Connect with us

#Current Affairs

The Muslim Response To Islamophobia is Destroying Us From Within

American Muslims are scared and rightfully so. Many are worried about what the future might hold with Trump’s presidency and the increase in public expressions of Islamophobia being spewed right and left. While fear is a valid emotion and is necessary in waking us up out of complacency, it can also lead to negative consequences.

As we read throughout the Quran, all communities of believers are tested with fear-inducing trials. Faced with these tests, successful communities stay united on a shared commitment to God and His religion in spite of the fear. This is often easier said than done. Maintaining commitment to one’s faith and its tenets is not easy in times of trials (fitan) and, oftentimes, fear and anxiety can cloud the decisionmaking process. For Muslims today, anxiety about Islamophobia has the potential to lead our community down a dangerous road. To see how this happens, we only need to refer to the Quran and its account of Bani Israel. In many instances, a strong sense of fear led Bani Israel to directly disobey God’s commandments, which in turn led to ruin (for example, as described in Surah Yunus: “But no one believed Moses, except [some] youths among his people, for fear of Pharaoh and his establishment that they would persecute them.” [10:83]).

Fear Factor

We see the same dynamic in religious and ethnic communities today. An eye opening article recently published in The Federalist is provocatively titled “How Liberalism Destroyed the American Jew.” The article describes how Jewish American political and moral choices over the past several generations have resulted in a thorough loss of faith. A Pew study cited in the article asked Jewish American respondents: What does it mean to be Jewish? One might imagine that the answer would have something to do with believing in God, reading the Torah, or following Abraham and Moses. These points, however, do not factor into Jewish identity according to the majority of the Jewish Americans surveyed by Pew whereas “eating traditional Jewish foods” and “having a good sense of humor” do. The two religious features a minority of respondents did recognize as part of their identity was “caring about Israel” and “observing Jewish law,” but the latter was at the bottom of the list. Other common features of their identity Jewish Americans noted include “leading a moral life” and “working for justice/equality,” though these, of course, are not values unique to Judaism.

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.

What does all this have to do with fear? Well, it is important to note that “remembering the Holocaust” is the overall number one component of Jewish identity that seventy-three percent of Jews recognized. Is it a coincidence that this component has to do with fear? Is it a coincidence that remembering the one greatest act of anti-Semitism, i.e., the Holocaust, is what most Jews consider to be what being Jewish is all about?

There is a clear connection between the remembrance of the Holocaust being the number-one feature of Jewish identity and the fact that the rest of the list has little to nothing to do with Judaism as a theology and more to do with cultural practices and general values that are endorsed by the dominant American culture at large. Fear is a potent motivator. Fear is a potent justifier. Virtually anything can be justified if one believes that the alternative is the Holocaust.

In contrast to the Jewish community, however, the majority of the American Muslim community has not had genocide in its history (though segments of the American Muslim community, such as Black, Native, Bosnian, and Palestinian American Muslims, among others, have). Undoubtedly, American Muslims must be vigilant in the face of any threat. At the same time, the community must be aware of how preparing for a threat can have unintended negative consequences on the community’s faith. For example, making exceptions to, bending, and even discarding otherwise well-established religious principles all become possible if one feels, even remotely, that the spectre of genocide looms. And if the possibility of genocide is on the table, then one can justify to oneself doing anything to embed oneself into the status quo, avoid being politically incorrect, avoid sticking out, avoid going against the grain of the dominant culture, all in order to minimize any hostility by society at large. All of the community’s political, social, and cultural decision making is potentially short-circuited by this fear. Of course, none of this is to say that fear is not a perfectly valid, justified emotion. It certainly is and can be used to accomplish great good. But the question is, even when it is justified, how does that fear affect everything else?

Muslim Identity Means Hijab and Hummus?

Recent sociological and anthropological research examines precisely this question. Numerous studies analyze how “minorities” react in the face of “cultural anxiety” due to widespread bigotry and discrimination. What these studies show is that cultural anxiety is positively correlated with two things: 1) “ethnic essentialism” and 2) “multicultural ideology.” In laymen’s terms, this means that when a minority group feels threatened by the dominant group, they will, first of all, double down on those aspects of their culture and values that they believe to constitute the essence of their group identity. Second, they will increasingly tend to endorse multiculturalism, namely the view that a healthy society should treat all groups within it equally and that the presence of such groups enriches society overall.

These dynamics accurately describe the internal discourse within the American Muslim community since the September 11th attacks. Obviously, Islam is not a culture per se and Muslims are not an ethnicity, but the underlying concepts still apply given that, from a secular perspective, Islam can be considered a set of values, beliefs, and practices, which is what secular academic discourse considers a culture to be for the most part.

That caveat aside, it is beyond dispute that American Muslims have felt a great deal of “cultural anxiety” due to, not only Islamophobic attitudes in American society generally, but also due to hostile government measures that have targeted Muslims and their institutions. The anxiety and fear felt by the Muslim community has led to both essentialism and multiculturalism. Feeling pressure from the dominant American culture has had (what is from an Islamic standpoint) a positive effect of making Muslims more embedded in their Muslim identity, in a word, more “unapologetically Muslim.” At the same time, American Muslims have adopted more of a multicultural attitude as they have become more socially and politically engaged. For example, since 9/11, Muslim involvement in interfaith events, interfaith coalitions, etc., saw a massive increase. Muslim involvement in mainstream political groups and coalitions also jumped. The language of Muslim leaders, imams, and speakers has also been suffuse with expressions of multiculturalism, diversity, relevance, engagement, etc.

While anxiety and fear drive these tendencies of essentialism and multiculturalism, the two are often opposing forces. This is because multiculturalism is characterized by coming together on the basis of shared interests and other commonalities whereas essentialism is characterized by emphasizing differences in order to distinguish one’s own group from the dominant majority. How is this tension resolved?

For American Muslims, the danger is that this tension could result in a deliberate de-emphasis and minimization of those beliefs, values, and practices of Islam that most directly conflict with the dominant culture while overemphasizing specific Muslim cultural markers. This would allow Muslims to maintain some form of a unified, essentialistic identity — even though, primarily, it is cultural rather than religious identity — while also integrating themselves within the larger American milieu and its institutions, which, for the most part, tolerate and even celebrate cultural diversity but not theological, ideological, or ethical diversity. We have seen some signs of this in context of Muslim involvement with certain American political parties in recent years. And again, the example of Jewish Americans proves instructive. As a community, Jewish Americans have a very strong sense of identity and group cohesion, i.e., due to their essentialism, while also being well integrated socially, politically, and culturally, i.e., due to their multiculturalism. In other words, they have resolved the essentialism-multiculturalism divide. But as the previously cited Pew study discovered, the resulting Jewish identity has little to do with the particulars of Judaism as a religion.

Muslim and Atheist at the Same Time

This secularization of Jewish identity also explains the phenomenon of “Jewish atheism.” Not all Jews agree that one can be a Jew without believing in God. Nonetheless, Jewish atheist institutions have become a well established and growing part of the overall Jewish American community. This is not surprising given that half of all Jewish Americans have doubts about God’s existence.

We see similar trends in the Muslim community, as new labels like “ex-Muslim” and “atheist Muslim” have been adopted by people who consider themselves “culturally Muslim” but “theologically atheist.” Neologisms like “atheist Muslim” only make sense if “Muslim,” like “Jew,” is rendered as an ethnic or cultural label, one among many. Of course, the Arabic word “Muslim” itself means “one who submits [to God]” and theologically to be Muslim, in truth, has certain requirements in terms of belief and practice. But these requirements are set by God and communicated through revelation. But from a secular perspective that denies the existence and/or relevance of God, “Muslim” can be deployed in whatever way convention dictates. By this standard, even “Muslim Jew” or “Muslim Christian” should be a linguistic and conceptual possibility.

Ultimately, “cultural anxiety” in the form of Islamophobia will continue to pressure Muslims to secularize and racialize their Muslim identity. As a community, we need to be well aware of this pressure so that we can recognize its signs and strive to resist it. By surrendering ourselves to a crippling fear of anti-Muslim bigotry, we risk losing our very souls. Rather, we need to channel that fear into positive practical and spiritual avenues, namely Islamically-informed activism as well as increased reliance on and fear of God Almighty.

To think of it differently, if there are extreme Islamophobes in the world who want to stamp out Muslims as a religious community, there are two methods to do so. One method would be to deport, intern, or kill Muslims through acts of bigotry or even genocide. The other method would be to create conditions that are conducive to the erosion and dissolution of Muslim faith, such that, eventually, being Muslim has nothing to do with the religious values and norms of Islam. We should ensure that, in our heightened concern for combating the first method, we do not forget to combat the second equally nefarious, equally destructive method as well.

Support Our Dawah 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.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abdul-Rahim Adada Mohammed

    February 20, 2017 at 11:47 AM

    Well written!

  2. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    February 20, 2017 at 12:58 PM

    Excellent piece! Jazakumullahu khayran, Br. Daniel. I would only add to it by making a point I have previously made in other fora (such as your Facebook page), namely: I think it is dangerous for us as Muslims to continuously think of, talk about, and present ourselves as a “minority” as opposed to a “religious group.” Now, obviously, since only about 1-2% of Americans are Muslim, that makes us indeed a “religious minority.” But do we see ourselves primarily as a “minority” (that happens to have a religion, sort of) or as a “religion / religious community” (that happens to be numerically in the minority)? In other words, are we a “religious MINORITY” or a “RELIGIOUS minority”?

    The former very easily plays into the trend that you are warning against here, for a “minority” can literally by anything (just as long as the community is not a numeric majority). An Islamic *religious* community, on the other hand, can certainly not just be anything, since its very identity is explicitly tied to a *religious* commitment to Islam. What defines the religious community as such has nothing to do with numbers. As such, the definition, its operative terms and entailments, etc., would be the same whether we are a minority or majority. That is, we are essentially defined by the same beliefs, practices, and moral commitments whether in New York or Cairo, Copenhagen or Kuala Lumpur. And this is a totally different way of thinking about ourselves, defining ourselves, determining community boundaries, and presenting ourselves to others than doing so primarily as a “minority” among minorities.

    I think a major sign of whether we define ourselves primarily as a “minority” or as a “religion” can be seen in our attitude towards da’wa. A “minority” is content just to have its rights protected, be given a seat at the table among other minorities, and, eventually, to fuse into the melting pot with little substance left and only cosmetic markers of difference to betoken the “uniqueness” of their identity. An Islamic religious community, on the other hand, believes strongly that it exists (both in minority and majority situations) in order to bear witness to a specific truth, embody that truth meaningfully in its personal, professional, social, and political engagements, and, crucially, call other people to that truth (with, of course, wisdom, beautiful admonition, and sound argument, as Allah has commanded us in Surat al-Isra’).

    The last part of this for me is that, as I have mentioned before, I continue to think, especially in these troubling times, that we should demand our rights in the U.S. specifically as a religious group demanding its explicit constitutionally protected guarantees of religious freedom, integrity, and practice, and not as some random “minority” that is seeking rights “as a minority.” Whether there are 200 Muslims in America or 200 million, the founding documents and commitments of this country explicitly guarantee my rights, as an American, to practice whatever faith I want. Not only does that, in my view, provide a much stronger legal, social, and cultural basis for seeking our rights under this particular political order, but it also reinforces our view of ourselves as a religious community defined by its belief in and practice of its religion. Playing the minority card has the potential directly to undermine this.

    As a closing remark, I think CAIR, for example (and from what I have been told), has taken an interesting and overall principled approach here. A local CAIR representative explained to me once that if a Muslim had been fired from working in a bar for being Muslim, they would not take up the case since they would not fight for the “right” of a Muslim to work in a bar in the first place (since it’s haram). If the same Muslim were fired from a department store, on the other hand, they would take it up. Similarly, a case came up of a transgender Muslim “female” who wore niqab and was discriminated against at work. Since the discrimination was based on the niqab and the person’s identification with Islam, they took up the case. Had it been a question of discrimination on the basis of being transgender, they would have declined, since Islamic law does not recognize the validity of transgenderism to begin with. This, to me, clearly bespeaks an engagement on the basis of operative Islamic religious principles, rather than a conception of Islam and Muslims as nothing more than a self-identifying minority community.

    May Allah guide us all to what is right in these trying times. Ameen!

    Wassalam,
    Ahmad B.

    • Avatar

      Malick

      March 7, 2017 at 10:28 AM

      Great, great points, brother Ahmad B. Very insightful. The true thing is that American islam, or better yet Muslim Americans, or perhaps I should say Islam in America will never fully mature as a political force and therefore a religious one until Muslims understand the dichotomy between RELIGIOUS minority and religious MINORITY.
      What is missed when that distinction is lost is exactly as you say, surviving versus thriving, maintaining versus growing, a one room mosque versus a 10000 square feet mosque with minarets, parking, a community room and an attached cemetery, voting for the candidate we fear the least (if we even vote) versus advocating and surrogating for our candidate.
      These times we live in highlight it very effectively. The reason islamophobia is trending and the president, his cabinet, his generals, elected officials and the media may speak so aggressively and disparagingly about islam is because they sense that as a religious MINORITY, american muslims are weak communally and politically. Which is also why every potus, yes, including and especially Obama, may support the obliteration of Muslim countries abroad while pretending to be very islam friendly, and because we see ourselves still as survivors, we fail to exercise our rights to demand a cease and desist in our country’s ongoign war against our brothers, whether in Syria or in Palestine.
      And if one doubts the above, let us ask whose preference is enforced between the Jewish minority and the Muslim minority, and why.

  3. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    February 20, 2017 at 1:51 PM

    As a follow up to my previous comment, the CAIR examples are quite instructive and serve to show how each of these positions / orientations really does have teeth, meaning we need to think very carefully about how we conduct our affairs and manage our discourse.

    The CAIR paradigm, by applying an ethical, legal, and moral filter derived from substantive Islamic faith commitments, might actually turn down a discrimination case brought to them by a believing Muslim, if taking up the case might have the effect of restoring someone to a haram position or activity, thus endangering that person’s akhira. (From this perspective, in fact, the Muslim bartender’s firing was, in the larger scheme, nothing short of a mercy from Allah, a wake-up call to spurn him on to finding halal employment. I suppose one could make the argument that nevertheless, from a purely American legal perspective, we should object to the firing as long as it was motivated by anti-Muslim bias on the part of the bar owner. There might be something to this, and in an ideal world, the guy wouldn’t have been fired through discrimination and hopefully a well-meaning Muslim could have gotten through to him at some point to convince him to change his employment for the sake of Allah. But given limited time and resources, CAIR declines the case due to the moral dubiousness of the occupation to which their intervention would be seeking to restore the Muslim.)

    Same goes with the case of the “transgender” Muslim wearing a niqab but discriminated against for being transgender. An ethically informed Muslim set of criteria actually leads to a declining of the case, although the person involved is a Muslim and has been “discriminated” against. This outcome would be appalling, however, from the perspective of Islam as an essentially racialized / ethnicized minority community with little to no normative content of its own that is distinct from the dominant secular liberalism. From this perspective, the transgender Muslim “female” is doubly discriminated against, doubly vulnerable due to the “intersectionality” of belonging simultaneously to two distinct *minority communities*–the Muslim community and the transgender community–and for that reason, the person’s case, if anything, should be preferred over others and put at the top of the list.

    So here we have two very different–in fact opposite–outcomes, both of which are consistent with some underlying larger stance on who we are as a community and what that means. Given that the results are contradictory, however, and that each stance may even rise to the level of looking repugnant from the other perspective, we really need to think very carefully about what we’re doing here, why, on what terms, and with what likely long-term effect.

    Again, kudos to Br. Daniel for pointing this out all so clearly and concisely!

  4. Avatar

    Daniel Haqiqatjou

    February 20, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    Wa iyyakum, Ahmad B. I agree that conceiving ourselves as a “minority” is potentially problematic given that that term signals an ethnic or racial status. I tried to caveat this somewhat in the essay, but not as fully as you have in your comment, so jazakumAllah khayran for that.

    Regarding your point about appealing to principles of religious freedom, does this mean that Muslims should also stand up for the right of, for example, Satanists to practice Black Mass and other rituals of desecration that they understand as private religious practice? Would Muslim advocacy organizations, such as CAIR, have to be committed to defending and standing with Satanists and other religious groups under the banner of religious freedom? To what extent can we invoke religious freedom without also committing ourselves to a kind of pragmatism that this post takes issue with?

    Point being, I’m not sure that shifting our discourse from one of “minority rights” to “religious freedom” avoids the problems this post is concerned with, namely Islamic principles taking a back seat in lieu of political expediency.

    I agree that we should understand ourselves as a “religious community.” The Islamic conception of itself as a religion, however, is much broader than what American or European secularism is willing to earmark for the sake of “religious freedom.” If we constrain our understanding of religion to only that which modern secularism allows for and delimits as “religious,” sooner or later, we will hit up against the same confusions and the same problems. We need to move beyond these categories altogether.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      February 20, 2017 at 7:44 PM

      Salam Daniel,

      Jazakumullahu khayran for your response. I see the problem you are pointing out about using religious freedom. I still think it’s a better tack overall for internal purposes, as it reinforces in our own minds that we are a religious group seeking to practice our religion. The secular system itself can’t distinguish between Islamic tawhid and Satanism (no more than it can distinguish, say, between a synagogue and a gay bathhouse–both are equally just “institutions” of different “minority groups”), and we should, in our macro critique, point out that weakness of the system.

      We do, however, have some internal criteria for judging what is an authentic religion for political accommodation purposes, and I suppose it would make sense for us, true to our values, to rely on those in choosing what rights and for what groups we would actually stick our neck out on the line for, march down the street holding placards for, etc. I would, by these criteria, wholeheartedly support the right of Jews, Christians, and other groups traditionally seen by Muslims as “religions” for political purposes (including Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others by extended definitions of “ahl al-kitab” and “ahl al-dhimma”), but probably wouldn’t do so for groups that we could in no way conceive of as a legitimate religion, such as Satan-worshipers.

      Would that be considered “hypocritical” by the terms of the system? Perhaps. Is it a neat solution and a comfortable situation to have to be in? No. But the system itself will never be in full conformity with Islam (especially where Muslims are in a non-majority situation), which means that we will never be able to be fully true to our principles without awkwardness, charges of hypocrisy, etc.

  5. Avatar

    Belal Mobarak

    February 20, 2017 at 8:55 PM

    Jazakah Allah khair, love your thoughts and analyses.

  6. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    February 20, 2017 at 10:38 PM

    Really good piece, brother. I’ve never doubted your work once because you have always been principled mashaAllah. Keep up the good work!

  7. Avatar

    Alt Islamist

    February 21, 2017 at 1:29 AM

    So after a long intellectual articl this is your reply? You my friend are living a sad life

  8. Avatar

    Quazi

    February 21, 2017 at 8:22 AM

    May Allah reward you Br. Daniel. Very timely reminder. Previously in facebook, you had alluded to the danger of unrestricted endorsement of LGBT and other movements. On top of that I will add – I am worried that young Muslims in the west somehow getting an implicit understanding of perennial viewpoint (all religions are equal), although our Imams/leaders are not saying any such thing explicitly. But in the absence of enough teachings that clarifies that Islam is the only accepted religion by Allah, unrestricted cooperation with other faith groups is a big danger. I know that Prophet (SAW) took help from non-Muslims. However, it was made abundantly clear in his teachings that Islam is the only truth. So, yes – we should collaborate with other faith groups based on common moral principles, such as resistance against discrimination, opposing liberal sexual education policies, but in the long run we should be extremely careful about what message our youth is getting about some fundamentals of Islam.

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      February 21, 2017 at 4:54 PM

      I agree that there is also a potential for confusion in context of some kinds of interfaith activity. But I haven’t seen much evidence of Muslim youth converting to other faiths. A large proportion seem to be following the general trend among millenials at large of leaving off religious affiliation altogether. Of course, seeing Islam as “just another religion, like all the rest” might very well contribute to that trend. If all religions are equally valid, then none of them are, especially in light of the “freedom” and comfort afforded by modern thought, modern values, and modern ways of life, which make religion in general and Islam in particular with its rituals and religious requirements seem irrelevant and hardly worth the trouble.

  9. Avatar

    Omar

    February 22, 2017 at 3:09 AM

    Really great reminder Dr J. Its especially important for me and others to think about building and supporting institutions and resources that will act to preserve our faith and its beautiful principles for ourselves and children.

  10. Omar Husain

    Omar Husain

    February 22, 2017 at 1:24 PM

    Mashallah, your writings are always on point. So often we are busy trying to explain what Islam is not, that we forget what it actually is. I love how you constantly stress never to lose ourselves. On another note, I will referencing this article Inshallah at jumah. #teamwork!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Current Affairs

This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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.

CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

Support Our Dawah 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.

Continue Reading

Coronavirus

Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

“Eid-al-Quarantine” is what my sister has so fondly dubbed our upcoming Eid al Fitr this year. I find myself asking, “How are we going to make Eid a fun and special celebration this year in the midst of a dangerous pandemic?” With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this Eid can be fun–no matter the current circumstances. This post will provide you with some inspiration to get your alternative Eid preparations underway! 

Special note: Shelter-in-place restrictions are lessening in many places in the United States, but this does not give us the green light to go back to life as normal and celebrate Eid in the ways we usually would have in the past. I am no health expert, but my sincerest wish for all Muslims throughout the world is that we all err on the side of caution and maintain rigorous precautions.

In-person gatherings are going to be much riskier in light of public health safety concerns. I do not recommend that people get together this Eid. Keep in mind, as well, that this is a big weekend for all Americans, as it is Memorial Day Weekend and crowds may be expected in places like parks and beaches. 

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.

Eid Day Must’s

Just because you are staying in, doesn’t mean that all of the Eid traditions have to go. Some may be exactly the same, some may be slightly adjusted this year. 

  • Get dressed up, even if it’s just for an hour or two. This might be a good chance to do hair and make up for sisters who normally don’t on Eid because of hijab or other modesty concerns. 
  • Take your family pictures, as usual. 
  • Decorate your house, even if it’s just with some fresh flowers in a vase or hanging up some string lights. (This time, I think sharing pictures of your setup may  have some more wiggle room.)
  • Find a way to pray Eid salah at home, if your local imam mentions a way to adapt for the current situation or check out this MM article
  • Eat some good food, and make sure to feast. 
  • Take that infamous Eid nap. 
  • Greet loved ones (phone calls, video calls, text messages, voice/video messages, make and send Eid cards).
  • Give and receive gifts. (Electronic ways to transfer money/checks in the mail, dropping off gifts to homes/sending gifts in the mail/having an online order pick-up in-store. You may also choose to do a gift exchange, if not this weekend, next). 

Virtual Parties

Virtual celebrations are a great, safe, option. The best thing about virtual hangouts is that people from all over the world can “come together” to celebrate Eid. This can be as simple as talking and catching up, or can be as orchestrated as a full-out party including games. Keep in mind, the games and virtual parties aren’t only for the kids–everyone should have fun this Eid! We recently threw a virtual birthday party for our one-year-old and it was quite the experience. 

  • Split guests into different calls (kids’ call, adults’ call; men’s call, women’s call)
  • Party agenda for a rigorously planned party so everyone knows what to expect
  • Party games, either with certain items that everyone has (or can easily and quickly purchase) or games that do not require much else besides an internet connection 
    • Games requiring physical items (think of items that everyone is likely to have and think of carnival-type games):
      • Soccer ball juggling or basketball shooting competition
      • Water balloon toss
      • Timed races (three-legged, holding an egg in a spoon, etc.)
    • Games with little to no special equipment
      • Online Pictionary https://skribbl.io/
      • Online Scrabble
      • Video games
      • Charades
      • Taboo (we do this for our cousin game nights with pictures of cards that one person sends to people from the opposite team)
      • Scattergories
      • Bingo
      • Mad libs
      • Speaking games that take turns going around a circle (going through the alphabet saying names of animals or colors or foods, rhyming words [we played the last two lines of “Down by the Bay” for our son’s birthday party])
      • Movement game (Simon says, dancing if you’re into that [“Cha Cha Slide,” dance-off, passing along dance moves as was a TikTok trend I heard of, simply dancing…])
      • Games like in Whose Line is it Anyway? or like the “Olympics” (specifically the “middle games”) that I wrote about way back
  • Performances
    • Skits prepared by one family or even across households
    • Reciting a poem or surah or singing
    • Other showcases of talent, by individuals or not
  • Gift Exchanges (I’ve been doing this virtually since 2013 with friends/distant family members.)

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

Being “together” isn’t always gathering for a party, and that’s what I think most people miss during the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. There are many things you can do to get ready for or celebrate Eid with loved ones even if you’re not together. 

  • Share special recipes with each other or plan to serve the same meals.
  • Coordinate Eid outfits or attempt to do matching henna designs.
  • Send Eid pictures to family and friends.
  • Prepare and cook meals or clean or decorate while on a video call (you don’t have to be talking the entire time).
  • Watch the same movie or show (whether that’s something everyone does as separate households or you do concurrently/even with a video or phone call running. This might be a good time to watch Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” and do the 10 things it invites us to do.)
  • Go through family pictures or old videos together. Maybe even create a short slideshow/video of your favorites. 
  • Story time full of family legends and epic moments (the best Eid, a difficult time of sickness, immigration or moving story, new baby in the family, etc.). Someone build the fire and get the s’mores going.

Alternative “Outings”

In the same breath, it’s so refreshing to go out and do something fun, not just stay cooped up in your house, right? Seriously. 

  • Check out a virtual museum tour
  • Go on a nice drive to some place you love or miss going to, like drive by the masjid or school or a beautiful area (but stay in your car if there are other people around)
  • Watch an Eid Khutbah (or a regular one) on Eid day (make it special by listening outside in your yard or as a family where you pray).
  • Create a movie theater experience inside the home (that might just mean some popcorn and homemade slushies).
  • Get carry out from a favorite restaurant (if it’s open), and finally have the motivation to take a longer drive if needed
  • Make fruit or gift baskets for friends and family and drop them off at their homes
  • A “paint night,” or some other craft, that everyone in the family participates in
  • Decorate your car and drive around to show it off to friends (I’ve heard there’s an actual Eid car parade at various masaajid in Chicago

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

Some communities are getting super creative. As I mentioned above, a handful of masaajid in Chicago (Orland Park Prayer Center, Mosque Foundation, and Islamic Center of Wheaton as well as Dar Al Taqwa in Maryland) are putting together Eid drive-thru car parades. I’ve heard of different communities, whether officially sponsored by the masjid or just put together by groups of individuals, having a drive-in Eid salah, in which families pray in their cars in a rented drive-in theater or parking lot (Champaign, Illinois and a community in Maryland). I’m  definitely impressed with that last option, and I’m waiting to hear about more creative ways to get together and worship and celebrate.

So, what am I doing for Eid (weekend) this year? All the must’s, inshaAllah, including getting extra dolled up and making donuts from biscuit dough. A “game night” (virtual party) with alumni from my MSA. A gift exchange party with my cousins as well as another gift exchange party with classmates from my Arabic program (we’ll send unboxing videos out instead of meeting at the same time.) Check out a local college campus we’ve been dying to drive around. Binge a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender newly released on Netflix and do some online Memorial Day sale shopping. Le’s put a tentative on all of those, haha.

At the end of the day, Eid al Fitr is about acknowledging the month of worship we engaged in during Ramadan and spending quality time with loved ones. It doesn’t really matter what that quality time looks like–as long as it is intentional, this Eid will be special no matter what, inshaAllah. Who knows, this might be one of the best, most memorable holidays ever!

Eid Mubarak!

Support Our Dawah 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.

Continue Reading

#Islam

Eid Prayer During the Pandemic

Introduction

We have observed a Ramadan that was unlike anything we have experienced before. The community and individuals everywhere have shown dedication, commitment, and creativity. We learned to pray tarāwīḥ on our own in our homes. We read the Qur’an everyday consistently. We attended daily lectures and reminders delivered by our imams, teachers, and scholars online. We gathered virtually to hold iftars and check in on each other. We donated to our organizations to gain the blessings of charity in Ramadan. All of this and more is only possible through the guidance of Allah and resilience of our faith.

We now find ourselves approaching Eid al-Fitr. Eid is an occasion of celebration, joy, gathering, and gratitude to Allah for his countless blessings. We all have cherished memories of past days of Eid. However, we face the prospect of an Eid that is difficult and challenging. Similar to our mindset in Ramadan, we can and should find a way to have a joyous and meaningful Eid. Shāh Walīullah al-Dihlawi writes in his Hujjatullah al-Bālighah, “Allah provided us with two days of celebration that commemorate the markers of the Islamic tradition. He associated celebration with the remembrance of Allah and acts of devotion on the day of Eid, ensuring that the congregation of believers would not be for mere vanity. Rather, the gathering of Muslims would revolve around exalting the Word of Allah.”

The Obligation of Eid

The scholars of the four major schools of thought have differed regarding the obligation of the Eid prayer. Their differences stem from their methodologies in interpreting the verses of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition ﷺ. The Shāfiʿī and Mālikī schools agree that the Eid prayer is an established Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, and the prayer is highly recommended for every individual to attend.[1] However, the Ḥanafī school has deemed the prayer as wājib, necessary, for every believing man of age.[2] The Ḥanbalī school has ruled the Eid prayer as farḍ al-kifāyah[3].[4] 

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.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ prayed the Eid prayer in congregation with the Companions from the time it was prescribed until he passed. The Ḥanafī school has considered this consistency demonstrated by the Prophet ﷺ as an indication that the Eid prayer cannot be merely a recommendation. Additionally, the Prophet ﷺ did not go out of his way to inform his Companions of the lack of obligation as he did with ṣalāh al-tarāwīḥ.[5] The scholars of the Ḥanbalī school referenced the command in the Qur’an, “Pray to your Lord and sacrifice,”[6] and concluded the Eid prayer is farḍ al-kifāyah.

The Shāfiʿī and Mālikī schools quote a well-known Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ in which he informs an inquisitive Bedouin regarding the Islamic mandates. The Prophet ﷺ tells the man about the five obligatory daily prayers. The man asks the Messenger ﷺ if there are any additional prayers that are required and he responds, “All other prayers are optional.”[7] Therefore, they regard the Eid prayer as voluntary.[8] 

The Khutbah of Eid

On the day of Eid, it is recommended, according to the majority of scholars, to have a khutbah given by the Imam. The Imam advises the people in the congregation and reminds them of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. Unlike the Friday khutbah, the Eid khutbah is given immediately after the congregational prayer is completed. The Friday khutbah is considered an essential pillar of the Jumu’ah obligation. However, the scholars of the four major schools have all come to the conclusion that the khutbah on the day of Eid is not required for the validity of the Eid prayer.[9]

Congregations

The following question has emerged in light of our current situation: Are we excused from the obligation to gather together and worship Allah for Friday, Eid, and congregational prayers? Is the concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 a legitimate reason for individuals to not attend religious services in person?

The scholars of the Ḥanafī school list reasons that excuse individuals from attending congregational prayers. The list includes inclement weather, sickness, paralysis, old age, and notably, fear of harm. It is reported in an authentic Hadith that the Prophet ﷺ once excused the Companions from attending congregational prayers by instructing the Mu’adhdhin to call the adhān and announce, “Pray in your homes.”[10] The Ḥanafī scholar al-Ṭahṭāwī uses this Hadith as proof that those exposed to immediate danger should be excused from congregational prayer, including Friday and Eid prayers.[11]

Al-Shurunbulālī[12] reminds us that the reward is still obtained by individuals who are not able to attend due to challenging circumstances. If an individual is prevented from fulfilling an obligation due to an acceptable and valid excuse, that person will still be rewarded (if Allah wills) according to his or her intention.[13] The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us, “Actions are rewarded based on their intentions. Every person will be rewarded according to his or her intention.”[14]

Recommended Eid Rituals

While our ability to congregate for Eid may be limited, this should not prevent us from observing the rituals recommended in our tradition.[15] 

  1. Supplicate to Allah ﷻ the night before Eid and ask Him for forgiveness for any shortcomings.
  2. On the morning of Eid, recite the Takbīrāt of Eid[16], glorifying Allah and rejoicing in the occasion.[17]
  3. Take a shower and celebrate by donning your best garments. It is also customary to apply perfume.
  4. Demonstrate the end of the month of fasting by eating something after Fajr on the morning of Eid. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would not leave his house on the day of Eid without eating some dates.[18]
  5. Be kind and generous.
  6. Congratulate others.
  7. Fulfill your obligation of contributing zakat al-fir before the morning of Eid. The majority of scholars are in agreement that zakat al-fir is mandatory for every believer male or female, young or old.[19] This serves the purpose of uniting Muslims on the day of Eid so they may celebrate regardless of financial circumstances.

Requirements to Conduct Eid Prayer

When performing the Eid prayer, one should, first and foremost, observe the requirements of ritual prayer (ṣalāh) such as being in a state of purification and facing the qiblah. The scholars have agreed that the prescribed time of the Eid prayer begins shortly after sunrise and ends before Ẓuhr time starts.[20] 

For the validity of the Eid prayer, the scholars among the Shāfiʿī, Mālikī, Ḥanbalī,  and Ḥanafī schools have stipulated: the prayer should be conducted during the prescribed time of Eid prayer.[21] The Ḥanafīs and some Ḥanbalīs[22] have additionally stated that the Eid prayer must be conducted in a group.[23] The Ḥanafīs specified that this requirement is fulfilled with 2 or 3 adult males other than the imam.[24] Moreover, the Ḥanafī scholars have stated that an Eid prayer should be accessible by the general public and not be in a restricted or an exclusive space.

Conducting the Eid Prayer

The Eid prayer itself is conducted very similarly to any other congregational prayer. The four major schools agree that the Eid prayer should be performed out loud with 2 rak’āt, units of prayer, just like the Fajr congregation. However, there is a difference of opinion in regards to the number of extra takbīrāt that are said in the Eid prayer. The format of the prayer has been detailed below based on the different opinions.

Mālikīs[25]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 6 additional takbīrāt[26], say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Ḥanbalīs[27]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 6 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Shāfiʿīs[28]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 7 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, perform 5 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Ḥanafīs[29]

  • Make wuḍū’, face the qiblah and begin the prayer with Allāhu akbar
  • Perform 3 additional takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Finish the first rak’ah
  • After standing for the second rak’ah, recite Surah al-Fatihah and an additional surah out loud
  • Perform 3 additional Takbīrāt, raise your hands and say Allāhu akbar for each takbīrah
  • Say Allāhu akbar and bow into rukū’
  • Complete the prayer as usual

Conclusion

Eid is an occasion of glorifying Allah, praying for the acceptance of our deeds, and enjoying the blessings of Allah. It is a day to spend time with family and loved ones. The regulations of social distancing have limited our ability to congregate and spend time together as a community. However, these restrictions do not prevent us from fulfilling the rituals and traditions of Eid.

We recommend that every Muslim observes the Eid rituals as mentioned above. It has been authentically reported that the Companion of the Prophet ﷺ Anas ibn Mālik did not make it to the Eid prayer, so he gathered his family and offered the Eid prayer at home in the same manner the imam would with the congregation.[30] Furthermore, the Mālikī, Shāfiʿī, and Ḥanbalī schools allow people to perform the Eid prayer individually or with family at home. While the Ḥanafī school traditionally does not allow this, many senior Ḥanafī scholars have eased the condition of performing the Jumu’ah prayer in a public place during the current pandemic. Therefore, we recommend that individuals and families who are not able to attend an Eid congregation pray the Eid ṣalāh as detailed above at home.

May Allah accept our deeds. May Allah provide us with a joyous Eid. May Allah alleviate the current crisis. May Allah protect us all.

Allah knows best.

AbdulNasir Jangda

Sohaib Sheikh

26 Ramadan 1441 AH/19 May 2020 CE

Qalam Institute’s  mission is to educate humanity about Allah, His message, and His Messenger ﷺ. This article is written by the instructors at Qalam. Please consider supporting them as they create beneficial content for people to study their religion. 


[1] al-Majmu’ 5:2, al-Jumal ala sharh al-Manhaj 2:92

[2] Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:274

[3] farḍ al-kifāyah: An obligation that is mandated at a communal level. If a community fulfills the obligation, any other people that did not participate are excused from the obligation.

[4] al-Mughni 2:304

[5] Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:274, al-Hidayah 1:60, Tuhfah al-Fuqaha 1:283

[6] Qur’an 108:2

[7] Sahih al-Bukhari 2678

[8] Jawahir al-Iklil 1:101, al-Majmoo’ 5:3

[9] al-Lubab 1:118-119, Maraqi al-Falah 91, Tabyin al-Haqaiq 1:226, Fatawa al-Hindiyyah 1:141, Fath al-Qadir 1:428, al-Durr al-Mukhtar 1:782-784, al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:530, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:400, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 86, Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:311, al-Muhadhab 1:120, al-Majmoo’ 5:36, al-Mughni 2:384-387, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:61-62

[10] Sahih al-Bukhari 10:29, Sahih Muslim 6:32-33, Sunan Abi Dawud 2:672-673, Sunan Ibn Majah 5:989-991, Sunan al-Nasa’I 7:660, Sunan al-Nasa’I 10:78

[11] Hashiyah al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi al-Falah 297

[12] Hanafi scholar who authored the famous work Nur al-Idah

[13] Nur al-Idah 65, Hashiyah al-Tahtawi ala Maraqi al-Falah 299

[14] Sahih al-Bukhari 1:1, Sahih Muslim 33:222

[15] al-Fiqh al-Islami Wa Adillatuhu 1412-1416

[16] Takbirat of Eid: Saying Allahu Akbar and La Ilaha Illa Allah

[17] al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah 13:213-214

[18] Sahih al-Bukhari 13:5

[19] al-Zayla’I 1:307, Ibn Abidin 2:110, Fath al-Qadir 2:30, Bulghat al-Salik 1:200, Sharh al-Minhaj 1:628, Kashaf al-Qina’ 1:471

[20] Fath al-Qadir 1:424, al-Lubab 1:117, Maraqi al-Falah 90, al-Dur al-Mukhtar 1:779, al-Bada’I 1:276, al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:524, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 85, Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:310, al-Muhadhab 1:118, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:56

[21] al-Dasuqi 1:396, Asna al-Matalib 1:279

[22] Imam Ibn al-Qudama stated both opinions in the Hanbali school regarding the requirement of a congregation to conduct Eid prayer. Some Hanbali scholars require a group of people for the validity of the Eid prayer while others said that an individual can pray Eid by him or herself. al-Mughni 2:291

[23] Kashaf al-Qina’ 1:455, 2:50, Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:275

[24] Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Muhammad stated that 2 congregants other than the Imam are the minimum required to be considered a congregation. Imam Abu Yusuf was of the opinion that 3 congregants other than the Imam are required.

[25] al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:525, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:397, al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah 86, Bidayah al-Mujtahid 1:209

[26] Takbirat of Eid: These are extra Takbirs unique to the Eid ṣalāh. According to the majority of scholars, these Takbirs are conducted by the Imam raising his hands as he does when he starts the prayer and saying Allahu Akbar. The stronger opinion according to the Malikis is that when performing the extra Takbirs, the Imam does not raise his hands but says Allahu Akbar.

al-Sharh al-Saghir 1:525, al-Sharh al-Kabir 1:398

[27] Bidayah al-Mujtahid 1:209, al-Mughni 2:376-384, Kashaf al-Qina’ 2:59-65

[28] Mughni al-Muhtaj 1:310, al-Muhadhab 1:120, al-Majmoo’ 5:18

[29] The famous Companion, Ibn Masood, said in regard to the ritual of Eid prayer, “The Imam of the prayer should say Takbir to initiate the prayer. Afterwards, he should perform 3 additional Takbirat followed by the recitation of Surah al-Fatihah and another Surah following it. Then the Imam should continue his prayer, go into Ruku’, Sujood until he stands up (for his second Rak’ah). He should read Surah al-Fatihah and another Surah and proceed to perform 3 Takbirat followed by the Takbir to go into Ruku’” – Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar 4:347

al-Lubab 1:117, Maraqi al-Falah 90, Fath al-Qadir 1:425-427, Tabyin al-Haqaiq 1:225, al-Dur al-Mukhtar 1:779-782, al-Bada’I 1:277, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah 1:141

[30] al-Sunan al-Kabir 3:503, al-Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:183, Sahih al-Bukhari includes this Hadith in his Tarjamtul Baab 2:23

Support Our Dawah 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.

Continue Reading
.
.
..

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending