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An Open Letter to the Muslim Community in Light of the Orlando Shooting

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Dear Leaders, Activists, and Community Members,

Assalamu `alaykum,

The Orlando massacre has thrust the Muslim community once again into the national spotlight and this time the American people demand to know what Islam has to say about homosexuality and the “LGBT liberation” movement. We need to be open, unambiguous, and principled in answering these questions now, speaking with a Prophetic voice in times of great confusion.

Let me start by reiterating what many Muslims have been saying. I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in this killing spree. Furthermore, gunning down people, whether they are at a school, a church, or a gay club, is a grave crime as far as Islam is concerned. I understand that some Americans will never believe such assurances, but there is little that we could say to convince such naysayers. After all, if the veritable freight train of cultural capital known as Muhammad Ali could not, in life or in death, convince the American public that Islam is not a murderous ideology of hate, what hope do the rest of us have?

Spurred by this shooting and the Muslim community’s subsequent condemnations, the public has been asking, Does Islam support LGBT rights? This has put tremendous pressure on imams and community leaders to respond in a way that is true to Islamic teachings but is also sympathetic to the recent tragedy and, even more importantly, is conversant with the wider cultural discourse on the LGBT identity and lifestyle.

Given the circumstances, the question itself is unfair. The implicit binary is that either Muslims are fully in support of the LGBT movement or they are no different from Omar Mateen, i.e., bloodthirsty bigots on the verge of gunning down the nearest gay bar. But there is a third option.

A Question of Affirmation

In my past writing on this topic, I have been clear that bullying, assaulting, or indiscriminately killing people merely because they self-identify as or are presumed to be gay is something Muslims around the world should oppose according to their religious principles and traditions. For example, if a Muslim were to come upon a person being attacked in the street for “being gay,” it would be that Muslim’s Islamic duty to intervene and help the victim.

That being said, I maintain that Muslims cannot uncritically and unconditionally endorse the LGBT rights movement without simultaneously violating basic principles of Islam.

27403401140_8d052ff471_zIt would be easy to portray this lack of endorsement as “homophobia” or a callous indifference to people for who they are. But let me emphatically dispel such a simplistic and reductive portrayal. In actuality, I do care about those who consider themselves gay, lesbian, or transgender, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. In fact, I deeply care and I believe other Muslims should care as well.

But that care does not translate into support for much of what the LGBT rights movement stands for. As Muslims, we do not have grounds to believe that the assumptions and goals of that movement benefit in the short or long term those individuals who self-identify as LGBT. Rather, this movement and the lifestyle it assumes and enables is harmful to the very people it purports to liberate — harmful in the physical and metaphysical senses. So, how could I or any other Muslim lend support?

Along these same lines, if “standing with the LGBT community” means supporting the LGBT movement  in all its implications and demands and, hence, enabling those identifications and those lifestyle choices that I, as a Muslim, believe to be incorrect, immoral, and, ultimately, harmful, then clearly I do not and cannot take such a stand. But again, that does not mean that I do not care for the well-being, happiness, and success of my fellow human beings. In fact, from my perspective, I care a great deal more than others who are eager to enable and normalize what I and my religion maintain are self-destructive behaviors.

Of course, others will vehemently disagree on the destructiveness of same-sex sexual behavior, but that is beside the point. Truth be told, all religions and life philosophies commit their adherents to a certain moral outlook when it comes to sex. Even secular humanism has its do’s and don’ts when it comes to people’s sex lives. (Simply consider the severe taboos and laws against incest, pedophilia, and so forth. Or consider the inherent normativity implicit in modern psychiatry’s extensive categorization of sexual “dysfunctions” and “paraphilias.”) Be that as it may, in present day America, one specific, idiosyncratic kind of sexual morality is the dominant view, a view that is increasingly being established in federal and state law. It just so happens that that view conflicts with Islamic sexual morality on the question of same-sex intimacy.

Sure, we can have a conversation about which of these systems is the right one, which is more compelling, more just, etc. I am more than willing to discuss that (and have written to this effect elsewhere). But, at the end of the day, Muslims’ most deeply held beliefs on this issue do not allow them in good conscience to support, let alone “celebrate,” the LGBT movement.

A Question of Reconciliation

Now, the question is, Do Muslims have a right to their beliefs, or will they be bullied and silenced into a position that is fundamentally opposed to their deepest ethical and theological commitments?

The claim that secular democracy makes is that it can accommodate a diversity of beliefs, even conflicting beliefs. And if liberal secular democracy is truly tolerant of a diversity of beliefs, then my religious beliefs ought to be meaningfully allowed and protected. If liberal secular democracy is what it claims to be, especially regarding its treatment of religious plurality, then it ought not to force Muslims (or other religious groups) to accept something that is so contrary to their faith.

Yet, how can liberal secularism claim to tolerate religious belief if it requires certain groups essentially to abandon their faith? If tomorrow laws are passed that, for example, require Muslim institutions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, require Muslim leaders to refrain from calling same-sex behavior a sin, require Muslim communities to abide by homonormative speech guidelines, require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, require Islamic schools and mosques not to discriminate on the basis of professed sexual ethical commitments in their hiring practices, etc., etc., then how can this be called tolerance when all of these things would, from our perspective, destroy the moral fabric of our communities and radically undermine our faith and autonomy?

The point is that the issue of reconciling “freedom of faith” and “gay rights” is not a problem for Muslims to solve. This is a problem for liberal secularism to solve since it is the one that claims to be able to reconcile diverse communities and divergent belief systems under one legal system and one government. If liberal secular states, like the U.S., force Muslims to accept something antithetical to their religion, then this proves that the liberal secular vision of universal tolerance, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc., are a mirage and that such states are not unlike any other authoritarian or theocratic regime that imposes beliefs on its populace by force of law.

A Question of Reciprocation

What is often brought up in these discussions is the fact that numerous LGBT groups and individuals have bravely stood with Muslims in advocating for Muslim rights, whether protesting Guantanamo Bay, or pushing back against anti-Muslim bigots who want to shut down mosques, or opposing aggressive U.S. foreign policy that has resulted in wars, occupation, and the loss of millions of innocent lives across numerous Muslim countries. If LGBT activists are willing to stand for Muslim rights, then shouldn’t Muslims return the favor and stand for LGBT rights? Isn’t it hypocritical for American Muslims to demand rights for themselves but withhold support when it comes to the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgendered people? The question is, How can Muslims insist on fair treatment in the Western context while also opposing, or at least not actively endorsing, the LGBT movement?

This question requires an in-depth response that I have provided elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, that the same liberal dilemma applies. Why are Muslims required to compromise central parts of their faith – by accepting and normalizing same-sex intimacy, something they consider impermissible according to their faith – in order to secure their basic religious rights in the West, religious rights which one would think are guaranteed by the US Constitution in the first place? Why are Muslims placed in this lose-lose situation? Is this something unique to Muslims or are other groups challenged with analogous requirements? Is this conundrum inescapable in liberal secular societies?

A Question of Imposition

Another misconception that I would like to address is the contentious issue of Muslim democratic participation on the basis of Islamic ethics. Can I as a Muslim living in a Western democracy support public policy positions on the basis of my religious values? For example, if, prior to the Supreme Court decision, the question of gay marriage was on the ballot, should I take my religious beliefs into account in voting against it? Or would this be nothing more than illegitimately “imposing my beliefs upon others”?

Recently, a large number of American Muslim community leaders signed a joint statement condemning the Orlando shooting and also testifying to the “cherished political right” of “individuals [who] are at liberty to pursue happiness as each sees fit,” and that Muslims have no right to “impose” their views on non-Muslims since, as we read in the Quran, “There is (absolutely) no compulsion in religion.” The joint statement leaves it open to interpretation whether this “freedom from imposition” applies equally to Muslim societies overseas, the majority of which have laws against homosexuality that reflect Islamic notions of sexual morality. Also ambiguous is whether those “individuals who are at liberty to pursue happiness” in loud and proud same-sex relationships will be welcome, right here in the United States, to teach at the Islamic colleges, schools, and institutes of the signatories or to lead prayers at their mosques. Given that the entire thrust of the statement is to express condolences for the death of LGBT community members and to emphasize the importance of “inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for all,” it would not be a stretch to assume that many will interpret the statement in a “pro-LGBT” light as typically understood in contemporary American society (including full endorsement of the moral neutrality of same-sex behavior).

pulse2The fact that the statement, in places, uses the very language of the LGBT rights movement only adds to that impression. It is LGBT activists, after all, who claim that all they really want is “equality before the law” and “the liberty to pursue happiness as they see fit.” If the signatories did not intend the statement to be interpreted thus, I am afraid they have inadvertently opened the doors to accusations of hypocrisy from LGBT activists, who could easily and very publicly cite the statement in putting pressure on their Islamic schools, businesses, mosques, and other organizations in demanding space, resources, and institutional support for their movement. It is not clear that most American Muslim institutions could hold up against such pressure. Potential confusion could have been avoided entirely had the statement stuck to condolences and condemnation of wanton murder and not wandered into an acknowledgement of the irrational liberal secular paranoia regarding the “religious imposition of belief on the non-believing masses.” Well, how ought one address this paranoia?

In a liberal secular democracy, the theory is that citizens are expected to participate according to their values and beliefs. All citizens are expected to want to “impose” their political views – i.e., to see them implemented by force of law – whether those citizens are Democrats, Republicans, Trump supporters, libertarians, socialists, vegans, etc. They can register their views through the electoral process and other democratic avenues.

Now, if this theory is truly coherent, then by definition everyone is striving to make such “impositions” upon everyone else. And those “impositions” are based on one’s most cherished personal values and beliefs, whether they be formally religious or not. Some people have deep moralistic beliefs about firearms and will participate in the democratic process on that basis. Others have deep moralistic beliefs about the environment, about poverty, about corporate greed, etc., and will vote, lobby, speak, and organize accordingly. This is just what democratic participation amounts to.

Yet, all of these views are no less “moralistic,” or “deeply held,” or “personal” than any particular religious value. (In fact, some people are downright religious when it comes to their views on certain social issues.) Thus, it follows that if I believe certain sexual practices to be immoral, I have a prerogative to publicly denounce them and to politically participate in democracy on the basis of my beliefs; that is simply what political participation means. And if I am not allowed to participate politically on the basis of my moral values in this way, then in what sense can it be said that I am meaningfully participating in democracy, as a citizen, at all?

A Question of Discrimination

As it turns out, American Muslims have long been living in a society that does not share many Islamic sexual values, whether it comes to the licitness of premarital sex, adultery, casual sex, “hooking up,” and any number of other practices. Presumably, if there ever were a referendum or policy initiative against these practices, Muslims would have to vote according to their conscience. But the question of homosexuality, in comparison to these other practices, is very different politically and legally. For example, there is no question that an Islamic college or Catholic university would be within its legally-defined prerogative to deny, say, a professorship to a person who openly and unabashedly promoted adultery, or anything else that conflicted with that institution’s code of ethics. But when it comes to the promotion of another sexual behavior – namely, same-sex sexuality – then to deny a professorship could be seen as discrimination. But why?

Sure, according to the dominant sexual mores, one’s sexual orientation is conceived as constituting a person’s essential identity and, as such, it would be immoral and even illegal to discriminate on the basis of that identity. But Muslims and other religious groups do not necessarily share these beliefs. From an Islamic perspective, it could be conceded that something like sexual orientation exists and is immutable – i.e., that some people simply are attracted to the same or opposite sex. Yet conceding this does not compel one to maintain that this sexual orientation should be regarded as the core of people’s identity, i.e., defining who they are, who they see themselves as, and how others are required to treat them. There are, for example, Muslims and Christians who experience same-sex attraction, but they do not self-identify as “gay Muslims” or “gay Christians” – they simply consider themselves as Muslims and Christians who happen to have certain kinds of sexual desires.

To understand the significance of this, consider the following. Recent scientific research claims that people’s inclinations or disinclinations to commit infidelity are biologically hardwired. Given this, we could say that the tendency to be unfaithful constitutes a portion of people’s inherent, immutable sexual orientation. Based on this, would there be a need to categorize people into identity groups or communities based on that? For example, would those with a greater pull to cheat self-identify as “extrasexuals” with everyone else identifying as “intrasexuals”? Would there be “extrasexual pride parades” and an “extrasexual rights movement” that would demand that Islamic and Catholic schools make space for “alternative (read, ‘adulterous’) lifestyles” and give voice to loud and proud cheaters? Would refusal by these institutions then be stigmatized as “extraphobia”?

We can duplicate this maneuver for any given sexual behavior or inclination and thereby dictate to and control religious institutions accordingly, all on the basis of “anti-discrimination.” In fact, in recent times, groups like the Virtuous Pedophiles have argued along these exact lines, which goes to show how contingent and subjective the appeals to recognize and accommodate LGBT identities really are.

A Question of Compassion

Finally, the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is important to note. There are a lot of Muslims today around the world who struggle with same-sex desires and inclinations. They do not want to have these desires but they are there and they are struggling to abide by Islamic moral norms and refrain from prohibited sexual behavior. We need to support these brothers and sisters, not by encouraging them to cave in to their desires, but to provide a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear their concerns, to support them in their resistance to engaging in forbidden behaviors without shaming them. This is the same support that should be provided to other Muslims struggling with opposite sex attraction who feel strong desires for premarital or extramarital sex. After all, from the Islamic perspective, sexual desires (shahawat) are treated equally, whether those desires are fixated on the same or the opposite sex.

Furthermore, mosques should always be open to these community members and faith-based counseling should be facilitated to help them manage their desires and find ethical solutions for them. Yes, I understand that such a suggestion is considered highly offensive and taboo to the dominant discourse, which considers it oppressive to discourage a person from acting out according to their sexual orientation and identity. But, again, Muslims do not share these particular assumptions.

I understand that those who consider themselves part of the LGBT community (and its allies) will adamantly disagree with and take offense at much of what I have expressed here. Ultimately, my aim was to address the most common questions and challenges that are posed to Muslims in light of the LGBT movement so that we can be prepared to provide reasonable, compelling answers that are fully concordant with Islamic principles. Even if these arguments are not convincing to others, my hope is that at least we can avoid the accusation that Muslims’ public positions on the LGBT movement are backwards, irrational, inconsistent, repressive, and unmerciful.

WaAllahu ta`ala a`lam.

Image Credit: The All-Nite Images

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, Texas. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou is also a student of the traditional Islamic sciences. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity. Email Daniel here .

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nayeem

    June 16, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    As Salaamu Alaikum my Brother,

    I appreciate your effort, the article is based on good research, and has been articulated very well. May Allah increase further in ilm, and eemaan.

    Wa As Salaamu Alaikum,
    Abdullah

  2. Avatar

    Sajdah Nubee

    June 16, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Wow, Mashallah…this was really well-written and made honest points. I appreciate this and sums up my feelings on the issue as well. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Avatar

    iqrawrites

    June 16, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    Jazakumullah khair for covering this issue in a comprehensive manner. May Allah bless you.

  4. Avatar

    Abdullah Oredegbe

    June 16, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    Beautifully written. This is a must read for all Muslims living in the west.

  5. Avatar

    N S

    June 16, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Salam, I would just like to enquire about your use of the phrase, “hate the sin, not the sinner”.

    An integral part of any person is the actions they do. It is very difficult, if not impossible to separate the two. Are we not allowed to hate Hitler because by that matra we can only hate the act, but not the doer?

    Admittedly you used the phrase in the context of helping people struggling with the inclination. But then in that case, they haven’t committed any sin per say, as they haven’t engaged in the action, so the phrase doesn’t really apply.

    I suppose the question i then have is what of those who engage in the act, and in particular those who are lobbying to have the act accepted as a normalised behaviour. Surely in our hearts there must be a sense of dislike, and by human nature and common sense, some of that dislike will go towards the individual doing the act, not just the action. When Muslims criticize Bush, Blair and Netanyahu for example, they don’t just just mechanically speak against their actions, but we have a deep dislike for the people as well.

    I’m not saying we have to speak to them harshly (Musa Phirown), or give up hope that one day they will be guided, but to negate all negative feelings towards the doer seems unfair, and maybe incorrect.

    Thanks for the good work that you are doing. JazakAllahu khayran for your efforts.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah Oredegbe

      June 16, 2016 at 2:25 PM

      N S, this is a very good point that I’d yet to consider. For sure those who lobby to have liwat accepted as normal behavior certainly hold a view which is kufr.

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      June 16, 2016 at 4:07 PM

      Yes, this is not a universal statement. I am using the phrase in context of those Muslims struggling to abide by Islamic edicts. We should not shame people or treat them as if they are abnormal just because they have certain desires. This is something our tradition has been very clear on, as past scholars took it for granted that some Muslims would have this attraction to the same sex. But the existence of that attraction did not mean that the prohibition of same sex intimacy was waived for these individuals, just like the prohibition against premarital sex is not waived just because of desires a person may have.

      • Avatar

        Sir Magpie De Crow

        June 17, 2016 at 12:55 AM

        Personally I feel your statements will go over as well as a hydrogen filled zeppelin flying over an active volcano. I am literally just sitting here patiently, waiting for the rhetorical blowback to ignite in your face.

        The tone deafness of statements like yours in wake of an atrocity like this has in my opinion been as ruinous for the muslim community in the west as the growing list of young western muslims who have become nothing more than the remnants of pointless suicide bombings in the Middle East.

        As loathsome as Donald Trump is, my feeling is the public has even less patience for mealy mouth, weak expressions of sympathy and obnoxious claims of moral superiority from the supposed pious clerics of the Islamic faith.

        In little more than 7 months, 3 people of Pakisani or Pasthun extraction have gunned downed fatally 63 fellow Americans in Florida and California, injured or traumatized thousands… purportedly in the name of ISIL.

        ISIL, an organization who’s accomplishments include being recognized by the UN for committing genocide against minority groups (using such tools as slavery and rape) and throwing bound and blind folded gay men off the roofs of tall buildings.

        Countering the optics of these Grand Guignol-style horrors requires a forceful public relations effort you are clearly unable to execute. Holding on to religious beliefs, personal morality and guiding principles is one thing. But providing rhetorical language that allows homophobia and sexual discrimination to flourish in religious communities is not a virtue and is never acceptable.

        Whether a person is using light violence, social exclusion or certain hadiths to impose their will on others, a bully is still a bully. You speak of the harmfulness of same sex relationships which is rather funny to me, because I think maybe you should consider the harmfulness of the arranged heterosexual marriages of Orlando nightclub killer Omar Mateen.

        How harmful was it for his father (and others) to try and pair up a mentally unstable, cruel failure of a man like Omar Mateen to two women with whom he would later physically and verbally abuse. Omar would go on to force these women into either submission, captivity or complicity into his evil plots.

        And you have the temerity to claim that an openly gay relationship (even if it is totally consensual and harmonious) is spiritually bankrupt?

        The only discernible distinction between your brand of fanaticism and the religious pomposity of a televangelist like Pat Robertson is you have yet to be afflicted with his form of senility.

        I would love to hear from the imams and family members who had a hand in those trainwrecks of marriages of the recently departed Omar Mateen.

        And as painfully as it is to endure the naivety and foolishness of people in this country who are unable to truly embrace the many fine people of the LGBT community, it is not nearly as painful as the suffering of their counterparts all across the muslim world.

        It is a needless suffering that is as common and predictable as the daily call to prayer.

      • Avatar

        CThompson

        June 17, 2016 at 9:15 PM

        This is directed towards Sir Magpie De Crow, whose comment, for some reason, I can’t reply to.

        I feel like your the first part of your comment was a bit of subconscious self-aggrandizing. You were waiting patiently for rhetorical blowback to strike Br Daniel via…yourself?

        That aside, I feel like your entire argument could be reversed nearly word for word towards you. Allow me to demonstrate (please forgive me for conflating points, since I’m merely following your own script):

        The tone deafness of statements like yours in wake of an atrocity like this has in my opinion been as ruinous for the Muslim community in the west as the growing list of young western Muslims who have become nothing more than the remnants of twisted secular/liberal ideology.

        As loathsome as Donald Trump is, my feeling is the public has even less patience for mealy mouth, weak expressions of sympathy and obnoxious claims of moral superiority from the supposed champions of secular thought.

        In more than 14 years since the events of 9/11 took place (now this is just my arbitrary starting point, just to make the argument seem a little “fair”, as I could go back decades more), thousands of people of American extraction have gunned downed or fatally bombed millions of fellow Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and many more countries, injured millions more, displaced some millions more, and traumatized entire nations…purportedly in the name of democracy and liberalism. The West’s recent foray into Syria has even spawned a west-funded khariji sect named ISIL, led by none other than one time West asset Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

        ISIL, an organization who’s accomplishments include being funded by the West to further destabilize the region. A group recognized by the UN for committing genocide against minority groups (using such tools as slavery and rape) and throwing bound and blind folded gay men off the roofs of tall buildings, not unlike the torture, rape, and pillaging that US soldiers committed on their way to a truly brilliant shock and awe campaign in the ME and elsewhere.

        Countering the optics of these Grand Guignol-style horrors requires a forceful public relations effort that the Western media has executed to perfection, judging from your response. Holding on to secular beliefs, personal morality and guiding principles is one thing. But providing rhetorical language that allows Islamophobia and discrimination to flourish in western society is not a virtue and is never acceptable. This is evident in your disingenuous response, as this article clearly does not endorse “discrimination” in your sense of the word.

        Whether a person is using heavy violence, social exclusion or certain ideologies to impose their will on others, a bully is still a bully. You speak of the harmfulness of arranged heterosexual relationships which is rather funny to me, because the few studies done on arranged marriages state that they’re actually better, or at least no worse, than non-arranged marriages (disclaimer – I don’t endorse either position. I am of the opinion that it should be decided on a case by case basis). Also, I think maybe you should consider the harmfulness of not doing your homework. The claim that Omar Mateen found himself in arranged marriages is categorically false. A simple Google search shows many reputable outlets reporting that Omar Mateen met his current wife, and his ex-wife, through an online matrimonial website. Nowhere does it state that he was forced into these marriages.

        Considering that point, the rest of your argument is useless bloviation. Your argument also conflated several issues, which I am not going to bother going through now, aside from a couple. You can easily spot these issues in my response. For example, the San Bernardino massacre was different in nature to this recent one, and as such, should be discussed on its own distinction. Your other issue is treating a murderous and rapacious group like ISIS/ISIL in a vacuum. How much of an impact ISIS had on this atrocity is also highly debatable. Even if it did, the West is as complicit in creating that monster as those Imams et al that show ignorance by inciting violence against homosexuals.

        The issue is a complex one, and the discourse will also be complex, something which you’ve managed to reduce down to a black and white issue with a couple of paragraphs.

        Of course, that all doesn’t even begin to address the biggest problem with your rant – it does not counter, or debate, any of the points made in Br Daniel’s article. Somehow, an article which is in response to the Islam vs LGBT hysteria of the past week, is an example of tone deafness. If there was ever a time for an article like this, it was NOW. Letting emotions drive the discourse would throw a further wrench into gears that are already spinning out of control.

    • Avatar

      Marissa

      June 21, 2016 at 12:10 AM

      Why do you care who’s having sex with who? As long as there’s love, that’s all that matters. Hope you can awaken and become enlightened one day.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        June 21, 2016 at 1:47 AM

        Dear Marissa,

        Thank you for your well wishes; we all hope for enlightenment for ourselves and for others. It is not a matter of us “caring who has sex with whom,” but of ascertaining and striving to uphold the Divine Will for our lives as human beings on this earth. As Muslims, we believe that God has communicated His Will to mankind through a series of divine revelations, the last of which being the Holy Qur’an. Love — such as in the form of a deep, even intimate (yet Platonic), friendship — between two individuals is a wonderful and laudable thing, on which the Islamic tradition has much to say. However, erotic physical contact, let alone intercourse, between two members of the same sex has been expressly forbidden both in the Qur’an and the previously revealed scriptures. The presence or absence of love is irrelevant to the prohibition of such acts. As Muslims, we believe that it is by drawing closer to God through worshiping Him and obeying His commands that true enlightenment can be obtained. I hope you have the chance to learn more about Islam in order to gain a better understanding of this profound perspective.

        Best wishes,
        Ahmad B.

    • Avatar

      Kristy

      July 7, 2016 at 9:10 PM

      Please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” go against the way Allah presents himself in Islam? From what I have read in the Quran, Allah hates the sinner because of him choosing to sin and it is not until he chooses to not sin that Allah then will love him.

      The notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is decidedly Christian in spirit, reflecting the Bible verse “But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

      It seemed nice but out of place to see Christian theology in the form of a popular Christian phrase show up in a Muslim article.

  6. Avatar

    MT

    June 16, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zHmmYNg-w4

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldYC0bMj9ms

    If you think that you think that Muslims can “support the LGBT” community during this difficult time because of the tragedy in Orlando and NOT, at the same time, have to also support every single thing the LGBT community stands for (accepting homosexual behavior and marriage), you are definitely mistaken.

    Watch the two clips above. CNN, one of the largest mainstream media outlets in this country, has Anderson Cooper interviewing an attorney general from Florida who was trying to mourn and do whatever she could logistically to help those injured and the family members of those killed. Anderson Cooper made it very, very clear that the gay community was not going to accept her condolences until she agreed with everything about their lifestyle. So if you are against gay marriage, there is no way possible that you can ever feel sympathy for the mass murder of homosexuals.

    Now watch the other clip, which is of the “The Young Turks”, which is an alternative media program that goes after the mainstream media for its hypocrisy. Many young Muslims probably share their clips over the internet all the time. They are also supporting Anderson Coopers refusal to let this woman help and defend the people being attacked, unless she accepted that Gay Marriage was okay.

    I heard a recent speech by Chris Hedges, who I respected a lot in regards to his anti-war stance and work to stop the corruption of the government, mentioned that Muslims need to deal with and get rid of “homophobia” within their communities in America.

    It’s not just the mainstream media that will attack Muslims on their stance against homosexual behavior. Alternative media outlets will too and so will anti-government corruption activists working in this country.

    People who claim to be “liberal” are not really tolerant. They just use the word “tolerance” to excuse themselves for acting out every desire that comes to their mind or to not deal with the deviance of other people around them. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle and choices, they will come after you big time. They are not liberal, they are just secular, therefore, they can morally do whatever they want, as long as they can get away with it.

    The same holds true for current perrenialist propagation within the western Muslim community. It is no longer acceptable in our society to say “I am a Muslim, and believe my faith is correct and your faith is wrong, however, there is no compulsion in religion, and I will never force you to become Muslim, although I will still to my best to convey the message of Truth, i.e. Islam, and hope and pray that you do.” Now, the only thing that is acceptable is, “I am a Muslim, and believe in my faith, but it is only one path to God, and I believe there are many paths to salvation, and because other people around me are nice, their faith must also be correct, and I would never imagine myself trying to change anyone’s mind because we live in a free society and love everyone, so whatever you are doing is correct also.” <<< that is where we are headed as a community

    • Avatar

      Abdullah Oredegbe

      June 16, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      You’ve raised some interesting points here. The similarity between the discourse of lgbt and perennialism is indeed quite interesting. In late 2015/early 2016 during the TSQ controversy, I remember stating that going forward it’s going to become increasing difficult for Muslims to maintain the authentic Islamic position of salvational exclusivity in our age. The same is even more true for the lgbt issue.

  7. Avatar

    Aoki

    June 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    “require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, ” so far, that has only been enforced on Christian businesses; Muslim businesses have gotten off for explicitly refusing to serve at same sex weddings. It’s an injustice that stems from Muslim Privilege in the U.S.. Muslims are arguably the most privileged group in America.

  8. Avatar

    Caligula

    June 18, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    This is unbelievably bullshit. No, it is not possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. And of all the stupid ideas, the idea that secular liberalism has to tolerate everything under the sun or it is a lie is ridiculous, it has always been obvious that there was the caveate of within reason. Do we tolerate human sacrifice? No. Murder? No. Rape? More than we should, but still mostly no. Why? Because society could not function if we did. Descent people also do not tolerate white supremacy, sexism, islamophobia, or homophobia. Because if we were to tolerate these things society would not be able to function. White supremacy and those who believe in it are as much to blame for the actions of Dylan Roof as he is. And this author and those who agree with him instead of loudly condemning such views, no matter what their religion, have blood on their hands as much as this shooter does. There are 50 dead gay people today (and yes, I am including the shooter in that statistic, he is a victim too) who are victims of your bigotry. This is what hate the sin, love the sinner looks like. This is the result. It is no longer good enough. I will continue to oppose american imperialism in the middle east and elsewhere, I will continue to loudly object to portrayals of Muslims as all terrorists or terrorist sympathizer, but if this really is the majority view in islam, I am done thinking of you as good people. You think you are a victim because you wish to create a stigma towards me but do not wish to be stigmatized in return? That does not make you a victim, that makes you a hypocrite. We LGBT’s have stood with you on a number of issues. If you can’t reciprocate, that makes you a two faced fair weather friend and a betrayer. You do not wish to be on the receiving end of bigotry but you are happy to spew it towards others. You are the worst sort of hypocrite. There is blood on your hands. There is blood on your quoran. Wash it off or don’t. The majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but the majority of Muslims are two faced whinning hypocritical bigots. I will be sure to remember that

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  10. Avatar

    KB

    June 18, 2016 at 11:05 PM

    I don’t feel bad about what happened. They chose to be gay and they chose to be in a nightclub to drink, strip and have sex. It’s just worse because it’s women and women doing this and men with men doing it. The most filthy disgusting thing i can imagine. They all had it coming

    • Avatar

      Farhan Ali Khan

      June 19, 2016 at 3:09 AM

      In reply to KB, so if you are gay and go out clubbing, you deserve to be killed? This is the most ignorant and hateful statement I’ve heard in some time

    • Avatar

      Harold

      June 19, 2016 at 10:24 AM

      Everyone has the potential to change. Keep in mind the state of being of many of the sahaba before they accepted Islam. Many were drunkards, womanizers, buried daughters alive, etc, and yet they became the best Muslims after the messengers. You do no service to Islam and humanity in general making comments like this. Try to live with perspective and see the greater picture of what happened here.

      • Avatar

        Jake

        June 21, 2016 at 3:38 PM

        What would be the case of someone who kills millions (like pol pot). If they accepted islam after committing the act would they be considered as a righteous person?

    • Avatar

      Ummimmi

      June 19, 2016 at 12:12 PM

      Is this the example the Propget (saw) gave us?

    • Avatar

      Marissa

      June 21, 2016 at 12:13 AM

      I feel so sorry for the way you were raised and the human you became. At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back, so live well my friend.

  11. Avatar

    Jimmy

    June 19, 2016 at 12:12 AM

    “This is precisely why it won’t suffice to condemn the murder of LGBT people while maintaining the belief that they are sinners and deviants involved in something fundamentally evil. At least, if an American Muslim wants to claim this belief as reasonable, then he should consider it equally reasonable for non-Muslims to condemn the murder of Muslims while maintaining the belief that Islam is an essentially evil religion.” Omar Sarwar

    Read the article again and as an educational exercise substitute the word gay with the word Muslim and establish how you would feel as a demographic if a belief system was teaching that; muslims were sinful, muslims lead to moral and physical harm in a society, muslim activist claim all they really want is equality before the law. When you do that you will understand the emotions writing like this develops in people and you will understand why Islam/Muslims are currently perceived the way they are in the west.

    I raise a glass of orange juice to your learning and taking something on board from this exercise.

    • Avatar

      Ibn Azhar

      June 20, 2016 at 3:17 AM

      “…establish how you would feel as a demographic if a belief system was teaching that; muslims were sinful, muslims lead to moral and physical harm in a society…”. What is one to make of this, really? Christians believe that anyone who does not believe in being redeemed by the Christ’s blood shall not be redeemed (in other words, shall rot in hell). The same would hold true for most religions. Atheists believe all religions to be nonsensical fantasies. So the answer is simple: A Muslim has no problem with another considering him as sinful. That is to be expected from a follower of another religion.
      And by the way, these mutual beliefs of sinfulness does *not* result in hatred and killings. Believing members of all religions can be, and are, friends.
      A glass of orange juice (after iftaar, of course) to your wonderful suggestion.

  12. Avatar

    Zain Zubair

    June 21, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    Amazing Article. .Beautifully Explained!! An important message for all the Muslims living abroad. Truly Impress with your research. May Allah Bless You!

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    The Real Muslim Skeptic

    March 20, 2017 at 8:41 PM

    I don’t eat pork, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be in favor of passing a law that bans pork for everyone regardless of their beliefs, or if I were in a society where eating pigs was unusual/illegal, I would not be against a new law that would allow people to eat bacon. Daniel’s drivel is too easy to counter. If we applied his philosophy of being sarcastic and laughing at what he considers nonsense (though this time he seems to be sad some gay people actually died which is the punishment in Sahih hadith) I’d have to laugh every time he writes a post but I’m usually left in disbelief. He and the phrase “muslim skeptic” is an oxymoron as much as “Catholic imam.”

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#Current Affairs

Zahra Billoo Responds To The Women’s March Inc. Voting Her Off The New Board

Zahra Billoo

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Women's March Board

Earlier tonight, I was voted off the Women’s March, Inc. national board. This followed an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists, who have long targeted me, my colleagues, and anyone else who dares speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.

The past 48 hours have been a spiral of bad news and smear efforts. Part of the smear campaign is motivated by opponents of the Women’s March, because the organization has traditionally challenged the status quo of power and white supremacy in our country. However, much of the campaign is driven by people who oppose me and my work challenging the occupation of Palestine, our country’s perpetuation of unjust and endless wars, and law enforcement operations targeting the American Muslim community.

The Women’s March, Inc. is an organization I once held dear. I spoke at the first march, spoke at regional marches every year after, spoke at the convention, participated in national actions including the original Kavanaugh protests, and worked to mobilize Muslim women for their efforts.

During the past few years right-wingers, from the President’s son to the Anti-Defamation League and troll armies, have targeted the Women’s March, Inc. For so long, I’ve admired their resilience in speaking truth to power, in working together, and in never cowering. Over and over again, the co-founders of Women’s March, Inc. put their lives on the line, winning power for all women in all of our diversity. The Women’s March, Inc. that voted me off its board tonight is one that no longer demonstrates the strength that inspired millions of women across the country.

To see and experience its new leaders caving to right-wing pressure, and casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman, a long-time advocate within the organization, without the willingness to make any efforts to learn and grow, breaks my heart. This isn’t about a lost seat, there will be many seats. The Women’s March, Inc. has drawn a line in the sand, one that will exclude many with my lived experiences and critiques. It has effectively said, we will work on some women’s rights at the expense of others.

To be clear, anti-semitism is indeed a growing and dangerous problem in our country, as is anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, ableism, sexism, and so much more. I condemn any form of bigotry unequivocally, but I also refuse to be silent as allegations of bigotry are weaponized against the most marginalized people, those who find sanctuary and hope in the articulation of truth.

In looking at the tweets in question, I acknowledge that I wrote passionately. While I may have phrased some of my content differently today, I stand by my words. I told the truth as my community and I have lived it, through the FBI’s targeting of my community, as I supported families who have lost loved ones because of US military actions, and as I learned from the horrific experiences of Palestinian life.

In attempting to heal and build in an expedited manner within Women’s March, Inc., I offered to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns and to work with my sisters on the new board to learn, heal, and build together. These efforts were rejected. And in rejecting these efforts, the new Women’s March, Inc. demonstrated that they lack the courage to exhibit allyship in the face of fire.

I came to Women’s March, Inc. to work. My body of work has included leading a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization for over a decade, growing it now more than six-fold. In my tenure, I have led the team that forced Abercrombie to change its discriminatory employment policies, have been arrested advocating for DACA, partnered with Jewish organizations including Bend the Arc and Jewish Voice for Peace to fight to protect our communities, and was one of the first lawyers to sue the President.

It is not my first time being the target of a smear campaign. The Women’s March, Inc., more than any place, is where I would have expected us to be able to have courageous conversations and dive deep into relationship-building work.

I am happy to have as many conversations as it takes to listen and learn and heal, but I will no longer be able to do that through Women’s March, Inc. This action today demonstrates that this organization’s new leadership is unable to be an ally during challenging times.

My beliefs drive my work, and I am not seeking accolades or positions of power. These past few days have been the greatest test of that. My integrity, my truth, and my strength comes from God and a place of deep conviction. I will continue my work as a civil rights lawyer and a faith-based activist, speaking out against the occupation of Palestine and settler-colonialism everywhere, challenging Islamophobia and all forms of racism and bigotry in the United States, and building with my community and our allies in our quest to be our most authentic and liberated selves.

Onward, God willing.

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#Current Affairs

The Duplicity of American Muslim Influencers And The ‘So-called Muslim Ban’

Dr Joseph Kaminski

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As we approach the beginning of another painful year of the full enforcement of Presidential Proclamation 9645 (a.k.a. ‘the Muslim ban’) that effectively bars citizens of several Muslim majority countries from entering into the United States, the silence remains deafening. As I expected, most of the world has conveniently forgotten about this policy, which thus far has separated over 3,000 American families from their spouses and other immediate relatives. In June 2019, the Brennan Center of Justice notes that: The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters. While silence and apathy from the general public on this matter is to be expected— after all, it is not their families who are impacted— what is particularly troubling is the response that is beginning to emerge from some corners of the American Muslim social landscape.

While most Muslims and Muslim groups have been vocal in their condemnation of Presidential Proclamation 9645, other prominent voices have not. Shadi Hamid sought to rationalize the executive order on technical grounds arguing that it was a legally plausible interpretation. Perhaps this is true, but some of the other points made by Hamid are quite questionable. For example, he curiously contends that:

The decision does not turn American Muslims like myself into “second-class citizens,” and to insist that it does will make it impossible for us to claim that we have actually become second-class citizens, if such a thing ever happens.

I don’t know— being forced to choose exile in order to remain with one’s family certainly does sound like being turned into a ‘second-class citizen’ to me. Perhaps the executive order does not turn Muslims like himself, as he notes, into second-class citizens, but it definitely does others, unless it is possible in Hamid’s mind to remain a first-class citizen barred from living with his own spouse and children for completely arbitrary reasons, like me. To be fair to Hamid, in the same article he does comment that the executive order is a morally questionable decision, noting that he is “still deeply uncomfortable with the Supreme Court’s ruling” and that “It contributes to the legitimization and mainstreaming of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

On the other hand, more recently others have shown open disdain for those who are angered about the ‘so-called Muslim ban.’ On June 6th, 2019, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, a Senior Faculty Member at Zaytuna College, Islamic scholar and the founder of the Lamppost Education Initiative, rationalized the ban on spurious security grounds. He commented that,

The so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his potential. But, to be fair, a real Muslim ban would mean that no Muslim from any country should be allowed in the US. There are about 50 Muslim majority countries. Trump singled out only 7 of them, most of which are war torn and problem countries. So, it is unfair to claim that he was only motivated by a hatred for Islam and Muslims.

First, despite how redundant and unnecessary this point is to make again, one ought to be reminded that between 1975 and 2015, zero foreigners from the seven nations initially placed on the banned list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) killed any Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and zero Libyans or Syrians have ever even been convicted of planning a terrorist attack on U.S. soil during that same time period. I do not think these numbers have changed over the last 4 years either. If policy decisions are supposed to be made on sound empirical evidence and data, then there is even less justification for the ban.

Second, Bin Hamid Ali comments that ‘the so-called Muslim ban, of course, has us on edge about his [Trump’s] potential.’ Whoa… hold on; on edge about his potential? For the millions of people banned from entering the United States and the thousands of Muslim families connected to these millions of people, this ‘potential’ has been more than realized. To reduce the ‘so-called Muslim ban’ to just targeting ‘war torn and problem countries’ is to reduce our family members—our husbands, wives, and children—to (inaccurate) statistics and gross stereotypes. Are spouses from Syria or Yemen seeking to reunite with their legally recognized spouses or children any less deserving to be with their immediate family members because they hail from ‘problem countries’? How can one be concerned with stereotypes while saying something like this? Is this not the exact thing that Abdullah bin Hamid Ali seeks to avoid? Surely the Professor would not invoke such stereotypes to justify the racial profiling of black American citizens. What makes black non-Americans, Arabs, and Iranians any different when it comes to draconian immigration profiling? From a purely Islamic perspective, the answer is absolutely nothing.

More recently, Sherman Jackson, a leading Islamic intellectual figure at the University of Southern California, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity, also waded into this discussion. In his essay, he reframed the Muslim ban as a question of identity politics rather than basic human right, pitting Muslim immigrants against what he calls ‘blackamericans’ drawing some incredibly questionable, nativist, and bigoted conclusions. Jackson in a recent blog responding to critiques by Ali al-Arian about his own questionable affiliations with authoritarian Arab regimes comments:

Al-Arian mentions that,

“the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration.”  He and those who make up this alleged consensus are apparently offended by Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.  But a Blackamerican sister in Chicago once asked me rhetorically why she should support having Muslims come to this country who are only going to treat her like crap.

These are baffling comments to make about ‘Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.’ Jackson creates a strawman by bringing up an anecdotal story that offers a gross generalization that clearly has prejudiced undertones of certain Muslim immigrants. Most interesting, however is how self-defeating Jackson’s invocation of identity politics is considering the fact that a large number of the ‘blackamerican’ Muslims that he is concerned about themselves have relatives from Somalia and other countries impacted by the travel ban. As of 2017, there were just over 52,000 Americans with Somali ancestry in the state of Minnesota alone. Are Somali-Americans only worth our sympathy so long as they do not have Somali spouses? What Jackson and Bin Hamid Ali do not seem to understand is that these Muslim immigrants they speak disparagingly of, by in large, are coming on family unification related visas.

Other people with large online followings have praised the comments offered by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali and Sherman Jackson. The controversial administrator of the popular The Muslim Skeptic website, Daniel Haqiqatjou, in defense of Jackson’s comments, stated:

This is the first time I have seen a prominent figure downplay the issue. And I think Jackson’s assessment is exactly right: The average American Muslim doesn’t really care about this. There is no evidence to indicate that this policy has had a significant impact on the community as a whole. Travel to the US from those four countries affected by the ban was already extremely difficult in the Obama era.

What Haqiqatjou seems to not realize is that while travel from these countries was difficult, it was not as ‘extremely difficult’ as he erroneously claims it was. The US issued 7,727 visas to Iranian passport holders in 2016 prior to the ban. After the ban in 2018, that number dropped to 1,449. My own wife was issued a B1/B2 Tourist visa to meet my family in 2016 after approximately 40 days of administrative processing which is standard for US visa seekers who hold Iranian passports. On the other hand, she was rejected for the same B1/B2 Tourist visa in 2018 after a grueling 60+ day wait due to Presidential Proclamation 9645. At the behest of the Counselor Officer where we currently live, she was told to just finish the immigration process since this would put her in a better position to receive one of these nearly impossible to get waivers. She had her interview on November 19, 2018, and we are still awaiting the results of whatever these epic, non-transparent ‘extreme vetting’ procedures yield. Somehow despite my wife being perfectly fine to enter in 2016, three years later, we are entering the 10th month of waiting for one of these elusive waivers with no end time in sight, nor any guarantee that things will work out. Tell me how this is pretty much the same as things have always been?

What these commentators seem to not realize is that the United States immigration system is incredibly rigid. One cannot hop on a plane and say they want to immigrate with an empty wallet to start of Kebab shop in Queens. It seems as if many of these people that take umbrage at the prospects of legal immigration believe that the immigration rules of 2019 are the same as they were in 1819. In the end, it is important to once again reiterate that the Muslim immigrants Jackson, Bin Hamid Ali and others are disparaging are those who most likely are the family members of American Muslim citizens; by belittling the spouses and children of American Muslims, these people are belittling American Muslims themselves.

Neo-nationalism, tribalism, and identity politics of this sort are wholly antithetical to the Islamic enterprise. We have now reached the point where people who are considered authority figures within the American Islamic community are promoting nativism and identity politics at the expense of American Muslim families. Instead of trying to rationalize the ‘so-called Muslim Ban’ via appeals to nativist and nationalist rhetoric, influential Muslim leaders and internet influencers need to demonstrate empathy and compassion for the thousands of US Muslim families being torn apart by this indefinite Muslim ban that we all know will never end so long as Donald Trump remains president. In reality, they should be willing to fight tooth-and-nail for American Muslim families. These are the same people who regularly critique the decline of the family unit and the rise of single-parent households. Do they not see the hypocrisy in their positions of not defending those Muslim families that seek to stay together?

If these people are not willing to advocate on behalf of those of us suffering— some of us living in self-imposed exile in third party countries to remain with our spouses and children— the least they can do is to not downplay our suffering or even worse, turn it into a political football (Social Justice Warrior politics vs. traditional ‘real’ Islam). It seems clear that if liberal Muslim activists were not as outspoken on this matter, these more conservative voices would take a different perspective. With the exception of Shadi Hamid, the other aforementioned names have made efforts to constrain themselves firmly to the ‘traditional’ Muslim camp. There is no reason that this issue, which obviously transcends petty partisan Muslim politics, ought to symbolize one’s allegiance to any particular social movement or camp within contemporary Islamic civil society.

If these people want a ‘traditional’ justification for why Muslim families should not be separated, they ought to be reminded that one of al-Ghazali’s 5 essential principles of the Shari’a was related to the protection of lineage/family and honor (ḥifẓ al-nasl). Our spouses are not cannon fodder for such childish partisan politics. We will continue to protect our families and their honor regardless of how hostile the environment may become for us and regardless of who we have to name and shame in the process.

When I got married over a year prior to Donald Trump being elected President, I vowed that only Allah would separate me from my spouse. I intend on keeping that vow regardless of what consequences that decision may have.

Photo courtesy: Adam Cairns / The Columbus Dispatch

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#Society

Obituary of (Mawlana) Yusuf Sulayman Motala (1366/1946 – 1441/2019)

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier.

Dr. Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera

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Dar Al Uloom Bury, Yusuf Sulayman Motala

A master of hadith and Qur’an. A sufi, spiritual guide and teacher to thousands. A pioneer in the establishment of a religious education system. His death reverberated through hearts and across oceans. We are all mourning the loss of a luminary who guided us through increasingly difficult times.

Monday, September 9, turned out to be a day of profound anguish and sorrow for many around the world. In the early morning hours, news of the death of Mawlana* Yusuf Sulayman Motala, fondly known as “Hazrat” (his eminence) to those who were acquainted with him, spread. He had passed away on Sunday at 8:20 pm EST in Toronto, after suffering a heart attack two weeks earlier. (May the Almighty envelope him in His mercy)

His journey in this world had begun more than 70 years ago in the small village of Nani Naroli in Gujarat, India, where he was born on November 25, 1946 (1 Muharram 1366) into a family known for their piety.

His early studies were largely completed at Jami’a Husayniyya, one of the early seminaries of Gujarat, after which he travelled to Mazahir Ulum, the second oldest seminary of the Indian Sub-Continent, in Saharanpur, India, to complete his ‘alimiyya studies. What drew him to this seminary was the presence of one of the most influential and well-known contemporary spiritual guides, Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhlawi (d. 1402/1982), better known as “Hazrat Shaykh.” He had seen Mawlana Zakariyya only briefly at a train stop, but it was enough for him to understand the magnitude of his presence.

Mawlana Yusuf remained in Saharanpur for two years. Despite being younger than many of the other students of Shaykh Zakariya, the shaykh took a great liking to him. Shaykh Zakariya showered him with great attention and even deferred his retirement from teaching Sahih al-Bukhari so that Mawlana Yusuf could study it under his instruction. While in Saharanpur, Mawlana Yusuf also studied under a number of other great scholars, such as Mawlana Muhammad ‘Aqil (author of Al-Durr al-Mandud, an Urdu commentary of Sunan Abi Dawud and current head lecturer of Hadith at the same seminary), Shaykh Yunus Jownpuri (d. 1438/2017) the previous head lecturer of Hadith there), Mawlana As‘adullah Rampuri (d. 1399/1979) and Mufti Muzaffar Husayn (d. 1424/2003).

Upon completion of his studies, Mawlana Yusuf’s marriage was arranged to marry a young woman from the Limbada family that had migrated to the United Kingdom from Gujarat. In 1968, he relocated to the UK and accepted the position of imam at Masjid Zakariya, in Bolton. Although he longed to be in the company of his shaykh, he had explicit instructions to remain in the UK and focus his efforts on establishing a seminary for memorization of Qur’an and teaching of the ‘alimiyya program. The vision being set in motion was to train a generation of Muslims scholars that would educate and guide the growing Muslim community.

Establishing the first Muslim seminary, in the absence of any precedent, was a daunting task. The lack of support from the Muslim community, the lack of integration into the wider British community, and the lack of funds made it seem an impossible endeavour. And yet, Mawlana Yusuf never wavered in his commitment and diligently worked to make the dream of his teacher a reality. In 1973 he purchased the derelict Aitken Sanatorium in the village of Holcombe, near Bury, Lancashire. What had once been a hospice for people suffering from tuberculosis, would become one of the first fully-fledged higher-education Islamic institutes outside of the Indian-Subcontinent teaching the adapted-Nizami syllabus.

The years of struggle by Maulana Yusuf to fulfil this vision paid off handsomely. Today, after four decades, Darul Uloom Al Arabiyya Al Islamiyya, along with its several sister institutes, also founded by Mawlana Yusuf, such as the Jamiatul Imam Muhammad Zakariya seminary in Bradford for girls, have produced well over 2,000 British born (and other international students) male and female ‘alimiyya graduates – many of whom are working as scholars and serving communities across the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, the US, Canada, Barbados, Trinidad, Panama, Saudi Arabia, India and New Zealand. Besides these graduates, a countless number of individuals have memorized the Qur’an at these institutes. Moreover, many of the graduates of the Darul Uloom and its sister institutes have set up their own institutes, such as Jamiatul Ilm Wal Huda in Blackburn, Islamic Dawah Academy in Leicester, Jami’ah al-Kawthar in Lancaster, UK, and Darul Uloom Palmela in Portugal, to just mention a few of the larger ones. Within his lifetime, Mawlana Yusuf saw first-hand the fruit of his labours – witnessing his grand students (graduates from his students’ institutes) providing religious instruction and services to communities around the world in their local languages. What started as a relationship of love between a student and teacher, manifested into the transmission of knowledge across continents. In some countries, such as the UK and Portugal, one would be hard-pressed to find a Muslim who had not directly or indirectly benefited from him.

Mawlana Yusuf was a man with deep insights into the needs of Western contemporary society, one that was very different from the one he had grown up and trained in. With a view to contributing to mainstream society, Mawlana Yusuf encouraged his graduates to enter into further education both in post-graduate Islamic courses and western academia, and to diversify their fields of learning through courses at mainstream UK universities. As a result, many ‘alimiyya graduates of his institutes are trained in law, mainstream medicine, natural medicine and homeopathy, mental health, child protection, finance, IT, education, chaplaincy, psychology, philosophy, pharmacy, physics, journalism, engineering, architecture, calligraphy, typography, graphic design, optometry, social services, public health, even British Sign Language. His students also include several who have completed PhDs and lecture at universities. His vision was to train British-born (or other) Muslim scholars who would be well versed in contemporary thought and discipline along with their advanced Islamic learning, equipping them to better contribute to society.

Despite his commitment to the establishment of a public good, the shaykh was an immensely private person and avoided seeking accolade or attention. For many decades he refused invitations to attend conferences or talks around the country, choosing to focus on his students and his family, teaching the academic syllabus and infusing the hearts of many aspirants with the love of Allah through regular gatherings of remembrance (dhikr) and spiritual retreats (i’tikaf) in the way of his shaykh’s Chishti Sufi order.

During my entire stay with him at Darul Uloom (1985–1997), I can say with honesty that I did not come across a single student who spoke ill of him. He commanded such awe and respect that people would find it difficult to speak with him casually. And yet, for those who had the opportunity to converse with him, knew that he was the most compassionate, humble, and loving individual.

He was full of affection for his students and colleagues and had immense concern for the Muslim Ummah, especially in the West. He possessed unparalleled forbearance and self-composure. When he taught or gave a talk, he spoke in a subdued and measured tone, as though he was weighing every word, knowing the import it carried. He would sit, barely moving and without shifting his posture. Even after a surgical procedure for piles, he sat gracefully teaching us Sahih al-Bukhari. Despite the obvious pain, he never made an unpleasant expression or winced from the pain.

Anyone who has listened to his talks or read his books can bear testimony to two things: his immense love for the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his love for Shaykh Mawlana Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi (may Allah have mercy on him). It is probably hard to find a talk in which he did not speak of the two. His shaykh was no doubt his link to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) in both his hadith and spiritual transmissions.

Over the last decade, he had retired from most of his teaching commitments (except Sahih al-Bukhari) and had reduced meeting with people other than his weekly dhikr gatherings. His time was spent with his family and young children and writing books. His written legacy comprises over 20 titles, mostly in Urdu but also a partial tafsir of the Qur’an in classical Arabic.

After the news of his heart attack on Sunday, August 25, and the subsequent effects to his brain, his well-wishers around the world completed hundreds of recitals of the Qur’an, several readings of the entire Sahih al-Bukhari, thousands of litanies and wirds of the formula of faith (kalima tayyiba), and gave charity in his name. However, Allah Most High willed otherwise and intended for him to depart this lowly abode to begin his journey to the next. He passed away two weeks later and reports state that approximately 4,000 people attended his funeral. Had his funeral been in the UK, the number of attendees would have multiplied several folds. But he had always shied away from large crowds and gatherings and maybe this was Allah Most High’s gift to him after his death. He was 75 (in Hijra years, and 72 in Gregorian) at the time of his death and leaves behind eight children and several grandchildren.

Mawlana Yusuf educated, inspired and nourished the minds and hearts of countless across the UK and beyond. May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaws in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and grant all his family, students, and cherishers around the world beautiful patience.

Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera
Whitethread Institute, London
(A fortunate graduate of Darul Uloom Bury, 1996–97)

*a learned Muslim scholar especially in India often used as a form of address

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