam is a pathway for all people, as a way of life for all people any method must somehow apply for all people. If it doesn’t, then it is not fully Islamically compliant.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      August 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      While it would be great if every Muslim can be financed through these companies, it’s simply not possible. These aren’t charity organizations and it’s their right to make a profit. If they just approved everyone, they would go out of business. Then instead of having some companies which are permissible to deal with, you’ll end up with no company.

      If a Muslim in America needs to buy a house and cannot get approved by any of the permissible organizations, God will be forgiving if that Muslim decides to go with a conventional bank.

  24. Avatar

    Kamran

    April 27, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    Just two days ago I asked two different sheikhs about if there was any shariah-compliant home-financing scheme with which they agree. They both separately said about guidance:

    First one: It is halal but not the spirit of Islam.

    Second one: I think guidance is halal because giants like Taqi Usmani and Sheikh DeLorenzo have endorsed it. Moreover, we once had Q/A with Sheikh DeLorenzo and he was able to answer all our questions.

    Thought I would share.

  25. Avatar

    Rashid

    March 12, 2016 at 4:29 PM

    What are the names or websites address of those who qualify under AMJA Fitwa.
    thanks

  26. Avatar

    Rashid

    March 12, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    What are the names or websites address of those who qualify under AMJA Fitwa in Canada.
    thanks

  27. Avatar

    S

    April 27, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    Please reply with the valid companies in Canada. Thank you.

  28. Avatar

    Burned by AHC

    November 23, 2016 at 4:42 PM

    I would NOT recommend Ameen Housing to anyone, honestly. I am trying to get out of my home ownership contract with them. They keep increasing the rent on you and charge your exorbitantly to exit. At this point, it look like I will have paid them $60K more in less than three years than what I would have paid the alternate Islamic model I’m trying to change to.

    • Avatar

      PotentialBuyer

      November 29, 2016 at 4:12 PM

      @BurnedbyAHC, would you please let us know which alternate financing you’re going for?

  29. Avatar

    Arjmand

    September 4, 2017 at 11:11 PM

    @BurnedbyAHC Assalamu alaykum. May Allah make ease in your affairs. Can you please give more details? I am considering Ameen Housing so I want to know everything beforehand.

  30. Avatar

    Shamini Rajendram

    January 29, 2018 at 6:19 PM

    I brought this article up to LARIBA in my dealings with them, this was their reply:

    Yes, we are aware of AMJA. We tried to contact them through our Shari’aa scholar Dr. Muhammad Adam Sheikh – a Temple University Ph.D. in Islamic Studies – and Secretary of Fiqh Council of ISNA without success.

    We had two options to respond:
    1. To enter into attacks and counter attacks which would bring us into the sad culture of the Middle East, or
    2. To find a world famous INDEPENDENT Shari’aa Audit company that looks at our work in great details and decide if we are Shari’aa compliant or not.

    We found: RAQABA; a World renowned Independant Audit company with offices in London and in North Carolina. It is headed by a world famous scholar: Dr. Abdubari Mashaal who was Shari’aa scholar at Alrajhi – the largest Islamic Bank in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Finance House.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/abdulbarimashal/ and
    https://www.zoominfo.com/p/Abdulbari-Mashal/1817458356

    After reviewing our work for 3-months and going through our process, they issued an audit report on our UNIQUE finance model based on Baiul Istithnaa. Their conclusion is LARIBA model is Shari’aa Compliant. We also AUDIT our finance operations annually by Raqaba.

    I am pleased to attach the Shari’aa Audit in Arabic and in English. Also, the Research Paper on our Model published by the TOP Islamic Finance Shari’aa Ressearch (can be found at https://www.lariba.com/Independent_Shari'a_Auditor_s_Report-English.pdf )

  31. Avatar

    M. Ali

    April 12, 2018 at 7:46 AM

    In my opinion there is no difference among all those So called Islamic Finance and average non Islamic bank, The matter fact I think getting a conventional loan with fixed interest rate from any Non Islamic Bank is much better an straight forward transaction….All these Islamic banks are non Islamic due to the matter fact their system built on twisting Islamic rules into their favor and very much they use interest but in different language, they change the terms of interest into utilization fee; that is insane and if you really want to help Muslim community you need to really help Muslim community by raising money for who is in needs and not make them pay THREE time the price of the house and call this murabaha, that is BS! if you want Murabaha dont balloon the price to make Muslim suffer more, where is the mercy and helping signs when you charge excessive rent and your profit is guaranteed, that is not sharing!, If you want to help I will suggest this Method of profit:
    If I find a house in the price for example $300k, here are the steps it should be taken:

    1- Since the Bank have all cash money, go and bargain with the seller to get the house for 10 to 20% cheaper and I am sure you can since you are going to be a cash buyer and this will make the purchase price about $250k.

    2- I as a buyer will agree to buy the house for the price from 300k to $350k it depends on how long will take me to pay the house, VS $700k when you use interest or rent to own excessive fees.
    Most of these Islamic banks are here for profit and not for helping Muslim community, they are out their to help them self for profit and nothing wrong with that, But the problem is when you use Islamic terminology as a selling tools, that is the problem and this what GOD prohibited.
    I dare those So called Islamic banks to show me what is the benefit of using them over non Islamic banks, ,,Just name one!

  32. Avatar

    Arjmand

    July 10, 2018 at 9:33 AM

    Assalamu alaykum,

    What about Ameen Housing? Are they the same?

  33. Avatar

    Bob Hannah

    February 28, 2019 at 8:01 PM

    The scholars forgot or chose to ignore the modernist Islamic view that riba was the exploitive moneylending to the poor as practiced at the time of the prophet. It is not the same as interest in modern regulated financial markets.

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#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Life

Are You Prepared for Marriage and Building a Family?

Mona Islam

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High School is that time which is ideal for preparing yourself for the rest of your life. There is so much excitement and opportunity. Youth is a time of energy, growth, health, beauty, and adventure. Along with the thrill of being one of the best times of life, there is a definite lack of life experience. In your youth, you end up depending on your own judgments as well as the advice of others who are further along the path. Your own judgments usually come from your own knowledge, assumptions, likes, and dislikes. No matter how wise, mature, or well-intended a youth is compared to his or her peers, the inherent lack of life experience can also mislead that person to go down a path which is not serving them or their loved ones best. A youth may walk into mistakes without knowing, or get themselves into trouble resulting from naivety.

Salma and Yousef: 

Salma and Yousef had grown up in the same community for many years. They had gone to the same masjid and attended youth group together during high school. After going off to college for a few years, both were back in town and found that they would make good prospects for marriage for each other. Yousef was moving along his career path, and Salma looked forward to her new relationship. Yousef was happy to settle down. The first few months after marriage were hectic: getting a new place, organizing, managing new jobs and extended family. After a few months, they began to wonder when things would settle down and be like the vision they had about married life.

Later with valuable life experience, we come to realize that the ideas we had in our youth about marriage and family are far from what are they are in reality. The things that we thought mattered in high school, may not matter as much, and the things that we took for granted really matter a lot more than we realized. In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection. In order to prepare for marriage, each person must intend to want to be the best person he or she can be in that role. There is a conscious process that they must put themselves through.

This conscious process should begin in youth. Waiting until marriage to start this process is all too late. We must really start preparing for marriage as a conscious part of our growth, self-development, and character building from a young age. The more prepared we are internally, the better off we will be in the process of marriage. The best analogy would be the stronger the structure and foundation of a building, the better that building will be able to serve its purpose and withstand the environment. Another way to think of this process is like planting a seed. We plant a seed long before the harvest, but the more time, care, and attention, the more beautiful and beneficial the fruits will be.

 

Sarah and Hasan:

Hasan grew up on the East Coast. He had gone to boarding school all through high school, especially since his parents had died in an unfortunate accident. His next of kin was his aunt and uncle, who managed his finances, and cared for him when school was not in session. Hasan was safe and comfortable with his aunt and uncle, but he always felt there was something missing in his life. During his college years, Hasan was introduced to Sarah and eventually they decided to get married.

The first week of his new job, Hasan caught a really bad case of the flu that made it hard for him to get his projects done. Groggy in bed, he sees Sarah appear with a tray of soup and medicine every day until he felt better. Nobody had ever done that for him before. He remembered the “mawaddah and rahmah” that the Quran spoke of.

Knowledge, Skills, and Understanding:

The process of growing into that person who is ready to start a family is that we need to first to be aware of ourselves and be aware of others around us. We have to have knowledge of ourselves and our environment. With time, reflection and life experience, that knowledge activates into understanding and wisdom. This activity the ability to make choices between right and wrong, and predict how our actions will affect others related to us.

Preview:

This series is made up of several parts which make up a unit about preparation for family life. Some of the topics covered include:

  • The Family Unit In Islam
  • Characteristics of an Individual Needed for Family Life
  • The Nuclear Family
  • The Extended Family

Hamza and Tamika

Tamika and Hamza got married six months ago. Tamika was getting her teacher certification in night school and started her first daytime teaching job at the local elementary school. She was shocked at the amount of energy it took to manage second graders. She thought teaching was about writing on a board and reading books to kids, but found out it had a lot more to do with discipline, speaking loudly, and chasing them around. This week she had state testing for the students and her finals at night school. She was not sure how to balance all this with her new home duties. One day feeling despair, she walked in her kitchen and found a surprise. Hamza had prepared a beautiful delicious dinner for them that would last a few days, and the home looked extra clean too. Tamika was pleasantly surprised and remembered the example of our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

The Family Unit in Islam

We always have to start with the beginning. We have to ask, “What is the family unit in Islam?” To answer this we take a step further back, asking, “What is the world-wide definition of family? Is it the same for all people? Of course not. “Family” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people across the world. As Muslims, what family means to us, is affected by culture and values, as well as our own understanding of Islam.

The world-wide definition of family is a group of people who are related to each other through blood or marriage. Beyond this point, is where there are many differences in views. Some people vary on how distantly related to consider a family. In some cultures, family is assumed to be only the nuclear family, consisting of mom dad and kids only. Other cultures assume family includes an extended family. Another large discrepancy lies in defining family roles and responsibilities. Various cultures promote different behavioral norms for different genders or roles in the family. For example, some cultures promote women staying at home in a life of luxury, while others esteem women joining the workforce while raising their kids on the side. Living styles vary too, where some cultures prefer individual family homes, while in other parts of the world extended families live together in large buildings always interacting with each other.

 

Layla and Ibrahim   

Layla and Ibrahim met at summer retreat where spirituality was the focus, and scholars were teaching them all day. Neither of them was seriously considering getting married, but one of the retreat teachers thought they might make a good match. It seemed like a fairytale, and the retreat gave them an extra spiritual high. Layla could not imagine anything going wrong. She was half Italian and half Egyptian, and Ibrahim came from a desi family. Soon after the nikah, Layla moved across the country into Ibrahim’s family home, where his parents, three siblings, and grandmother lived.  Come Ramadan, Layla’s mother-in-law, Ruqayya, was buying her new clothes to wear to the masjid. It was out of love, but Sarah had never worn a shalwar kameez in all her life! Ruqayya Aunty started getting upset when Layla was not as excited about the clothes as she was.

As Eid approached, Layla had just picked a cute dress from the department store that she was looking forward to wearing. Yet again, her mother-in-law had other plans for her.

Layla was getting upset inside. It was the night before Eid and the last thing she wanted to do was fight with her new husband. She did not want that stress, especially because they all lived together. At this point, Layla started looking through her Islamic lecture notes. She wanted to know, was this request from her mother-in-law a part of the culture, or was it part of the religion?

Marriage

The basis of all families, undoubtedly, is the institution of marriage. In the Islamic model, the marriage consists of a husband and a wife. In broad terms, marriage is the commitment of two individuals towards each other and their children to live and work together to meet and support each other’s needs in the way that they see fit. What needs they meet vary as well, from person to person, and family to family. The marriage bond must sustain the weight of fulfilling first their own obligations toward each other. This is the priority. The marriage must also be strong enough to hold the responsibility of raising the kids, and then the extended family.

How are we as Muslims unique and what makes us different from other family models? We are responsible to Allah. The end goals are what makes us different, and the method in which we work. In other family systems, beliefs are different, goals are different, and the motives are different. Methods can especially be different. In the end, it is quite a different system. What makes us better? Not because we say we are better or because we automatically feel better about ourselves due to a misplaced feeling of superiority. But instead it is because we are adhering to the system put in place by the most perfect God, Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds, the One Who knows best what it is we need.

Family Roles:

Each person in the family has a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has meant for them to have, and which ethics and common sense tell us to follow. However, our nafs and ego can easily misguide us to live our family life in the wrong way, which is harmful and keeps us suffering. Suffering can take place in many ways. It can take place in the form of neglect or abuse. In the spectrum of right and wrong, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that we are a nation meant for the middle path. So we should not go to any extreme in neglect or abuse.

What are the consequences of mishandling our family roles? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) calls this type of wrongdoing “transgression” or “oppression”. There are definitely consequences of oppression, abuse, and neglect. There are worldly consequences which we feel in this life, and there are long term consequences in the Akhirah.

Razan and Farhaan

Razan and Farhan had gotten married two years ago. Since they were from different towns, Razan would have to move to Farhaan’s hometown. On top of the change of married life, Razan felt pangs of homesickness and did not know many people in the new town. However, Farhaan did not realize what she was going through. He still had the same friends he grew up with for years. They had a die-hard routine to go to football games on Friday night and play basketball on Saturday at the rec center.

Razan was losing her patience. How could he think it was okay to go out with his friends twice on the weekend? Yet he expected her to keep the home together? Her blood started to boil. What does Islam say about this?

Mawaddah and Rahma

The starting point of a family is a healthy relationship between the husband and wife. Allah SWT prescribed in Surah 25: verse 74, that the marriage relationship is supposed to be built on Mawaddah (compassion) and Rahma (mercy). A loving family environment responds to both the needs of the children and the needs of parents. Good parenting prepares children to become responsible adults.

Aliyaah and Irwan

Aliyaah and Irwan had homeschooled their twin children, Jannah and Omar, for four years. They were cautious about where to admit their children for the next school year. Aliyaah felt that she wanted to homeschool her children for another few years. There were no Islamic Schools in their town. Irwan wanted to let his kids go to public schools. He felt that was nothing wrong with knowing how things in the real world are. However, every conversation they started about this issue ended up into a conflict or fight. This was beginning to affect their relationship.

Parenting

Two significant roles that adults in a family play are that they are married and they are parents. It is important that parents work to preserve and protect their marital relationship since it is really the pillar which supports the parenting role. Parenting is a role which Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) directly addresses in our religion. We will be asked very thoroughly about this most important role which we will all play in our lives.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) reminds us,

“All of you are shepherds and responsible for your wards under you care. The imam is the shepherd of his subjects and is responsible for them, and a man is a shepherd of his family and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and is responsible for it. A servant is the shepherd of his master’s belongings and is responsible for them. A man is the shepherd of his father’s property and is responsible for them”. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Islam has placed a lot of importance on the family unit. A family is the basic building block of Islam. A strong family can facilitate positive social change within itself and the society as a whole. The Quran asserts that human beings are entrusted by their Creator to be his trustees on Earth, thus they need to be trained and prepared for the task of trusteeship (isthiklaf).

Asa youth, it is important to make a concerted effort to develop our family skills so that we grow into that role smoothly. Proper development will prepare a person emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically for marriage and family life.

Mona Islam is a youth worker, community builder, motivational speaker, writer, and author. For the past 25 years, Sr. Mona has been on the forefront of her passion both locally and nationally, which is inculcating character development in youth (tarbiyah).  Sr. Mona has extensive knowledge of Islamic sciences through the privilege of studying under many scholars and traveling worldwide.  An educator by profession, she is a published author, completed her masters in Educational Admin and currently doing her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. Sr. Mona is married with five children and lives in Houston, TX.

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