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Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

Published

As ISIS continues its murder and violence across the provinces it controls and seeks to control, and as it continues to plague the conscience of the great majority of Muslims around the world, what’s worth recalling is that we’ve seen this before in history with the sect called the Khawarij (anglicized to Kharijites). So before tackling ISIS, let’s look at their forerunners; the Kharajites, to whom their pedigree can be traced.

I

The hadith canons relate that shortly after the battle of Hunayn while the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was distributing charity to a few people whose hearts needed to be reconciled, there came a man with a thick beard, prominent cheek bones, deep sunken eyes, protruding forehead and shaven head. He exclaimed: Fear Allah, O Muhammad! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responded: ‘Who will obey Allah if I were to disobey him? Am I not [sent as the] most trustworthy person on earth; and yet you trust me not?’ The man then turned back, whereupon one of those present asked for permission to kill him. But the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Verily, from the progeny (di’di) of this [man] shall come a people who will recite the Qur’an but it won’t pass beyond their throats. They will slay the followers of Islam and would spare the people of idolatry. They will pierce through the religion just like an arrow which goes clean through a prey.[1]

isis1

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Another hadith records that this man’s name was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah, from the tribe of Tamim, about whom the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) alerted: ‘Leave him; he has comrades whose prayer and fasting will make your prayer and fasting seem insignificant. They recite the Qur’an but it doesn’t go beyond their throats. They shall pass through the religion as an arrow that pierces clean through its prey such that, on inspecting the head; then the shaft; then the fletching; then the nock, would see no traces of blood or viscera on it whatsoever.’[2] Ibn al-Jawzi said: ‘The first of the Khawarij, and the most wretched of them, was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah … His problem was that he was too puffed up with his own opinion. Had he been granted grace, he would have realized that no opinion was above that of Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The followers of this man were those who fought against ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah ennoble his face.’[3]

A few decades after this post-Hunayn happening, and as had been prophesied, Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah’s ideological comrades and offspring took on the shape of the very first sect (firqah) to deviate from the main body of the Muslims: the Khawarij (culled from the Arabic word kharaja – “to go out” or “to leave” the main body of Muslims). Indeed, their very name was mentioned by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself, who said: al-khawarij hum kilab al-nar – “The Khawarij are the dogs of Hellfire!’[4] The emergence of the Khawarij as a sect occurred during the caliphate (khilafah) of ‘Ali, in the immediate aftermath of a civil war and its arbitration at Siffin.

Ibn al-Jawzi tells us: ‘‘Ali returned from Siffin and entered Kufah: the Khawarij did not follow. Instead, they settled in Harura. There were 12,000 of them, and they were declaring: la hukma illa li’Llah – “There is no judgement, except Allah’s.” This is how they initially started.’[5]

Imam Muslim narrates from ‘Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi‘, a freed salve of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), that the Khawarij came out against ‘Ali, and declared: ‘There is no judgement, except Allah’s.’ So ‘Ali replied: ‘A word of truth, intended for something false (kalimatu haqq urida biha batil).’[6]

Imam al-Nawawi explains: ‘Meaning, the basis of their statement was true. Allah says: The judgement is for none but Allah. [12:40] What they intended by it, however, was to reject ‘Ali’s [acceptance of] arbitration, may Allah be pleased with him.’[7]

As with Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah who, blinded by his warped piety and self-righteousness, thought he had a keener sense of justice than the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the Khawarij were also possessed of holier-than-thou pretensions and smug convictions. It is this puritanical, embittered self-righteousness – devoid of any true glimmer of knowledge or spiritual wisdom – that is the hallmark of the Khawarij and their ideological cousins who drink from the same murky theological waters today. Of course, along with such fanatical zeal, their other great infamy was takfir – declaring other Muslims to be disbelievers, and spilling their blood because of it.

II

The historians al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir chronicle alarmingly precise accounts of their intimidation, violence and terror. Under the events of 37H/657CE they detail how the Khawarij began terrorizing the countryside around Nahrawan, Iraq, subjecting those whom they caught to an imtihan or “inquisition”. If the answers failed to satisfy their zeal for purity, or agree with their understanding of things, then the punishment was death. Things came to a head when they chose ‘Abd Allah, son of an early companion, Khabbab b al-Aratt, as their victim.

A number of the Khawarij rode into his village for supplies and thought to make an example of him. They fired their loaded questions at him. They first asked him about the caliphates of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. ‘Abd Allah extolled them all and praised their successive caliphates. So far, so good. They then asked him about ‘Ali, and his state before and after the arbitration or tahkim. ‘He has far greater knowledge about Allah than you do,’ replied ‘Abd Allah, ‘and has much more piety in terms of his religion and possesses greater insight.’ With that, his fate was sealed. They bound and dragged him and his pregnant wife to an orchard laden with date palms, next to a river.

As they were proceeding to kill him, a date fell to the ground, so one of the Khawarij picked it up and put it in his mouth. ‘Do you do that without the owner’s permission and without paying for it?’ said one of his Kharajite comrades. He spat it out instantly. Another Khariji, wielding his sword in threatening circles, accidentally killed a cow that had been wandering behind him. His comrades insisted he should go and find the owner and pay him the full price of the animal. They waited whilst he did so. Thus, having acted most righteously in the matter of the date and the cow, they slit ‘Abd Allah’s throat and then disemboweled his wife. Date spat out, cow paid for, husband, wife and unborn child butchered; and with the clearest of consciences, they purchased their supplies and went on their way.[8]

Theologians have differed as to the precise meaning of the Prophet’s words ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): ‘They will pierce through the religion (yamruquna min al-din) as an arrow which goes clean through a prey.’ The idea of maraqa – an an arrow ‘piercing’ or going ‘clean through’ its prey with such force and velocity that it exits its prey without any trace of blood or flesh sticking to its tip or shaft, describes emphatically how the Khawarij immerse themselves in religion, but exit straight through it. The question, however, is do they exit the fold of orthodoxy (and become heterodox, deviant Muslims), or do they leave the actual fold of Islam? A minority of scholars went with the latter view; most went with the former.[9] The majority view takes its cue from ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, who was asked: Are the Khawarij mushrikun? He said: ‘They flee from shirk.’ Are they munafiqun? He said: ‘The hypocrites remember Allah only a little.’ Then what are they? He said: ‘They are our brothers who transgressed against us (ikhwanuna baghaw ‘alayna), so we fought them for their transgression.’[10]

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Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Dawah and Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the Arabic language into English such as "The Exquisite Pearls". Abu Aaliyah's written works and audio lectures can be found online.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    August 25, 2015 at 12:37 AM

    One of the MOST informative article around! JazakhAllah khayr for the immense information about the Kharijites. May Allah protect our deen.

    • Avatar

      hadjer

      August 26, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      sister can u tell me how can i have account here to publish a topics about islam

  2. Avatar

    Ibn Islam

    August 25, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    This article highlights some of the traits of the khawarij and links them to isis. However; it does oversimplify this matter. I strongly encourage the author and other scholars to thoroughly elucidate some of the actions of isis, rather than completely dismiss them as. Oversimplifying this matter by describing the actions of this group as “non-islamic”, is not doing justice.
    It is important to put things into correct perspective which it deserves in order not to loose the wide majority audience. Clarification is needed today more than ever because those who know the seerah of the prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam in depth cannot consolidate with generalization of this matter. In no way or form do I support actions of isis, however we need proper guidance in this matter. Making the claim that Islam and the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam are all about mercy and denying all other actions causes alienation of the young and mature Muslims at large, as well mistrust deviation. Using the “young” card and “lack of wisdom” is the wrong approach. The hadith pertaining to the “foolish” and “young” has its validity without a doubt. Needles to say that the youth has always been at the forefront bringing positive change while the majority of scholars have been remaining passive in the matters of the global Muslim community throughout history.

    In order to consolidate the matter things need to be addressed by those with adequate knowledge:

    1. What constitutes kufr (disbelieve) ie. the 10 nullifers of Islam
    2. How to work towards establishing Islam as a state
    3. What kind of allegiance is permitted to Muslims and to whom
    4. Denouncing the men made systems and upholding the Islamic identity while being part of the society.

    May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us the understanding of the right path and make us follow it.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 26, 2015 at 3:06 AM

      As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

      I’m surprised at the comment and also rather baffled. I’ve not even got to the part about ISIS yet. I’ve made that abundantly clear at the beginning and end of part one. I’ve also not used the word “unIslamic” about them, since I don’t find that very helpful. Hence your commrbts seem somewhat untimely or misplaced. Surely the reasonable thing to do would have been to wait until the next part, till I actually wrote something about ISIS, before launching your criticisms and allegations.

      One reasons I decided to write something about this (after consulting some of my teachers) is because I wasn’t quite satisfied with much of what was currently out there. A lot of it was just telling us how harsh and unIslamic they are which, as I’ve said, isn’t very helpful. I was hoping to do a little more than that, bi’idhnillah. (Wether I succeed or not remains to be seen).

      A few of those on Muslim Matters know of my work for the last twenty years or so. I hope you believe me when I tell you I’m really not in the habit of tackling issues which I’m not qualified for, nor do I write for popularity. I write with the depth I believe does some justice to the topic, and only after things have been well thought out (even if, sometimes, that takes a year or two before putting pen to paper, as in this case). The end product can still be littered with errors, unhelpful and besides the point; though it’s unlikely to be shallow, or written in ignorance and haste.

      My brother, be patient, pray that Allah guides me to write something of substance, give me the benefit of the doubt, and – if I may ask – try not to be so assuming or judgemental about me.

      You may even be pleasantly surprised at part two; then again, you may not. It’s unlikely that any one single article could ever hit all the proverbial nails on the head in this matter.

      Let’s just wait; like many other sons and daughters of Islam, my heart bleeds for the situation too.

      Here’s hoping.

      Your brother, at your service.

      And Allah alone gives success.

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        August 27, 2015 at 12:06 AM

        Agree with every word said by bro Abu Aaliyah. The comment by Ibn Islam is misplaced and doesn’t make sense. It was as if the article was read with a prejudiced mind of finding whatever the reader wanted to read and NOT what the article was for!

  3. Avatar

    Kamal Ahmed

    August 27, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    The article clearly has not yet directly touched any aspect of ISIS yet so I dont understand the fuss that brother Ibn Islam is trying to create. The article has only mentioned ISIS two times and that too in the opening paragraph. So my advice to Brother Ibn Islam is to either clarify his position or retract his comment. Jazakallah Brother Abu Aaliyah for the insightful article. Looking forward to the part 2.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 6:38 AM

      I am not a Muslim scholar, but the atrocities committed by Da’esh are well documented and space is wasted here by going in to them here in detail. There is no justification for the slaughter going on in Syria by Assad or Da’esh. Innocent Muslims are being slaughtered and starved to death. One group does it under a false pretense of bringing the world pure true Islam. The analogy is pretty obvious, I thought. I fail to understand what details you seek. It’s as if you need convincing that Da’esh is killing innocent Muslims. Are you one of those who think Da’esh is a creation of America?

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 2:15 PM

      Sorry Brother Ahmed. I did not look carefully at what you wrote and shot off my mouth before having complete understanding. May Allah forgive me. I guess I am of the group that is prejudging Da’esh. Millions of Muslims are suffering. Yassir Qadhi is one who was off the deep end of Salfism, but al hamdullilah, he has pulled back and is a pleasure to listen to these days. For me, I see Muslims doing stupid things in the name of purity and I am very tired of it. I just listened to a lecture where the Imam said that a person has to invite you into their heart. Only Allah has unlimited access. Only Allah has final judgement. One of our primary commands is kindness. Da’esh, I don’t think anyone is debating how kind they are. I lose track of Muslim Matters sometimes. Al hamdulillah for this site and this article. I know, for me, I am pretty familiar with Da’esh, at least from a media perspective, but I am weak on Islamic history and this is what impresses me about this article. I learned the linguistics of why the Khawarij have a second name and the exact start of these “deviant Muslims.” This is valuable knowledge. May Allah reward the author. Those who criticize, may not see, but some of us see their criticism as a defense for Da’esh. Sorry being long and will soon shut up. Our job, after we find guidance, is to assist others in finding Allah’s guidance. The matter of being guided is strictly a matter of the heart and we pray that Allah allows us to be a way for others to escape the fire. We have to win hearts fee sabeelillah. What has that got to do with shooting people, torture and rape? May Allah make us successful as we continue the mission of our Prophet.

  4. Avatar

    tortal

    August 27, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    Sufaha’ al-ahlam would work much better translated as, “of foolish ambitions” or “having foolish notions” or something of that sort.

    When I read the Arabic, it just doesn’t strike me as meaning “weak of intellect”.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      Thank you for an alternative translation. However, when one consult the books of commentary on this hadith, one finds that the phrase is understood as a kinayah; a metaphor. It is a metaphor for those who lack depth of knowledge and understand; those who only understand things at a surface level.

      We also learn a valuable lesson, which is that to understand such important socio-political and theologically orientated hadiths, we must beware not to explain them merely by taking their lexical meanings. Rather, we need to rely upon the shariah meanings, as given by the qualified jurists, theologians and commentators.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      That said, one can see that these Khawarij, because they were “weak in intellect”, ended up with “foolish ambitions.”

  5. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    I felt like Muslims were over emphasizing the “foolish youth” aspect of it which might almost be seen as an excuse. The core aspect of it highlighted in this article rightfully is their selfrightiousness and arrogance. It is one thing to be foolish and yet another to combine it with the self pride and contempt these crimins have. I have argued with many of them and they are exceptionally arrogant and often of despicable character.

  6. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:50 PM

    What is also clear is their lack of respect and proper exaltation of Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam. It gets in the way of their stubborn arrogance. They ought to be annihilated like Ad was annihilated. May Allah destroy them very soon.

  7. Avatar

    Joe

    August 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    As salaam alykum
    One of the best articles I have read so far on the khawarij!!!
    Reminds me of the series by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks many years ago ”The Kharijites and their impact on Contemporary Islam” – I do not know if Shaykh Surkheel has read the series?
    The conversation between Hadrat Ali RA and Hurqus always gives me pause for thought. Hurqus words can be easily translated to the young angry men we find at our mosques and their facebook comments’, they think (and believe) their actions are for Allah:
    [[“‘The intractable Hurqus confronted Sayyidna Ali and said, “O son of Abi Talib, I fight you not except for the sake of Allah, and for my reward in the afterlife.”
    Sayyidna Ali retorted, “Your kind, Hurqus, is the kind that Allahu Ta’ala refers to in the Quran where He states, ‘Say: Shall We tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they imagined that they were acquiring good by their works‘ (18: 103). Amongst these – and I swear by this in the name of the Lord of the Ka’ba – are you Hurqus!”]]

    To the people of Allah this is the scariest verse in the Quran 18:103 – we ask Allah’s Pleasure through His Mercy and not through our actions.
    A scholar once told me that the spiritual reason for the khawarij and their deviance is that in the first interaction between Hurqus and the beloved Prophet SAW – Hurqus showed disrespect to the beloved. They have no love for our Prophet SAW inwardly.
    Looking forward to part 2.
    Was salaam

  8. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    August 30, 2015 at 6:30 AM

    subhanallah! Great Article…..I learned something today…al hamdullilah!

  9. Pingback: Comment on Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One by GregAbdul | Souqhub | Blog

  10. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    August 30, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Are ISIS really the modern Khawarij, though? The Khawarij were known, as you say in your article, for exaggerated displays of righteousness and kindness towards non-Muslims and towards animals while they massacred the Believers over petty or ridiculous disagreements. ISIS, like Al-Qa’ida before them, although they do oppress Muslims in the lands they occupy, are not merciful to non-Muslims either in the lands they occupy or in the non-Muslim lands in which they operate (many of which allow Muslims to live unmolested and with greater freedom than in most Muslim countries) where they massacre innocent people, destroy property, menace travellers (notably by hijacking aeroplanes) and behave treacherously and break trusts with both Muslims and others. While they may have been intended to provoke non-Muslims into war against Muslims, and a few Muslims were killed, the immediate targets were non-Muslims. How then are modern extremists Khawarij?

  11. Avatar

    Munawar

    September 4, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    The article by brother Abu Aaliyah is very good & informative. You have drawn good parallels between the Khawarij & ISIS which is very true.
    I think the deeper picture is more disturbing which is as follows:- ( I may be wrong so Allah pardon me)
    The strength of a person is not in his body but in his spirit. The more a person is spiritual the more he is near to Allah the more strong he is. History has proved this in the battle of Badr & even after that when a handful of true spiritual muslims controlled half of the world.
    They fought not for hatred of the enemy but for the love of Allah. Thus they derived their strength from love not hatred.
    Today their descendants depend on a foreign power for their protection. Why?
    The reason is that some vested interests including the descendants themselves attacked our spiritual ethos under the garb of a puritinical Islam & the result is for everyone to see. Country after country which allowed the spiritual Islam to flourish came under attack under one pretext or the other. The first was Afghanistan followed by Iraq , Iran ( this country was saved by the grace of Allah), Egypt & now Syria. It is any bodys guess as to who is funding & supporting these activities. The west is only in the front & its business is to make hay while the sun shines. We cannot blame the west.
    Now their target is India & Pakistan ( although Pakistan today is in deep trouble — again because of the  followers of this puritinical Islam). 

    About a fortnight ago we had an article in The Times Of India which spoke of the Salafi & Sufi divide in India & how a rich middle eastern country is pumping money into India to support Salafism.

    In his 2nd part I request brother Abu Aliyah to throw some light on this aspect especially with regard to 2 renowned muslim scholars one of the12th century the 2nd belonging to the 17th century. Both had a puritinical attitude & were obsessed with Jihad. Most of the puritans follow them.

    It is for every one to see the spiritual divide between the Muslim countries.
    But the most disturbing part is the numbers of these puritans is increasing day by day because even if a false sermon  ( under pressure from vested interests ) is delivered from the pulpit of Haram Sheriff it will be considered as true by the lay Muslim.

  12. Avatar

    JAVAD

    September 28, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Sorry has the part 2 been published yet? i couldnt find it!!

  13. Pingback: » Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part II

  14. Pingback: » 8 Signs of Extremists According to the Prophet ﷺ | Yahya Ibrahim

  15. Pingback: ISIS and Its Faulty Logic « Muslimyouthstoday's Blog

    • Avatar

      AshShifaa

      November 14, 2016 at 8:24 PM

      Indeed

      ..until you will fight them in the armies of the dajjal , goes the hadeeth, if I am not wrong. isis and Israel are buddies btw.. something to think about , Zionists are the armies of the dajjal, their false messiah being the dajjal himself .
      We have to read and study end time prophecy to underhand this ..

  16. Avatar

    Fahad

    November 21, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Excellent article. Insha’Allah ISIS will be eradicated like their forefathers or Come back to mainstream Islam soon.

  17. Avatar

    Abu ahmed

    December 28, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    Brilliantly put together.
    Very informative.

    JazakaAllah

  18. Avatar

    Jav

    January 31, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    These khawarij separated themselves from the body politic of muslims ie the caliphate.
    The secular nationalist elites are the ones who did this in the 20th century.
    How are you applying it to others and not this group and their descendants whose islam does not go beyond their necks?

    • Avatar

      jule

      April 28, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      i totally agree
      the khawarij did it when the khilafah was florishing, from wat exactly did our brothers from dawlah islamyah seperate them selves from?
      from corrupt kings? or from people whom do not wish to apply sharia? so tell me exactly whom are the khawarij ?
      brings me to the next equation, we try to make parallels between khawarij between present muslim mujahideen whom are harsh with establishing a muslim country run by the laws God gave us.
      would we apply the parallels if abubakr saddiq was amongst us today?
      he was willing to fight every man neglecting the laws of allah he even did fight muslims that abandoned the pay of zakat, while the muslim army was busy fighting in the front lines he himself went to fight these so called muslims.
      i pray every sible day to bring the muslims together and abandon their differences so we can stand as one for one goal.
      that goal is to establish the word of god to be the highest. every one with a different goal must be put in paralel and questioned about whether he is mukhrij.

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

Published

As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

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Why Boycotting France is the Wrong Response

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“I don’t think it’s safe to come visit you in France with your Aunt…she wears a hijab, and she will have trouble getting around”, my mother nervously quipped as we discussed travel arrangements for their trip. 

“Of course it’s safe! How could you say that? There are women wearing hijab all over this country!”  I protested, as I tried to assuage her concerns.

I was living as an expat in France when my family was planning their visit to the country last year. I was surprised to hear the reservations from my own folk; it went on to highlight the pre-conceived notions Muslims often have about the French. “They hate Muslims!” “They are racists” “They insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!”. The list goes on.  

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Having spent a considerable amount of time in France, Quebec and Suisse-Romande, I’ve developed an affinity towards the French culture, language and people. I’ve never felt marginalized in these lands because of my dark skin, my Muslim faith, or my never-ending struggle with French conjugation. Yes, I am privileged in many ways, but that doesn’t negate the validity of my experiences. 

I was thus naturally taken aback by the recent calls to boycott France in light of the opportunistic and contemptable actions of Emmanuel Macron. If these boycotts made me uncomfortable, I can imagine how much more offended the average French person would have been. Macron’s decision to first politicize an unspeakable crime, and then to insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a deplorable move. It exposed his true colors and showed us that he is just another disdainful politician who seeks to divide, rather than build bridges. 

As pitiful as Macron’s actions are, is the Muslim response calling for boycotts of France justified? Is it fair to hold all of France guilty for the comments made by its President? Are we not only advancing the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative that extremists on both sides want? No one holds all of America responsible for the ridiculous comments that Trump makes – why a different standard for France? 

Collective guilt is a serious disease that we must overcome. We need to stop holding a people accountable for the actions of a few. We need to stop blaming a people for the actions of their ancestors. French corporations, that employ thousands of Muslims across the world, did not insult the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – so why take them to task? French Muslims have not called for these boycotts, so why are we advocating for them?  If we collectivize and boycott all of France, how are we any different from those who hold all Muslims responsible for the violence perpetrated by a few? 

We need to abandon the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset; this parochial idea of ‘Islam vs the West’ or ‘Islam vs France’. We need to adopt a post-nationalist worldview where we look at all people as one, as our own. There is no ‘Them’ – it is all ‘Us’. It is ‘Us’ against hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and racism. It is ‘Us’ against those in power, on both sides, who seek to exploit ‘Us’ for political and personal gain. 

As one people, we should never advocate for boycotts which seek to create divisions and animosity between ‘Us’. Blanket consumer boycotts are short lived and have a minimal impact regardless. What lives long past the boycott are the feelings of resentment, hatred and enmity directed towards an entire nation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a prophet to all people, to the French people – our people. We must not partake in actions which alienate our kin from being receptive to his message.  

Know that paltry cartoons will not take away from the rank of the Chosen One. One of his miracles in these modern times, is that those wishing to disparage him have been unable to succeed. His enemies have caricaturized him over and over again, but none of their images have stuck around or gained acceptance. Despite all of these attempts, the only descriptor with which he continues to be universally recognized is that of prophethood. You read a headline: ‘Artist makes images of the Prophet’, and you know instantly who ‘the Prophet’ refers to regardless of who you are. Unqualified, the word always brings to mind the thought of one man!   

Even those that don’t believe in him call him ‘the Prophet Muhammad’ – lips refuse to utter his name with anything other than his noble epithet. So, fear not about the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rank – for the one being praised by angels in the Heavens cannot be belittled by lowly men here on Earth. 

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OpED: Sri Preston Kulkarni’s War on Facts

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“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” — Dorothy Allison (American Writer)

By Ghazala Salam, Founder & President, Muslim Caucus

Elections are a time when stretching the truth is the norm rather than the exception, and “fact checking” an imperative for anyone who wants to make an informed decision about their vote. However, nowhere has the narrative collided as head on with the truth as in the campaign of Sri Preston Kulkarni, Democratic candidate for the Texas Congressional District #22. Such is the brazenness of Kulkarni’s lies that multiple groups that have vowed to vote President Trump out of office believe it is in the best interest of the district and the country if Kulkarni loses his second bid for a place in the US House of Representatives, his purported commitment to the Democratic platform notwithstanding.

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Many are understandably curious about the reason for so many Democrats turning against a candidate from the party they normally support. To be clear, it is not so much Kulkarni’s campaign narrative, as the conflict between that narrative and the truth. To many voters of District 22, Kulkarni’s campaign ostensibly stands for human rights and religious freedom, and against fascism and nationalism. Unfortunately, and as multiple exposes that are now going viral have demonstrated, Kulkarni’s association with fascist and nationalist elements both in India and the US run deep, and indeed are the key drivers of his candidacy.

Kulkarni is no ordinary immigrant success story, having come from a family with deep connections to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is one of the world’s largest militia, and the ideological fountainhead of Hindutva, a fascist and supremacist ideology that seeks to turn India into a Hindu state, where Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens with few rights. In the last two decades, front organizations of the RSS in America have fielded multiple candidates for political office, some of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to advancing Hindutva’s agenda in Washington, DC. It is no surprise therefore, that the RSS’s American affiliate, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), are among the primary backers of Kulkarni’s candidacy. The irony of a man who claims to stand against racism, fascism and nationalism, being backed by the same forces that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is something Kulkarni would prefer voters don’t pay attention to.

However, the connection with RSS is based on more than just mutual benefit. Kulkarni is the nephew of the late Pramod Mahajan, a highly influential Indian politician and minister, who was an RSS veteran and the BJP’s chief strategist. He held several important cabinet positions including Defense, and until his murder in 2006 by another uncle of Sri Kulkarni, Mahajan was considered the “heir apparent” to the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee. Mahajan was among the key organizers of L. K. Advani’s Rath Yatra, a campaign that finally led to the criminal demolition of the Babri Mosque and the subsequent killing of over 3,000 people in sectarian violence across India.

What is striking about Kulkarni’s candidacy is not just these RSS connections that are now falling out of the proverbial closet, but Kulkarni’s silly attempt at feigning ignorance about the RSS, claiming he did not know it was an organization until two years ago. This is rich, coming from a man who claims to have been a career diplomat, and whose next posting before he quit the Foreign Service was going to be in New Delhi. Kulkarni has gone on record to say that Ramesh Bhutada, the Vice-President of HSS, was “like a father,” to him, and his son Rishi Bhutada was among those without whose support the campaign itself might not have been possible.

Another relative of Sri Kulkarni is the well-known Indian politician Gopinath Munde, who married Mahajan’s sister. Munde was a member of Modi’s cabinet before his death in a road accident, and was once in charge of the RSS branches in the city of Pune. Kulkarni’s cousin Poonam Mahajan, currently a member of the Indian Parliament, was once the national President of the BJP “Youth Wing” and the Secretary of the BJP in 2013.

Much to Kulkarni’s discomfiture, his fascist friends are actually flaunting their connection to him, starting with BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy, hailing Kulkarni’s candidacy as “Hindutva’s hope in Houston.” Yet, Kulkarni wants voters to believe him when he claims ignorance about the RSS.

The struggle with facts continues, with Kulkarni claiming without proof, a lineage from the famed General Sam Houston. Short on facts are also Kulkarni’s claims of expertise on issues of national security, as he has provided almost no details of his tenure in the Foreign Service. Kulkarni’s complete refusal to acknowledge his campaign’s connections to RSS should also be seen in light of the fact that the RSS’s nationalist and Islamophobic agenda finds a natural ally in the Republican Party, particularly in Donald Trump. It is no surprise therefore, that Prime Minister Modi was welcomed in Houston by President Trump and prominent Republicans at a massive “Howdy Modi” rally in September 2019. The same Rishi Bhutada who helped Kulkarni launch his campaign was one of the main organizers and spokesperson for the event. Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Modi broke protocol in giving President Trump a rousing endorsement for reelection during the latter’s visit to India.

None of these would have been uncomfortable truths for Kulkarni, had he been running as a Republican. However, Kulkarni’s candidacy as a Democrat flies in the face of facts, and the support he is getting from many of the district’s Democrat voters is more the result of revulsion against President Trump than a proper vetting of Kulkarni’s politics.

If Kulkarni makes it to Capitol Hill, expect stonewalling on issues of human rights and religious freedom by right wing forces around the world. With Kulkarni as their representative, South Asian voters can forget about any accountability for India, for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedom. In a “letter to the Muslim community,” apparently conscious of the growing disquiet about his candidacy among Muslims, liberals and progressives, Kulkarni brags about having taken a stand on the “violence in Delhi” and the “situation in Kashmir,” as evidence of his commitment to human rights and religious freedom. In truth, both statements by Kulkarni are ritualistic expressions of standing for peace and human rights, while failing to call out the role of ideologically driven violence against religious minorities. The perpetrators of such violence are widely known to be proponents of the same ideology whose affiliates in the US are among his donors. Such statements are actually a disservice to the victims of sectarian violence for they seek to obfuscate the role of Hindu nationalism in driving such persecution.

Kulkarni’s has apparently promised to take a public position against the use of India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to strip citizenship away from India’s Muslim citizens. Absent from Kulkarni’s narrative is any mention of how the CAA and NRC are discriminatory in their essence against people of the Muslim faith, and a clear violation of India’s secular Constitution. Clearly Kulkarni is not on the same page as respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. How Kulkarni is expected to be vocal about civil rights in the US, while actively shielding those who are eroding these very rights abroad defies explanation.

Similarly, Kulkarni has issued a statement on the “situation” in Kashmir that does nothing to shine the light on the historic betrayal of the Kashmiri people represented by the revocation of Article 370, and the enormous human suffering caused by the Government of India’s tyrannical curfew and lockdown, imposed long before Covid-19. In this regard, Kulkarni apparently does not want to displease his RSS supporters by condemning the unprecedented human rights catastrophe in Kashmir, something many prominent Democrats have done, in the form of statements and House resolutions. For Kulkarni to call out the role of the India’s Hindu nationalist government in causing such suffering on Kashmir’s civilian population is unthinkable. In fact, Kulkarni is loath to even call out the Indian military’s tyranny in Kashmir, and instead prefers to advise the Indian government “behind closed doors,” through the “ladder of diplomacy.”

The truth about Sri Kulkarni’s campaign is closely tied to the money trail. Kulkarni has accepted in excess of $80,000 from just 10 families linked to RSS affiliates in the United States. Despite repeated demands by voters in his district to return such tainted donations, Kulkarni has instead doubled down, attacking those raising concerns as “nefarious actors,” while claiming he was unaware of the RSS as an organization.

It is possible that Kulkarni is genuine in his advocacy for the environment and his concern about gun violence. However, his janus-faced campaign is being weighed down by its own internal contradictions and his refusal to come clean on important facts that affect his prospective constituents. Among all the lies of the 2020 elections, Kulkarni’s claim that he is against fascism and nationalism must rank among the most brazen.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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