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What Do I Do When I Find Out My Favorite Preacher Is Corrupt?

The scenario is becoming more prevalent: the person you trusted with your spirituality, inspiration, and maybe even secrets, turns out to be tragically corrupt. The man who gives lectures about how to treat women is a vicious womanizer. The televangelist who inspires millions to be better people can’t find the inspiration in his own personal life to not exploit vulnerable fans or oppress his family.

This is one of the most difficult tests to one’s faith: how could someone who embodied the faith to me be so corrupt despite all of his knowledge? Is something wrong with the religion?

The Power of Power

No. Something is wrong with people, especially when they have power. And power isn’t always manifest in the form of legal control or authority. The power of influence that can suffocate the stories of your victims is far more dangerous. The power of a platform that glorifies you being so much larger than those that expose you. The power of money that ties people to you, that will stay with you despite your corruption and the mistreatment of your own family, only because they want to feed theirs. The power of having shaykh friends that will legitimize you for their own gain not realizing, or not caring, that they’re enabling your corruption. The power of having organizations still invite you to their programs to fill seats despite knowing about you, but not really caring about you or the people you will help bring to them. The power of knowing that otherwise reasonable people will probably support you any way and forget that the victim could’ve been their own sister or daughter.

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The problem isn’t religion; the problem is the perception of power that has so frequently poisoned men who wear the garb of any religion. Every oppressor is intoxicated by the illusion of power. But your Lord isn’t unaware, and is the only true possessor of Power. For their sake and ours, everything eventually comes crashing down before they can further harm themselves or others.

To Victims of Predators

If you’re a victim of one of these people, don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be shamed into silence. Predators thrive when they can pick on you in private and think that you’d never tell anyone. Your job isn’t to maintain the dignity of the one who disgraced you, or to put your hurt to the side to protect others from having their feelings hurt when they find out. You do have a responsibility to protect other people that could potentially be victimized.

To the girls that get approached by their favorite speaker at a conference who quickly starts looking for a secret marriage, please don’t be led down that route. Marriage is meant to be a public celebration that protects your rights. A private nikah that likely doesn’t even meet the conditions for a valid one won’t protect you at all. You don’t know a person from a stage or a youtube video.

To Beneficiaries of Corrupt Leaders

If you’re a beneficiary of one of these people financially or in some other fashion, don’t forget that sustenance comes from Allah and not from these people. Ibn Taymiyya said, “Whoever enables an oppressor will one day be tested by him.” The nature of that test is only known to Allah, but you’re actually protecting your family by not enabling an oppression that could one day harm them. Sometimes it’s not even enabling the oppressor himself but normalizing the behavior that one day bites you or your family.

To the religious institutions that provide cover, you have a responsibility to your members to not put them in harm’s way. The first responsibility of a shepherd is to protect his flock from wolves. If we haven’t learned our lesson from other religious institutions that cover up, know that the person and institution will suffer if things are not rectified properly. If we’re going to restore confidence in religious institutions, it’s going to take slowly regaining the trust of the people by showing zero tolerance for exploitation.

To the scholars and teachers that cover for their colleagues, fear Allah for you are betraying not only the people but the tradition. Do not leave the tradition hostage to people to exploit for nefarious aims. You too will be held accountable for legitimizing an oppressor and putting people in harm’s way. If people see your association as a refutation of claims, you are the strongest cover a criminal has.

Don’t be Bystanders

To the scholars and teachers that are repulsed by this behavior — do the right thing. You too need to be mindful of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for none of us are safe from the plotting of Shaytan and the evil of our desires. The first thing we should do when we see someone fall from glory is to seek refuge in Allah from encountering a similar fate. Every person in religious authority needs to be vigilant with themselves. Protect yourself with a strong spiritual regimen, mentorship that can hold you accountable, and do not put yourself in a situation where you could be lead astray. Always give priority to your family and be extra cautious in your interactions.

To the family and friends of these people that don’t want to feel like they’re letting down someone that they love, do not fall victim to the misguided loyalty of the days of ignorance. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said support your brother when he’s an oppressor by stopping him from oppressing. If you really loved him, you’d stop him from ruining his hereafter even further for the justice of this world is far lighter than the justice served in the hereafter. If you really loved him, you’d want him to correct himself and get help so that he may come back to Allah and start making amends. Stopping the oppressor is for his own good.

Allah Knows and Allah’s Deen is Pure

Finally, to the onlookers who are damaged when scandals about their favorite teachers start to be known. You are not alone. Some of you may have become Muslim because of this person. Some of you may have spent days, weeks, or even years, on their lectures. Through the internet, they’ve become a part of your family. But here is the thing, what made you love them was that they brought you closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). You weren’t listening to them sing songs or make movies, you were listening to them teach you about Divine revelation. Let the object of your love remain the religion, and the people simply be the vessels. That way if one vessel breaks, the contents need to be transferred. The religion remains perfect and sound, even when those representing it fail to live up to it. Pray that Allah rectifies those who taught you the religion, support their victims, and let this be a lesson that no one after the Prophets 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) is infallible. Let your hope and expectations only be in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

And by the way, good teachers still remain. As heartbroken as I have been by so many scandals, I still reflect on the beautiful teachers and colleagues I have known that are models of transparency and loyalty. They still exist, but the ugly ones seem to obscure the beauty.

Don’t let the failure of a few cause you to stop seeing the beauty in many.

May Allah protect our hearts, families, and communities. Ameen

Imam Omar Suleiman is the Founder & President Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research 
www.yaqeeninstitute.org

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Imam Omar Suleiman is the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, and an Adjunct Professor of Islamic Studies in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at SMU (Southern Methodist University). He is also the Resident Scholar at Valley Ranch Islamic Center and Co-Chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square. He holds a Bachelors in Accounting, a Bachelors in Islamic Law, a Masters in Islamic Finance, a Masters in Political History, and is currently pursuing a Phd. in Islamic Thought and Civilization from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Omar

    June 3, 2017 at 9:08 PM

    Possibly the most truthful and brave article ever written on a topic that is often brushed under the carpet or turned a cold shoulder.

    I like how you tried to end with positive note Shaykh Omar Suleiman – wouldn’t expect anything less from you knowing your prophetic spiritual optimism… and I pray to Allah that this isn’t my bitterness against lousy corrupt Muslim du’ats/scholars speaking, but rather it’s the genuine scars and tears of concern having loved ones being put through great harm by the superstars of Da’wah… I can almost guarantee you Shaykh the so called “beautiful teachers and colleagues” that you speak about in your article and call them “models of transparency and loyalty” have many skeletons in their closets that just haven’t come out yet and this is why you see them as “beautiful”. You may be in awe of the beauty with which Allah has hidden their crimes against mankind but this does not change the fact that they are evil self-righteous shayateen inside.

    You see Shaykh, you’re part of the da’wah world so how another scholar interacts with you is different to how they interact with us. The way a speaker may treat you is different to how they treat us. If you/or your family (God forbid) were wronged by one of them (may Allah protect you) it can become a public issue and damage their self-righteous image within the Da’wah world so they would be very cautious of ever doing that to you. But when it comes to the average Muslim or Muslimah its easy for these shayateen to wrong them knowing the person can do no harm to them because of their position & name in society and so they can carry on protecting their self-righteous public image. They put on this false robe of piety hiding behind titles of “Shaykh” and “Dr.” and treat you so well because you’re a colleague, but as you and I know from your epic #40onJustice series the true character of a person is not defined by how they treat their peers it’s about how they treat the most weak and vulnerable.

    If one of us common people is wronged who do we go to Shaykh? Who will even believe us against someone who is known for his religiosity and piety? And even if we do (and I speak by experience here) as you rightly state the equally corrupt leaders of our dawah institutes provide cover for their “Superstar da’ee” so that their image and the name of the organisations is protected. I went to one such leader of an organisation to get help with my case and the response I got from them, and I quote verbatim from his email response “Regardless if you like it or not there are over a million folks he has touched one way or the other, we don’t want to ruin it.” These so called pioneers of the da’wah world that go Hajj and Umrah every year don’t even have the backbone nor the eman to stand by the oppressed and instead cover the crimes of their speakers and just ignore your requests until you just give up asking them and are left with no one but Allah and nothing but the power of du’a.

    My message of optimism for all those that have been harmed by these wolves in sheep’s clothing know that he who has no one has Allah and the one who has Allah by his/her side then know that the one who has harmed you is Allah’s criminal and Allah deals with criminals severely. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed about a woman who prayed during the night, fasted during the day and gave in charity but was abusive to her neighbors. The Prophet (peace be upon him) not only announced her place in hell but also said “There is NO GOOD INSIDE OF HER she’s in the fire of Hell.”

    Even if these so called “scholars” graduated from inside that Ka’bah walahi it would not benefit them if they wronged another person. Even if they raised a million dollars in charity for Syria and Palestine on their Facebook pages inshaAllah it would all be nullified and even if they stood the night in prayer like the woman who the Prophet (peace be upon him) was informed about it would still not save them from the judgement of Allah and paying for every crime against an innocent creation of Allah.

    I and many of my loved ones have been harmed by these wolves in sheep’s clothing and my greatest du’a in the coming last ten nights of Ramadan for every such so called Muslim scholar and their supporters is that despite their fasting, prayers, lectures and charity the Messenger (peace be upon him) himself rejects these scums on the Day of Judgement and says the same words he said about that woman “There is no good inside any of them…”, Allahumma ameen.

    The Prophet (peace be upon him) would also often make a du’a which I have found much comfort in, knowing that Allah is the one who will avenge the ones who have been wronged “O Allah… support me against the one who has wronged me and avenge me.” – classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Adab al-Mufrad.

    With tears in my eyes and a heavy-heart I would like to sincerely thank you for writing such an honest article on such a oft-neglected topic Shaykh Omar and I sincerely pray that you never become one of these self-righteous scholars that takes advantage of the weak and that Allah exposes these criminals in front of you and you disassociate yourself from them and their institutes very soon, Allahumma ameen.

    • Avatar

      bmh

      June 4, 2017 at 3:49 AM

      that comment above though..

    • Avatar

      Anda

      June 4, 2017 at 6:14 AM

      There is so much hurt, damage and bitterness in your words, you must have experienced something really bad… For the sake of your own spiritual sanity I would advise you to entrust Allah with this matter of yours. Have you heard of this dua
      حسبي اللہ ونعم الوکيل (Hasbiya Allah wa nee’ma al Wakeel – Allah is Sufficient for me, and He is the Best Trustee).
      Let these words be close to your heart instead of uttering revengeful, bitter words in your dua, maybe you’ll find your peace of mind and heart again inshaAllah…

      • Avatar

        Omar

        June 4, 2017 at 8:10 AM

        Anda – Shukran for your concern and supportive words. Alhumdulilah, my mind and heart are already at peace.

        I don’t know why people always assume that if you’re making du’a against your wrongdoer that somehow that automatically makes one bitter and somehow that’s spiritually damaging. Du’a has been the greatest revival of my faith in Allah, alhumdulilah.

        My eman is at the greatest peak it has ever been alhumdulilah because I have risen strong from the greatest test of my faith, alhumdulilah… as the tag line of the article itself states “The *most difficult test* of one’s faith: the moral corruption of a spiritual teacher”. It has been an immensely great test and challenge and I know Allah put me through this challenge because I had the capacity to rise strong from this challenge and become stronger than ever. The spiritual strength and freedom that I feel now I doubt majority of believers would ever even get to experience spirituality at such heights, alhumdulilah.

        Du’a is the greatest act of worship and Allah is sufficient for the believers – yes I know this du’a and make it frequently shukran for the reminder :) …and what could be more of a greater expression of one’s trust in Allah than when they are wronged and are in distress they turn to Allah in du’a and know that Allah has their back and will reward them without account for their patience and avenge the harm done to them.

        Contrary to popular belief and unIslamic teachings from majority of du’ats and scholars that making du’a against your wrongdoer just means your bitter and spiritually damaged I can tell you for sure that du’a has been my greatest strength in this trial and if I didn’t have du’a I probably would not have faith. Du’a is a sign of strength not weakness. Du’a is a sign of optimism not bitterness and resentfulness. Du’a against someone who is evil brings peace to the heart because you know Allah is with you and He hears you and promises to answer you.

        I seriously despise those scholars who teach people to just forgive, let go, move on and don’t make du’a against their wrongdoer. Nothing can be more damaging spiritually than to cover your wounds with a flimsy plaster and just ignore it and move on. Sure, forgiveness is the way of the believer and it is only the diseased heart that constantly holds grudges against each and every person no matter how small the harm, but there are some crimes that are beyond human decency and especially when the person has been given multiple chances for forgiveness but are too self-righteous to even acknowledge their sins, for such people du’a is your greatest weapon against them.

        Du’a is a cure and a healing process, whereby you call out to the One in the Heavens and leave all your affairs to Him and then move on with optimism knowing Allah has your back. It can only become damaging when you don’t have full yaqeen in Allah that He will bring your wrongdoers to justice and you consume yourself with your bitterness and don’t see the beauty in life and positiveness of rising strong …and I have full yaqeen without a shadow of a doubt that every du’a that I make against these evil scholars will come true and they will have the most humiliating ending in this world and the next, Allahumma ameen.

        When the great companion Sa’id b. Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) one of the 10 promised paradise was slandered by a woman he raised his hands to Allah and made du’a against her. ‘O Allah, if she is lying take away her sight and make her grave in her own house’” The narrator of this incident said “I saw her (later on) when she was blind groping her way along the walls and would cry out, ‘I have been afflicted by the supplication of Sa’id.’ Then one day when she was walking in her land she fell into a well which became her grave.”

        There’s a reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us to “fear the du’a of the one who is wronged” and “the Du’a of the one who is wronged is never rejected” and Allah Himself promises to “answer the call of the one who is wronged even if it be after a while”. Allah and His Messenger wants us to make du’a against our wrongdoers who go beyond human decency in harming you and it is a necessary healing process.

        • Avatar

          Mohsin

          September 22, 2017 at 3:35 PM

          Has this case been proven beyond doubt? The card of ‘character assassination’ has been played with many before

    • Avatar

      Mohammed

      June 4, 2017 at 1:31 PM

      Assalamu Alaikum sister. Thanks for coming out openly about your bad experience with the “superstar shaykhs/ustads”. May Allah swt reward you and heal you.

      The exploitation of women by the “superstar entertaining shaykhs/ustads” are getting known by more people and is very much credible. I have known one such case, and it was shocking to me.

      I request all sisters who have been exploited by these “superstar entertaining shaykhs/ustads” to come out courageously and share your bad experience with shaykh Omar. This will help the Muslim community deal with these wolves in sheep’s cloths.

  2. Avatar

    Sue

    June 4, 2017 at 4:31 AM

    This article doesn’t advise on what to do if you know or are harmed by one of those so-called sheikhs. All I got from this read is that ‘They are bad people but if you say something, people will protect them’. We victims all know that.. But what do we do now? How do we deal with it? How do we make sure it doesn’t happen anymore? Not as useful of an article as I thought..

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      June 6, 2017 at 12:23 AM

      ” Not as useful of an article as I thought..”
      The article is about what the author wanted it to be, not what you want to read.

  3. Avatar

    Zawja Salman

    June 4, 2017 at 5:19 AM

    JazakIllah kher for bringing the topic up.
    It may be the first drop of rain n bring good in future & it may turn iut to be just another article. But im sure a lot of people will appreciate the insight.

  4. Avatar

    Zeba

    June 4, 2017 at 6:03 AM

    I personally think even Imaams or Shaykhs are humans, shaitaan is behind all of us, we as common public should not be so available to be victimize. As soon as you feel danger we should take a back step. And one should always remember that the ultimate solution is Allah no one else, if you give chance shaitaan will utilise it.

  5. Avatar

    Muhammed

    June 4, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    So…..Who are these people and what institutions support them? I’d like to know who I should keep my daughter from..

  6. Avatar

    muslimah

    June 4, 2017 at 1:43 PM

    Salaam. Thank you so much for this! As a victim that spoke out, i would be very much interested to understand, from an islamic point of view, how this would be dealt with. If we dont name the person how can we prevent this from happening in the future to other sisters? or alerting sisters that are already suffering in this situation?

  7. Avatar

    Abu Asiyah

    June 4, 2017 at 1:44 PM

    I think books like “Without Conscience”, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”, “A Sociopath Next Door”, etc should be required reading for everyone – not just Muslims.

    Knowing what to watch out for can really open your eyes. Oftentimes you can tell these people even by the way they talk on the stage. If not, you can usually detect it in their conversation off the stage.

    Knowing to distinguish such people from the rest also helps in distinguishing the true oppressors from those who simply made a mistake. The oppressors pretend to be sorry – but their apologies and tears are simply a cover.

    Having gone through an experience with a teacher like this, I can also vouch for the fact that there are scholars and leaders out there who are truly doing their best to follow in the footsteps of our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). They never take advantage of you, never betray your secrets, and have sincere concern for you instead of looking for personal gain.

    JazakumAllahu khayran brother Omar Suleiman for raising an important topic. We need more awareness about this.

  8. Avatar

    Yaseen

    June 4, 2017 at 1:59 PM

    Can we not share who these shuyouk are? I wouldn’t want my wife, sister, or daughter to be another victim to these people. Didn’t you mention that we should not be silent and be bystanders? Help us protect our loved ones. Enough is enough, these are the lives of real people that are being destroyed.

  9. Avatar

    Mohammed

    June 4, 2017 at 2:11 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum and Ramadan Mubarak Shaykh Omar. May Allah swt reward you immensely for this courageous and brilliantly written article. May Allah swt protect you and your family and raise you in your spiritual rank.

    I have known one such case, and it was shocking to me. I advised to share the experience with you.

    These superstar entertaining ustads may have done much good particularly to our youth. But the injustice they have committed against some of the sisters is absolutely unacceptable and must be brought to community’s knowledge.

    I am worried about the impact to our youth: shattered expectations and demoralization due to the hypocrisy may even cause them to reject the whole notion of moral guidance from religion. Of course, you have addressed this in your article. But, knowledge or awareness is often not a strong enough antidote to a broken heart.

    “The power of influence, the power of a platform that glorifies you, the power of money , the power of having shaykh friends that will legitimize you, the power of having organizations still invite you , the power of knowing that otherwise reasonable people will probably support you in anyway,….” and the resulting emotional imbalance probably have contributed to the Ustad’s adventurous secret escapades.

    These wolves marry for a day or two or for a week in “secret” and then move onto another pasture! What devastation that must have left on the victims.

    I request all sisters who have been exploited by these “superstar entertaining shaykhs/ustads” to come out courageously and share your bad experience with shaykh Omar so that further action can be taken. This will help the Muslim community deal with these wolves in sheep’s cloths. Let the truth about clarity come out.

    To the superstar entertaining ustads: the minimum you can do is to ask forgiveness from these sisters for the damage you have done to them and compensate them financially because they struggling to survive. They trusted you because of your religious reputation, and you misused that trust.

    May Allah swt protect all of us from shaytan and from our own nafs.

    Warm regards,

  10. Avatar

    Imaan

    June 4, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    Thank you so much Shaikh Omer for such an enlightening and truly ground breaking topic. It is insane that such an article is necessary and situations mentioned even prevalent–It’s sickening…and also scary. To think there are victims out there who are silenced and well known figures continue to operate through their lives without knowing what someone they have affected is going through behind restrained oaths…It is mind boggling. Real people going through very real victimization that has for too long been swept under the rug. Scary.

    May God always bring true justice because he is the all just, the always just.

  11. Avatar

    Abdullah

    June 4, 2017 at 4:00 PM

    Reading these comments is leaving me shocked. This seems to be a huge problem? I thought it was a few cases here and there. Maybe i would have heard more if i lived in america. (Im from Europe).

  12. Avatar

    Esha

    June 4, 2017 at 5:31 PM

    This is really really shocking for me, I can’t even believe it. Thanks for making us aware of it.

  13. Avatar

    Umm?

    June 4, 2017 at 5:34 PM

    These are probably all Al maghrib, Al qalam, bayyinah, and zaytunah shaykhs and their affiliates…Probably why nobody ever says who it is. I don’t get it…If these individuals pose such a threat, why don’t we out them? The world is full of spiritual guidance. So if we lose someone […], there’s someone else to replace him. Not accusing […] nor anyone from the above mentioned institutes. Just weird that this is like the second article from this site about this issue and still people are keeping whatever is going on under wraps.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  14. Avatar

    Nora

    June 4, 2017 at 11:15 PM

    Isn’t the imam guilty of covering up if he’s not sharing names? This isn’t brave. This is putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. Unless you’d want this to happen to your sister, daughter, cousin, friend, neighbor why aren’t names being shared?

  15. Avatar

    Ismaeel Abdul Fattah

    June 5, 2017 at 2:30 AM

    Wanting to know the negative experiences of sisters seems like some form of voyeurism, especially when the one asking isn’t a licensed counselor/therapist in a therapy session and especially over this particular medium. Additionally, what’s the point of an anonymous person mentioning a story that cannot be validated other than to rile up the deep-rooted, negative sentiments we have against the clergy? And when is naming names a good idea, especially when the accuser cannot be verified? Hijacking emotions in order to strike at the reputation of a potentially innocent man and create bad blood is pretty low act…..and an act that seems to be all too common these days.

  16. Avatar

    Ameen Yoosufzai

    June 5, 2017 at 5:43 AM

    People who want to know the names and want to do the shaming should instead get their thrill from tabloids. This is not entertainment people. What got us here in the first place is the whole islamotainment industry…

    • Avatar

      justice

      June 5, 2017 at 12:03 PM

      Salaam. To the people here that that are saying we should not name the person, as they believe the stories cannot be validated- IT CAN with proof. Also just to be clear, we are not seeking any kind of thrill from falsly accusing someone innocent. We are are Muslims! Do you even try to understand how hard it is for sisters to come out and speak about such a situation? At the very least be neutral until the proof is shown. I also encourage other sisters to be courageous and come forward and share their stories…Allah is with you.

    • Avatar

      Mian Reagan

      June 6, 2017 at 12:59 AM

      Correction ::: BALTIMORE CITY MOSQUE IMAM. HE IS AFRICAN AMERICAN. NOT MASJID AR- RAHMAH. HE IS POPULAR FOR PERFORMING BIGAMY BASE NIKKAH IN BALTIMORE FOR MARRIED MEN.
      I HAVE MY SOLID SOURCES, CAN BE CONTACTED SHOULD ANYONE CHALLENGE !

  17. Avatar

    umm Fatima

    June 5, 2017 at 12:13 PM

    The problems arise when there is the concept of “favorite preacher”.
    The means of gaining Islamic knowledge nowadays are twisted.
    For those who want to protect their loved ones and themselvesfrom falling prey to such things….please be aware if there appears to be idolization/fanlike behavior towards anyone including preachers , fellow msa-ians, etc

  18. Avatar

    omie

    June 5, 2017 at 4:33 PM

    Some resources for the victims of Abuse are:
    http://www.snapnetwork.org/

    HEART Women & Girls, a Chicago-based organization founded by Nadiah Mohajir and dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health in faith-based communities.
    http://heartwomenandgirls.org/

  19. Umm Zakiyyah

    Umm Zakiyyah

    June 5, 2017 at 6:00 PM

    Thank you for writing on this very important topic. More imams and scholars need to clarify what the role of an Islamic teacher is and make clear where the boundaries are, as many are teaching and behaving in a way that transgresses the rights of others and their role as religious teacher.

    The only question and concern I have is regarding this part: “To the girls that get approached by their favorite speaker at a conference who quickly starts looking for a secret marriage, please don’t be led down that route. Marriage is meant to be a public celebration that protects your rights. A private nikah that likely doesn’t even meet the conditions for a valid one won’t protect you at all. You don’t know a person from a stage or a youtube video.”

    Given the statement “likely doesn’t meet the conditions,” it is unclear what is actually being discussed here. Either a marriage meets the conditions, or it doesn’t.

    Therefore, here is my question:
    In this context, how is a “secret marriage” being defined? Of course, if what is meant by “secret” is zina (fornication or adultery) with the label of “marriage,” then this needs to be both clarified and spoken against in the strongest of terms. If what is meant by “secret” is a private marriage ceremony that is not publicly announced to the entire Muslim community, then we need to be very careful, lest we fall into sin by slandering believers who are doing nothing displeasing to Allah. It is not our right to dictate how someone else’s marriage should look, as long as they adhere to Islamic conditions of marriage. It is the job of the woman’s wali or wakeel to ensure that her rights are protected, and if he has approved the marriage, we have no right to call the marriage “corrupt” or to even tell a woman to turn down the proposal.

    In Islam there are conditions for a nikaah, and if those conditions are met (with the wali and two witnesses), then the marriage is neither secret nor invalid, even if everyone in the community isn’t informed or invited to the nikaah or waleemah.

    Unfortunately, this term “secret marriage” is often used by Muslims in the West to describe polygyny, mainly because some polygynous families opt to tell only family and close friends due to the widespread anti-polygamy sentiments and verbal abuse they withstand from both fellow Muslims and many imams/scholars who wish to change the rules of Islam to subtract plural marriage from what is halaal. Thus, terms like “secret marriage” are used to imply that something “unholy” is happening, even when nothing haraam is going on.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that caution should be exercised when the person proposing marriage is a major speaker and shows signs that he is not interested in making the marriage public, whether in monogamy or polygyny.

    In any case, I think it’s crucial that we define terms in these posts because of the potential for misunderstanding, slander, and violating the rights of believers to live out the marriage they have chosen for themselves (without being harassed by others’ opinions or input, especially on a public scale).

    • Avatar

      Shondha Bati

      June 5, 2017 at 7:01 PM

      Dearest sister, I am a big fan of your writing, and I read you books with polygamous themes with interest. Can I point out though, while polygyny is allowed in our deen, its usually off the table for most families as the practice has not been around for a while. In my family, where we had Islam for at least 6 generations (as far back as I can trace), I find only 1 case of polygamy with 2 wives. When that’s the case “generally”, then polygamy needs to come into discussion and considered a ‘possibility’ by the entire family before finding a wife and suddenly realising that’s a god given right. Otherwise, the feelings of hurt and betrayal can be justified. I think the spiritual teachers need to publicly announce that they and their wives are open to having the practice in their own families before prying on unsuspecting women or at least propose the girlss through a more transparent process, for example involving trusted families.

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        Umm Zakiyyah

        June 5, 2017 at 8:49 PM

        Shonda,

        Thank you for your honest reflections. While your points are valid, they are irrelevant to my point here. Also, even though your points are well-meaning and logical, they are not binding on the Muslim community as a whole, as we have the Book of Allah and prophetic Sunnah for that purpose.

        Like you, I have personal opinions about the best way for polygyny to be practiced in a household. However, I don’t share those publicly under the category of what anyone “should” do, because it is not my right to add to Allah’s religion. I have my own household, and that’s the only household I have any right to share what I believe should happen.

        Also, what I’ve witnessed for more than ten years is the public and private abuse and slander of polygynous families, often under the umbrella of the intentionally derogatory term “secret marriage.” Yet ironically, I haven’t heard one prominent imam, scholar, or speaker address this widespread abuse. Rather, they generally participate in the anti-polygamy dishonesty and harassment of polygynous families. Some go as far as to state or imply that polygyny is not allowed in Islam today.

        I don’t think this is what Imam Omar Suleiman is doing here, but I say this to say we need to separate our emotions and opinions from Islamic rules and even from what we label as “wrong” or “corrupt.”

        I can be justified to feel hurt and betrayed in my own household or marriage. But I have no right to feel or express hurt or betrayal based on someone else’s halaal choices.

        I don’t know anyone in monogamy or polygyny who would appreciate having their marriage labeled “secret” or “corrupt” when they fulfilled Allah’s requirements.

        So while you are certainly justified in having your own personal requirements for marriage, and even feeling hurt and betrayed based on what happens in it, you (nor I or anyone else) has the right to add to what “should” or “should not” happen in any marriage, polygyny or otherwise.

        If we do, we’re answerable to Allah on the Day of Judgment. This is my point, and why I say it is critical to define what is meant by “secret marriage.” If zina under the guise of marriage is not what is being described here, then we’re treading a very dangerous road in what we will be called to account for after we die.

    • Avatar

      Abdullah

      June 6, 2017 at 3:21 AM

      Whenever Rasulullah(SAW) would marry a new wife he wouldnt ask permission from his other wives but he would never make that marriage hidden. He would let the society know of his marriage which is the exact wisdom of walimah. Walimah is a way to let people know this girl they will from now on see you with is your new wife. Never did he try to keep his marriages hidden.

  20. Avatar

    Mohammed

    June 5, 2017 at 6:38 PM

    It was a year or two ago where I live (outside of the USA) when rumour started flying around of a relatively globally well known Sheikh of having taken advantage of one, perhaps more, of his ‘fans’ through inappropriate touching, proposals and God knows what else in the privacy of a room meant to be used for one on one advice.

    It was baffling to see amongst the general community the topic completely brushed under the carpet. They defended their actions by suggesting
    1. that to carry on conversation would amount to back biting,
    2. that there are two sides to every story so we cannot speculate, and
    3. that he is a respected Sheikh (which he undoubtedly is) so we should not only not discuss but not forward the whatsApp message that was doing the rounds.

    So there you have it. Three very convincing reasons to dissuade even a bystander from taking any action. Now imagine how difficult it is for a victim to overcome the emotional and psychological barriers just to be heard, let alone believed.

    I may have missed it, but I wonder why the the article above does not suggest reporting these preachers to the authorities and allow them to carry out thorough investigations.

    • Avatar

      Shondha Bati

      June 5, 2017 at 6:51 PM

      Which authority? The author here described spirtual crimes. None of these are legally ‘crimes’ in western countries, supposedly the countries where the crimes are taking place. As long as they are not marrying under a different name/registering multiple marriages legally, raping, groping, forcing sexual favours how do you report them to the legal authorities?

      • Avatar

        Mohammed Patel

        June 6, 2017 at 5:22 PM

        Read the first paragraph…

        “The man who gives lectures about how to treat women is a vicious womanizer. The televangelist who inspires millions to be better people can’t find the inspiration in his own personal life to not exploit vulnerable fans or oppress his family.”

        I may be wrong but I sense deliberate restraint in choice of words in the above paragraph and the whole article generally so as to maintain an element of doubt regarding what is actually meant by being morally corrupt. But by not naming names of the preachers, whatever the reasons may be, leaves room for us to speculate even the worst.

        And why shouldn’t we. I have seen and heard of people being completely star struck in the presence of their scholars. The sheiks are humans too and are susceptible to the letting their spiritual guard down and end up abusing their power…

        Please let’s not bury our heads in the sand.

  21. Avatar

    Tricia

    June 5, 2017 at 9:52 PM

    Women are still falling for this in 2017?? PSA to the sisters: if he’s too cowardly to marry you in front of his and your family and friends, he’ll be too cowardly to fulfill ANY of your rights when you are married, and will leave you in an equally cowardly way. There are support groups for survivors of toxic leadership in other faith communities and we should follow suit. And to the overgrown boys who are still luring women in: grow up and take a cold shower. With all due respect to Umm Zakiyyah, the cases being referenced here are NOT of healthy, functional, polygnous situations where the wives and households have their needs met and are fulfilled emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically. These are bandits masquerading as imams convincing women that they’ve fallen for them and that the only way out is a secret nikah. What is that, she asks? Then he proceeds to tell her about a minority opinion that grants her none of her rights, him all access and shot calling, and all in the name of Islam, and he picks a wali who’s on payroll. Enter the worst shades of spiritual abuse and manipulation that she is forced to put up with because he has left her with nobody to turn to. PLEASE sisters do not fall prey. Nobody is handsome, charming, religious, charismatic enough to take your dignity away and leave you alone to pick up the pieces.
    A doctor or lawyer who abuses their privileges or breaks the code of conduct of their profession loses their license to practice. This is far more serious and we need to set a precedent that enough is enough. The Facebook and instagram adoring fanbase will not rescue them from Divine justice. I pray for the victims but I also pray that the perpetrators pay dearly for their wrongdoing.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      Umm Zakiyyah

      June 5, 2017 at 11:05 PM

      Tricia,

      Thank you for your comment, specifically “…the cases being referenced here are NOT of healthy, functional, polygnous situations where the wives and households have their needs met and are fulfilled emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically.”

      As a reminder, I merely stated that the meaning of “secret marriage” here should be clearly defined because (as I have witnessed myself on more than one occasion), many imams, scholars, and Islamic teachers (male and female) use the derogatory term “secret marriage” to include ALL polygyny in the West with the aim of painting it as unholy and corrupt because the West doesn’t consider it “lawful.” In fact, I’ve witnessed these speakers, imams, and “scholars” describing polygyny itself as a choice/desire that is indecent, lustful, and corrupt; and thus warning women from agreeing to it *at all.* And it often comes in the same context as warning against genuine evil amongst men or spiritual leaders.

      As I mentioned to the commenter Shondha, I don’t think that’s what Imam Omar is saying here; but when it comes to wide brush terms, it is imperative that we define our terms, lest we send the wrong message unintentionally.

      And yes, the wide brush term “secret marriage” is indeed often applied even when family and friends are involved and approve of the marriage, and when no one in the arrangement is being wronged in any way.

      Therefore, simply defining specifically what a “secret marriage” is in this context can help prevent misunderstanding, as blogs like these have indeed been used to spread anti-polygyny ideology. Because who would argue against the need to stop “corrupt” leaders from preying on innocent women? So by putting polygyny in the same discussion as zina, rape, sexual misconduct, and abuse; no one can defend it, lest they be accused of supporting the aforementioned crimes and sins. And that is unfair.

      This is my point. Let’s stay clear of this by simply explaining what we mean when using terms that have other meanings in similar contexts, and that are often used for the expressed purpose of putting the halaal in the same context as sin, crime, and abuse.

      But I thank you for *your* interpretation of the term. However, that definition is not shared by all Muslims.

  22. Avatar

    Imama

    June 6, 2017 at 10:39 AM

    What often bothers me is that many people consider these “secretive” marriage equivalent of zina, but what they forget is the circumstances of people.

    I would specifically address Omer Sulieman here, if a guy performs a “secret marriage” (given the conditions of consent of wali, mahr etc are satisfied), the article points that the marriage is void. If he announces it, he faces backlash from the Muslim community for ‘getting involved’ with another woman despite having a wife (first one). And finally if he decides that he would divorce the first one and then takes another one (just like the way the monogamous system works in the West), then people pity the poor first wife. Now the thing is that in the later case people are not wrong because usually the first wife would not have money or a job to look after herself. The credit now goes to the fact that since the very beginning girls are taught that their sole responsibility is to take care of the house and make their husbands happy. Unlike the western women who do tend to take their careers alongside the marital wife, majority of muslim women find themselves robbed when the husband leaves them/or they demand divorce if he takes up another wife.

    The irony of Muslim ummah is that we have designed our own set of rules. No one ponders over the point that the second marriage is secretive because some nice guy is trying to protect the first wife while fulfilling the rights of both of them. I agree that it is rare, but rare does not mean that one starts to defy what Allah swt has permitted. Because it is then when adultery becomes way easier, just like in the west, since people avoid divorcing because of the alimony and get engaged in extramarital affairs.

    Rest Allah swt knows the best.

    • Avatar

      Irfaat

      September 26, 2017 at 8:13 PM

      Well said!Agree with you!

    • Avatar

      Irfaat

      September 26, 2017 at 8:25 PM

      I was talking about Imama’s comment!It is hard to find such rational take on this issue

    • Avatar

      Afifa

      September 27, 2017 at 5:43 AM

      Agree with Imama. Allah said,’Don’t put yourselves in front of Allah and His messenger'(49:1).We need to make sure that our opinions and stance on issues are in submission to Allah and His Messenger (PBUH),not in submission to society or culture.

  23. Avatar

    Ruhee

    June 6, 2017 at 12:32 PM

    Did you talk to that scholar about this extremely serious issue? You can ask him to stop it. It seems you know him and even his colleagues as well, who you think are covering his sin as you claimed. So it’s quite easy for you to confront him and listen to him. It may be so that what you are thinking and convinced of is a complete lie and misunderstanding. Go talk to him Shaikh. Correct him with your ‘ilm and ‘hikmah. Then come to tell us how ‘ugly’ or innocent a man he really is.

    Thanks y’all!

  24. Avatar

    Arjmand

    June 6, 2017 at 6:46 PM

    Assalamu alaykum,

    My concern after reading this very well written article is that how do we know that the so called shaykh/scholar that inspires us with inspiring talk is actually someone else behind the scenes? Wouldn’t Allah SWT not inspire people through him? Or when he inspires people, does it automatically mean that he is close to Allah? It is very confusing for me and scary for me to be honest.

    Thank you

  25. Avatar

    Upset

    June 7, 2017 at 1:51 PM

    Aasalam alaikum. This is a disgrace , sisters put in a position when this person should respect and be trusted, but abused his position. Name and shame, his name needs to be told, and never again let near our sisters.

  26. Avatar

    Rabia

    June 7, 2017 at 7:27 PM

    Unfortunately and sadly — I know that this happens and is widespread. We should all be infuriated and ashamed.

    Parents, friends, leaders or concerned community members should keep close contact with young women who attend gatherings or retreats in these spaces, even in their adult years. If you find them withdrawn, suddenly changing their behavior, hiding information or hinting at trouble, take them seriously. It may mean the difference between them coming to you if they experience or see something troubling, or letting it silently eat away at their faith. It may very well start with an “innocent” facebook message, tweet, or text exchange with their favorite “scholar”.

    Women who have been victimized should take heart that Allah hears and sees all. Your silent tears are precious and weighty in His eyes. If you find yourself hiding parts of yourself or your life from the people you love and who love you, know that you are in a very unhealthy situation, and it’s never too late to make a change. Nobody who sincerely cares for you and your well being and future would ask you to keep hidden in the shadows what God has commanded to be made manifest and clear. Especially if he tells you that it’s just temporary or that he just needs time, or that you’re the only one who understands him, or that he can’t function without you in his life, if only you would change this or agree to that or tone down your questioning…only to look up and realize that years of your life have passed by catering to his whims — this is classic, deliberate, and well-trained manipulation.

    I know that I speak for other mothers when I say to these men that if I know who you are and what you’ve done, you will never have a platform to speak at any conference, event, intensive, or take anyone else for a ride on your ego-train ever again.

  27. Avatar

    Juwairiyah Khan

    June 8, 2017 at 7:45 PM

    This needed to be addressed! It was long overdue tbh!

    May Allah swt preserve n protect Shaykh Omar Suleiman, amen.

    I guess all Muslim organisations should be posted with the info Shaykh Omar and other reliable speakers and scholars have on such corrupt speakers and scholars for the safety of the ummah!

    We cannot just wait for things to come out on their own! It will be too late by then. Look at how Adnan Oktar, Haroon Yahya, influenced the Muslim youth and how his poisonous version of Islam penetrated their hearts!

    Allahumma arinal haqqa haqqaw warzuqnat tiba’ah, wa arinal batila batilaw warzuqnaj tinabah

    Translation: O Allah! show us the truth as true, and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it.

  28. Avatar

    Abdul

    June 10, 2017 at 1:02 PM

    Sh Omar, JazakAllah for bringing light to this. May Allah preserve you, Ameen.
    1) Without naming names, how do we truly deal with this issue?
    2) Is it the responsibility of those who know to publicize and spread what they know to be 100% true?
    3) At what point is “morally corrupt” a permanent label for the person for the rest of their life?

  29. Avatar

    Soumayah

    June 10, 2017 at 9:35 PM

    Here are my 2 suggestions:
    1) I strongly advise that before you invest your trust, membership and money into any of these organizations or collectives, you ask about credentials. Being eloquent is not a credential. Who someone knows or who they worked for a decade ago is not a credential. Women and men, current and former employees and co-workers, or students who can vouch for their education, public AND private character, and who can speak to any concerns you have about the individual should be readily accessible to anybody who inquires, without shame or guilt. If something doesn’t sit right with you about them, don’t ignore those feelings. Those are the demands of this profession where souls are entrusted to their care.

    2) We do not have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand for fear of consequences to people’s faith. We are way past that stage. Women and families have been damaged with no recourse for rectification. You are accountable for the hearts that you have broken. Having a board of directors of close friends and associates that serves at the pleasure of one figure head is not sufficient. Enabling power to grow unchecked because of cult-like ideas about spiritual favor is a major, major problem. If you can’t be voted out of your role by the membership you claim to serve, something is wrong. If you can’t be held accountable when multitudes of women have raised their hands to report concerns, only to be silenced and marginalized, something is very wrong.

    I raise my hands to Almighty God and ask that these imposters are exposed and eliminated from our midst, one by one!

  30. Avatar

    Zainab N

    June 12, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    I read this article and the following questions came to mind: Did you even try talking to the person that you deem so corrupt? Whatever happened to covering sins of your muslim brothers? There are two sides to every story and sometimes its best to resolve issues behind closed doors without making it a public spectacle or using an issue to gain sympathy and popularity.

  31. Avatar

    suraiya kasim

    September 24, 2017 at 3:35 AM

    Asalamualaikum – are you saying that the person is currupt so we must stop learning from him even though what he has taught has been beneficial? The message is right the person is not, does that disqualify the message as well?

  32. Avatar

    Noor

    September 26, 2017 at 6:01 AM

    “The power of having organizations still invite you to their programs to fill seats despite knowing about you”-Unbelievable!In Surah Asr, we as muslims, are told to keep reminding each other Allah’s words.No one has the right to stop someone from doing that. NO ONE.

    • Avatar

      Afifa

      September 27, 2017 at 6:07 AM

      Exactly!Islam gives right to judge behavior,not people.Retaliation is not justice.May Allah not make us of those who pick on and expose the flaws of fellow muslims in the pretense of standing up for haqq.May Allah make us of those who speak out against wrong not out of hate or sense of superiority,but out of love.

  33. Avatar

    Noor

    September 26, 2017 at 6:21 AM

    ‘That way if one vessel breaks, the contents need to be transferred….by the way, good teachers still remain.’-Really?Who are you to suggest to write someone off!Only Rasul (PBUH) was the perfect embodiment of the all the teachings of Islam. We,on the other hand are just work in progress.

    • Avatar

      Afifa

      September 27, 2017 at 6:18 AM

      No one is immune to slip-up.The beauty of Islam is that it doesn’t have a clergy culture.No matter how hard one tries to convince that.May Allah protect us from thinking ourselves superior for our service to Allah just like iblees did.

  34. Avatar

    Noor

    September 26, 2017 at 6:30 AM

    ‘Don’t let the failure of a few cause you to stop seeing the beauty in many.’-Why so eager to show the ‘holier than thou’ image of people instead of the beauty in Islam!FYI,’The televangelist who inspires millions to be better people’ has never claimed to be above other muslims.

  35. Avatar

    Ameen

    September 27, 2017 at 8:04 AM

    Islam is first and foremost about honesty. The Prophet was Sadiq al Ameen.

    As a Muslim brother, I am from the bottom of my heart counseling my brothers that if anyone takes a second wife secretly and does not tell his first wife, then he is not just saying one lie to his first wife but his day and night will be full of lies.

    Allah says that marriage is a SOLEMN PLEDGE (Surah 4, verse 21).

    There can be NOTHING worse in breaking this solemn pledge than in taking a second wife without her knowing.

    Doing this will be evil.

    You are being deceived by the Shaitan and your desires if you deceive your first wife.

    Don’t compromise the negatives effects on your eternal hereafter by letting your lusts make you not only lie but live a life of lies after lies after lies.

    You will then be unhappy in this life and you will be harming your eternal hereafter.

    Taking a second wife is not usually a terrible idea even if it is allowable.

    Why decrease your time in getting closer to Allah through reading the Qur’an, helping those in need?

    If you want to help someone who is not married, help a couple who cannot afford to get married by paying for them to get married.

    There are hundreds of millions of such cases overseas and even some in N. America.

    Marrying a second wife without your first wife being acceptable for that is even worse.

    But supremely worse of all is to marry a second wife without the first wife knowing.

    Do what is good for your soul.

    Don’t let your lust have the ability to rust your akhirat.

    Remember, very soon every human reading this post will turn to dust.

    We all die and the secrets will be on display for all on the Day of Judgement.

  36. Avatar

    Roneca

    September 27, 2017 at 1:46 PM

    Stop throwing words like ‘innocent’,’victim’,’oppressed’ for consenting adult women.

  37. Avatar

    Ovais jamshed

    September 27, 2017 at 5:51 PM

    Asalam o alikum to all,

    It is absolutely heartbreaking for me to see one of heroes getting stuck in this test. I just can’t put deaf ears to either one of them as they both have proven their credibility for years. Omer and the other one I loved you guys for the sake of Allah and I have a very strong believe that when Allah compare the sins to the good he has done for the community, he will get his report card in his right hand inshAllah.

    I hope this is not something based on jealousy or to solidify one school of thought mindset.

    RasoolAllah S.A.W said:
    “Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.”

  38. Avatar

    Rahad

    September 28, 2017 at 9:37 AM

    Assalamu alaikum sheikh Omar.
    I know you are trying to save community & all. It has elements of gheebah as far as the hadith is concerned.
    RasoolAllah taught us:
    “Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.”
    Even if you are fully certain that a person is a “sinner”, how do you know that person hasn’t made sincere tawba & Allah hasnt forgiven that person?
    If you know this person, don’t you think the islamic way would be to sit down & talk to them with genuine intentions of correcting them. Advertising colleague/ex-colleagues “faults” also has an element of self ego. Your reasoning may be valid to yourself but Have you ever thought that shaytan does play a role when it comes to turning one brother against another? This is what he promised to Allah, right? Allah knows whats in people’s heart & who is truly victimised? In Islam, a person’s dignity is of high importance. Sharia takes every measures to protect it.

  39. Avatar

    Roneca

    September 29, 2017 at 3:44 AM

    Making tauba and personally apologizing to the person you have publicly slandered is not enough.You also owe us apology.If you’ve an ounce of decency,take this article down.It exposes you more than the person you intended.

  40. Avatar

    Noor

    October 2, 2017 at 7:10 AM

    What do I do when I find out my favorite preacher has forgotten this Hadith:
    Narrated by Abu Huraira (radhiAllahu ‘anha),
    “I heard Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) saying. “All the sins of my followers will be forgiven except those of the Mujahirin (those who commit a sin openly or disclose their sins to the people). An example of such disclosure is that a person commits a sin at night and though Allah screens it from the public, then he comes in the morning, and says, ‘O so-and-so, I did such-and-such (evil) deed yesterday,’ though he spent his night screened by his Lord (none knowing about his sin) and in the morning he removes Allah’s screen from himself.”
    Sahih al-Bukhari (#6069)
    Even if we assume your allegations are true,since when is it Islamic to confess our sins to the masses!How many of our sins has Allah hidden from the public. Can we not show the same courtesy to others!
    *Muslim Matters!Don’t be a hypocrite.Don’t delete this comment!

  41. Avatar

    Anila Jahangiri

    December 9, 2017 at 11:49 PM

    Sheikh Omer,

    I think you wrote this in anger since if you weren’t in anger, you would realize that you can’t insinuate about people’s characters in Islam. Whatever that Sheikh did or not, a court needs to deal with it if there was a crime committed and if there wasn’t, then no one talks about another person’s moral failures. I live in Dallas and if you are interested, I am interested in brokering peace between you and Nouman Ali Khan.

  42. Avatar

    Bilqis

    March 3, 2018 at 3:22 PM

    Sheikhs are just as human as anyone else. They will naturally be disposed to the same sins as everyone else, regardless of their knowledge. It is our job to be the stewards of our own deen. What is wrong in our communities is how we put up with crooked, manipulative imams and mosque boards unless we be shunned from the community for criticizing the way things are run on behalf of preserving the religion. If a sheikh does something wrong, call him out. No more culture of silence. We need a culture of accountability.

  43. Avatar

    Nabila

    June 28, 2018 at 3:36 PM

    I can see Imam OS you are advertising yourself and your yaqeen institute by insinuating that when one vessel breaks..transfer the contents and that good teachers still exist.You are so concerned about convincing people that NAK is a gone case and they now should look up you? Really??? This sounds like you this is what this whole scheme was about.To earn popularity through scandal.Rooted in jealousy!!! Otherwise you and the other good teachers you claim are also human beings who have sins.Just because you commit different sins from NAK’s( I totally believe NAK is innocent) does not make you angels as evidenced by this very post of yours.This is slander

  44. Avatar

    Nabila

    June 28, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    ‘Exposing’ your brother to the public was because you wanted some of his customers and fans for yourself.We see right through this sir. Allah warns about wishing for ourselves what He has favoured others with…look for popularity and customers the honourable way brother

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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. 

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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!

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#Current Affairs

A Response To Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments On Uyghurs

Toqa Badran and Aydin Anwar respond to the statements made by Shaykh Habib Ali Al-Jifri

Ghulja

Protests preceding the Ghulja Massacre, 1997

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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.

By Toqa Badran, Aydin Anwar 

We acknowledge that those individuals who have devoted their lives to the spiritual empowerment of others are to be admired and respected. The Ulema often serve as beacons of guidance and sources of emulation for the Ummah with their scholarly and moral leadership. Their critical role means that they are also expected to speak and act according to a higher standard of truthfulness and ethics. Bearing this in mind makes it especially dismaying and hurtful to witness inaccurate comments from a famous preacher and scholar who should be a part of this heritage of high intellectual rigour and superior moral conduct. It is even more problematic that these erroneous statements pertain to a group of fellow Muslims presently experiencing almost unprecedented duress to criminalize and eradicate their religion and cultural identity. 

It is unfortunate that Habib Ali al-Jifri, a popular scholar in the Arab world, in a recent lecture has misused his platform by propagating information that is all at once incorrect, biased, and otherwise detrimental to the lives of an entire Muslim nation colonized and oppressed by China. Although he tepidly acknowledges that China has done wrong to Uyghurs and is not fully innocent, a number of his claims remain inaccurate and deserve to be corrected. This article attempts to walk through some of these inaccuracies, and correct such claims that ultimately work to delegitimize and downplay the deplorable reality of Uyghurs and other Turkic-Muslim peoples, such as Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, of East Turkistan (renamed and referred to as Xinjiang, meaning new territory in Mandarin, by the Chinese occupation). 

#1: Shaykh Ali al-Jifri claims that only around half of Uyghurs are Muslim

The first glaring error made by the shaykh is his statement that only around half of the Uyghur population is Muslim. His error may have been a result of confusing the presently reported demographic makeup of East Turkistan with the religious composition of the Uyghur people. While the Uyghur and indigenous inhabitants of the region are overwhelmingly Muslim, the Han Chinese population has climbed drastically from only 6% in 1949 to an estimated 40% – due largely to incentivized migration and other – settler colonial programs embarked upon by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This statistic itself may be unreliable as many undocumented Uyghurs are unaccounted for and, in recent years, scores of Uyghur prisoners and forced laborers have been forcibly transferred to mainland China. 

If, however, al-Jifri meant to propogate the notion that only half of Uyghurs are Muslim, this is another matter altogether. To deny the self-professed Islamic faith of the utter majority of Uyghur people is to commit one of atrocities perpetrated by the CCP itself — the denial and erasure of this long persecuted population’s faith. As for the rootedness of Islam among this people, it has been the predominant religion among Uyghurs in East Turkistan– long before Egypt, or even the Levant, became majority Muslim societies during the Mamluk era. Much of the Islamicization of Central Asia and the Turkic world has been credited to the Karakhanids – a group of Turkic tribes who lived in the Uyghur homeland and converted to Islam in the 10th century (4th century Hijri), after their ruler Sultan Abdulkerim Bughra Khan entered the faith (Svat Soucek. A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. 2002, pp 84).

Uyghurs were also historically part of the Chagatay Turkic Khanate, whence the rulers of the Mughal Dynasty — who ruled much of India for over two centuries — hailed. Tasawwuf-inflected preaching was a key driver in conversions among these Turkic tribes in ways reminiscent of Islam’s spread at the hands of itinerant Hadhrami Sufi scholars and merchants — from whom Habib Ali hails  — across the Indian Ocean littoral and Nusantara (Malay world).

Map of East Turkistan in relation to the rest of Central Asia. East Turkistan is the same size as California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada combined. 

Source: International Crisis Group

Starting with the aforementioned Karakhanids in the 10th century, Islamic institutions were founded and devoted to the study of theology, natural science, arts, music, and more. These institutions allowed for the emergence of hundreds of prominent Turkic scholars, who helped shape and record Islamic, Turkic, and specifically Uyghur history through their works: The likes of Mahmud Kashgari’s Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk, the first comprehensive dictionary of Turkic languages. Yusuf Khās Hājib’s Kutadgu Bilig, a mirror-for-princes in prose from the 11th century that shed light on Turkish-Islamic history and culture, and is perhaps one of the earliest surviving Turkic works in the genre of akhlāq (Islamic morality and ethics). The Turks of the region have also been greatly impacted by the Yasawī sufi order which helped make communal dhikr gatherings part and parcel of Uyghur culture. The influence of sufism is also evident in the prevalence of  Sufi shrines — most of which have since been systematically destroyed or left abandoned after being blocked off with barbed wire by the CCP.

The survival of old Quranic manuscripts from the area, as well as manuscripts from the 19th and 20th century, testify to the centrality of the Islamic intellectual tradition and its preservation within Uyghur culture. Thousands of beautiful mosques were constructed throughout the region, many of which have been demolished in recent years by the CCP regime. Had they not been places of great significance and visitation, it begs the question as to why the Chinese government would  bother razing them. Kashgar, the historic capital of the Karakhanid Empire and “jewel” of the Silk Road, became a prominent center of learning and hub showcasing the rich Uyghur past. Yarkend had also been a particular center of Islamic learning and culture for centuries, with dozens of madrasahs present in the last decades of the nineteenth century. It even holds Queen Amanisa Khan’s shrine, where the 12 Muqam (classical Sufi dance and song performance pieces that are a central Uyghur heritage form) were established. 

It is now clear that not only have the vast majority of Uyghurs been Muslim since the 11th century at least, but that the history of East Turkistan cannot be separated from that of the greater Muslim world. Like most Turkic Muslims, Uyghurs have traditionally belonged to Ahl as-Sunnah (the mainstream and overwhelming majority of Muslims), the legal school of Hanafism, and have immense love for the noble Ahl al-Bayt (family and descendants of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ). Uyghurs had even established a maqam (shrine) dedicated to the 8th century scholar and descendant of the Prophet ﷺ, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq – through whom Habib Ali traces his lineage back to the Prophet ﷺ – near the town of Khotan in East Turkistan, which was destroyed by the CCP. If segments of Uyghur society are not practicing Muslims today, it is mostly due to the Communist repression since WWII, just as Soviet anti-religious repression led to the radical decrease in religious literacy and practice in neighbouring Turkic republics. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy and heartening to see that some of the Central Asian republics are currently experiencing a gradual revival of Islamic observance thanks to the demise of oppressive policies, hinting at how the Uyghur religious life could flourish if and when repressive policies in East Turkistan cease.

Before and After of Imam Jafari al-Sadiq shrine. L-R Dec 10 2013, April 20, 2019. 

Photograph: Google Earth/Planet Labs 

The systematic aggression with which the Chinese government has sought to stamp out the works produced by Uyghur scholars and the many ancient Muslim cities scattered across East Turkistan is evidence of their historical importance. From banning the publication of texts in the Uyghur language, closing all religious spaces, and transforming historic sites into propaganda centers for the dissemination of a sanitized, non-religious, and state-sponsored Uyghur identity, it is clear that the CCP feels not only threatened by Uyghur culture, but is aware of its power in maintaining a social fabric worthy of any independent nation. 

And with all of the aforementioned said, we pose the question: Even if the majority of Uyghurs were not Muslim as the shaykh incorrectly claimed, does this excuse Muslims elsewhere of their duty to stand against oppression? Over the course of his commentary on the plight of the Uyghur people, the shaykh himself asked the audience why we [Muslims] are only angry when China oppresses Uyghurs and not the Buddhist Tibetans. Not only does this question contradict his initial premise that the Uyghur community cannot be referred to as overwhelmingly Muslim, but also deeply confuses the listener: “Are we to fight against oppression, regardless of the religion of the oppressed, or not?” We would argue that it is not only an obligation for Muslims, but for all people to resist their own oppression and the oppression of others — especially if this oppression manifests as the criminalization of the most fundamental practices of a people’s faith, Islam in this case. The East Turkistani independence movement itself has always allied itself with those of the Tibetan, Palestinian, and Kashmiri people. It has been incorrectly posited by the shaykh that Uyghurs have only been oppressed for the last 3-5 years. While this is demonstrably false, through the decades-long occupation Uyghurs have faced, what is worse is that he makes this claim in order to draw a false equivalence (between East Turkistan and the Tibetan people) in the hopes of delegitimizing the plight and cause of those in East Turkistan. Worse still, is that when the shaykh is confronted with the truth of the 70+ long years of Chinese colonization of Uyghur lands, he contests its factuality by responding that if China were really so bad then we would see the individual politicians responsible for the colonization personally affected by the Chinese Coronavirus. We question the legitimacy of this apparently necessary correlation and will do so again later in this paper. Furthermore, now that we know that the Uyghur identity is as much an Islamic one as his own Arab identity and that Chinese oppression has been occurring for almost a century, do the scholar’s recommendations change? 

#2: Shaykh Al-Jifri claims that the question of Uyghur oppression is a political, not religious, one 

We would like to preface this section by making it clear that Islam rejects the false dichotomy between the religious and the secular. What is “political” is not necessarily devoid of religious significance, and what is “religious” is not necessarily apolitical. While the Sharia’s precepts pertaining to siyasah (governance and ‘urfi/customary-public law) are mostly general, with few exact prescriptions established by the sources of Sharia (al-adillah al-sharʿiyyah), Muslims have always conceived of politics as a space bound by Islamic morality and ethics, akhlāq. As with any other dimension of human life, a person’s moral culpability before God extends into the domain of the “political” just as it extends into the domain of the economic, familial, ritual, etc. 

While it is true that colonization is often understood as a political phenomenon and not a religious one, religion has featured prominently both as a pretext and the locus of subjugation in China’s crimes against the Uyghur people. China brands its campaign against the Uyghurs as a fight  against “Islamic extremism” in an attempt to ride on the coattails of the global “War on Terror” thereby garnering  sympathy for its policies — including the imprisonment of millions of Turkic peoples into concentration camps and prisons — and insulate itself from backlash it would otherwise face as a result of its inhumanity in East Turkistan. Like Modi’s India and many Western nations, China exploits the world’s frenzied paranoia surrounding “Muslim terror” to justify its crackdown on innocent Muslims.

“Ubiquitous scene on the streets of  #Xinjiang these days. Men and women (inc. the elderly) trudging around with enormous clubs, part of the ‘People’s War’ on terrorism.” – David Brophy, Nov 15th 2017 

We acknowledge, however, that if this matter was purely religious, and not political, we would see Hui Muslims, who do not have a territorial claim at stake, rounded up into concentration camps and being subject to the same forms of oppression Uyghurs and other Turkic people are. However, this is not the case. Huis have historically been left largely undisturbed for the sake of maintaining the CCP’s facade of religious acceptance — or at most they are subject to the usual disruptions any religious group faces under the anti-religious CCP. Historically, the Hui have been staunch supporters of the Chinese state, and even played a critical role in the dismantling of the first East Turkistan Republic of 1933 and the second of 1944.. This did not spare them, however, from the current religious crackdown they and other faith groups like Christians face, once again highlighting the inextricably religious dimension of the CCP’s supposedly merely “political” project. As though rounding up innocents into concentration camps and subjecting an entire people to violations of fundamental human rights as part of a larger campaign of ethnic cleansing and cultural destruction would be anything less than heinous, even if religion played no role in the matter.

Much of Uyghur and, by extension, all Central Asian Turkic identity, has centered on religion; Uyghurs and other Turks are Muslim, just like Malays have been Muslim based on historical development in the past millennium. Historically, up until the 1930s, Uyghurs were not commonly referred to as “Uyghurs” — they and other Turkic Muslims of East Turkistan were simply referred to as “Musulman” (Muslim), “Turki” (Turk), or “yerlik” (local). This truth further explains why China has been so adamant in removing religion from the lives of East Turkistanis — Islam is so critical to the history and culture of the Turkic presence that the CCP knows that, without it, East Turkistanis will be left weak and purposeless– easily converted into malleable forced worshippers of the party, and indistinguishable from the rest of China’s largely atheist, but nominally Confucian, Buddhist or Taoist Han majority. Not to mention that they are then exploited in China’s massive hypocritically capitalistic labour scheme — which most of Chinese masses also suffer from. 

Claiming that the oppression is not a religious matter implies that Muslims need not care about the Uyghurs out of religious concern, while in reality our blood should be boiling knowing that the rights of God and His worshippers are being violated by the CCP. Muslims around the world rightly condemn and stand in solidarity against zionist oppression in Palestine, though, by the shaykh’s standards, this would be appear a purely political project undeserving of collective Muslim outrage. The Israeli state-apparatus oppresses Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike. The CCP has singled out Muslims, however, especially those in East Turkistan, as the targets of their brutal project. Again, we see that this is both a religious and political issue against which all Muslims and conscientious human beings should speak and fight. Just as we all wish for the freedom of Palestine sooner rather than later, we should pray, speak, and fight for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in East Turkistan.

Practicing Islam is categorically forbidden in East Turkistan, despite China’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Islamic texts and names are banned, practicing most of the five pillars of Islam is forbidden, and centuries old Islamic institutions have been destroyed and converted into communist propaganda centers. Religious scholars (ulema) have disappeared, sentenced to life in prison, or killed.

These tragedies are never publicized within China’s borders — and their occurrence is aggressively denied by the Chinese media apparatus. Instead, the media tokenizes and highlights a few religious acts, in reality no more than complex theatrics which the government has directed in order to showcase the power of “CCP Islam”. Journalists and political actors from other countries, especially Muslim ones, are invited to East Turkistan to witness a beautiful charade of “harmony” and happiness that, in reality, is no more than an open air prison for the Uyghurs. Albanian academic and journalist, Dr Olsi Jazexhi, was one of these visitors, who later reflected on his experiences and observations on such a CCP-sponsored trip. He and other journalists toured many mosques with the CCP’s aim being to show to the outside world that there are mosques, and indeed religious freedom, in East Turkistan. Jazexhi recalls venturing into one of the mosques near Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar and finding only a store. He also recalls his visit to a concentration camp or what China calls a “vocational training center”:

“The center was in the middle of the desert. It was a kind of Alcatraz, and by its appearance, we were expecting to find some criminals, terrorists, and killers, and people who were dangerous to society. When we went there, the criminals presented us with a concert. These poor boys and girls who were being held there since many years. They were told to dance to me; Uyghur dance, Chinese dance, and Western dance. The authorities wanted us to film them only dancing and smiling and singing. They were all speaking Chinese, even though they were Uyghurs [sic].” 

Jazexhi, a dual Albanian and Canadian citizen, was later fired from his university position in Albania — demonstrating the reach of Chinese economic blackmail diplomacy. The professor was blacklisted by China due to his truthful reports on East Turkistan, highlighting the CCP’s suppression of criticism abroad, even within the context of academia, with its diplomatic and economic pressure. 

Scene from a staged tour of a ‘vocational training center’. Uyghur detainees are playing music to show  ‘harmony’ and ‘happiness’ inside the camps. Source: BBC 

Of course, this harmony would not be complete without the millions of Han Chinese who have been settled, with the aid of the government, within the borders of East Turkistan. While Uyghurs are systematically transported outside of the borders of their homeland and into mainland China to work as forced laborers or to be imprisoned and “reeducated”, it is hard to ignore the demographic erasure of Uyghurs in East Turkistan. As more and more Han Chinese are brought into Uyghur land to replace the displaced natives, the CCP razes ancient mosques, homes, and sanctuaries to make room for the new settlers. 

Photo from Gilles Sabrie: “Sledgehammer: The Chinese say Kashgar must be destroyed because it is susceptible to earthquakes” (TIME

These settlers act both as continuous reminders of the disappearance of Uyghur autonomy as well as wardens over the remaining Uyghur population. There have been many accounts of Han Chinese living with Uyghur families in their homes as “big siblings”— feeding the government information on the family’s every move and assisting in Uyghur imprisonment for even the smallest of religious offences. Aside from simple demographic engineering and ethnic cleansing, the Chinese program of destroying Uyghur cities and patrimony is intended to deracinate East Turkistanis from their culture and make them self-internalize that they are a people with no heritage, and to imprison them in easy-to-surveil panopticons with Han colonialists wardens. Destroying ancient cities and heritage is an old authoritarian communist strategy, reflecting the idea brillianty summarized by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that “to destroy a people you must first sever their roots.” 

Muhammad Salih Hajim (82), widely known as the first scholar to translate the Quran to modern Uyghur, is amongst one of the martyred and was killed in detention in January 2018. Source: RFA

One former prisoner, Adil Abdulghufur, in an interview with our co-author, Aydin Anwar, recounted how he was beaten unconscious by Chinese prison authorities and forced to wear a 25 kg cement block for a month hung by a thin string around his neck after saying “Bismillah” (in the name of God) in his sleep. Countless Uyghur women and men, who have been sent to camps and prisons due to religious practice have been raped, forcibly sterilized, drugged, and their bodies used for organ harvesting. Uyghurs are punished with long prison sentences; one Uyghur woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for promoting the wearing of headscarves, a Kazakh man was sentenced to 16 years in jail after Chinese authorities found audio recordings of the Quran on his computer, and several Uyghur refugees we have spoke with said that even saying the Muslim greeting Assalāmu Alaykum (Peace be upon you) can get them locked up for 10 years. Saying Insha’Allah (God-willing) is also prohibited. In one of the many documentaries published on the dystopian existence of the Uyghur people, VICE interviews a woman who states her charged crime was the learning of the Quran and the Arabic language. A man, later in the documentary, details how he was punished for refusing to eat pork even while imprisoned. By many accounts, the word God or Allah itself must be replaced with “Party” (Chinese Communist Party), or the name of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with Uyghur Imams placed in Kasghar’s historical Id Kah (Eidgah) mosque in East Turkistan. Note that the picture is facing the congregants in the direction of Muslim prayer – Qiblah. Source: David Brophy 

#3: Shaykh Al-Jifri claims the reason people are fighting for East Turkistan is because they do not want China to build the so-called ‘New Silk Road’ and become 2x as strong as America economically

This claim reduces the East Turkistani freedom movement to a China vs America binary– thereby completely erasing the decades of occupation East Turkistan has endured under China. In 1759, the Manchu Qing Empire invaded East Turkistan and made it its new colony. Uyghurs rebelled against Qing rule, and in 1863 were able to break free and establish Kashgaria under their leader Yaqub Khan, now known as East Turkistan. Two decades later, the Uyghurs were invaded by the Qing again, and, this time, the Uyghur homeland was formally incorporated under the Chinese empire as “Xinjiang”. Chinese nationalists overthrew the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1911, putting East Turkistan under the rule of Nationalist China. The Uyghurs carried out numerous rebellions and were able to establish the East Turkistan Islamic Republic in 1933 and 1944, both of which briefly lasted before the Chinese government reoccupied the region through the military intervention and political interest of the Soviet Union. The most recent occupation started in 1949 when the Communist Party of China came to power, and since then, millions of East Turkistanis have been subject to various forms of brutal systematic genocide. 

The Declaration of Independence of the Islamic Republic of East Turkistan, November 12, 1933 Note: As is visible, the local ulema/scholars spearheaded the effort for independence.

It is deeply condescending to not only delegitimize the efforts of a Muslim people in standing against their oppressors, but to also deem them to be no more than American pawns. Indeed, Xi Jinping’s China seeks to continue solidifying Chinese hard power in East Turkistan while working towards the larger CCP strategic goal of establishing China as a global hegemonic power with a new Chinese-dominated global economic-political order, via the multi-trillion dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative. This strategic-economic project — the largest the Eurasian Landmass ever seen — spanning over 70 countries via railroads, gas pipelines, and other infrastructure projects, is one of the greatest attempts of China to secure itself a superpower position in the 21st century. Without East Turkistan, deemed by the CCP the “Chinese gateway” to Eurasia and the West in general, the entire OBOR initiative’s immediate feasibility is truly brought into question. In addition to this strategic importance East Turkistan, the land of the Uyghurs is also extremely rich in oil, gas, and coal. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the region contains the second-highest natural gas reserves and highest oil reserves of any province-level jurisdiction of China, reportedly producing more than 30 BCM of natural gas in 2015. 

A statement that reduces the intention of the freedom movement to a simple modern economic enterprise further belittles the rich history of a people that once lived with centuries of independence, and its rightful effort to reclaim its full rights and freedom. The Uyghurs played a crucial role in establishing the Koktürk Khanate (552-744), the Uyghur Khanate (744-840), the Kara-Khanid Khanate (840-1212), Gansu Uyghur Kingdom (848-1036), and Idiqut State (856-1335). They lived co-independently in the Mongol Empire, even playing crucial roles in its administration through Gengiz Khan’s usage of the Uyghur yasa law system and the Uyghur script. After the Chagatai Khanate, East Turkistan was integrated into the Turkic-Muslim milieu of the larger Turkistan stretching from the Caspian to Mongolia including cities and polities like Bukhara, Samarkand, Kokand, etc. with scholars, traders and others moving east and west. Thus, it is truly ridiculous to understand the issue of Uyghur colonization solely through a lens of Sino-American politics. The colonization of East Turkistan began long before China was a real contender in the quest for international political-economic hegemony, and will continue –ceteris paribus– long after a change in the foreign policy of either the United States or China. The recent interest American politicians have taken in the plight of the Uyghurs has never even clearly crossed into the realm of East Turkistani independence– it is Uyghur, Turkic, Muslim, and anti-colonial activists who are at the forefront of the East Turkistani independence movement. Just as it was completely understandable that Afghans accepted American assistance in the fight against Soviet occupation, and that the Viet Cong accepted Chinese assistance to protect against American invasion on the other hand, the Uyghur crisis is so dire that the people are justly tempted to accept the assistance of any powerful nation against the century long Chinese oppression they have faced. Had China, under the yoke of CCP, not suffocated the Muslim peoples inhabiting East Turkistan, Uyghurs could maybe regard China differently…

The only way to secure Uyghurs and other East Turkistanis their essential rights — to practice their faith, operate economically, and take pride in their rich culture and history without fear of imprisonment, assault or death — is to secure the sovereignty of their occupied homeland. For many Uyghurs, the human rights/autonomy discourse is dead. The Chinese government has proven over the course of its long occupation that it can never guarantee Uyghurs the safety or the freedom they deserve. Although China claims Uyghurs to be one of its “proud 56 ethnic minorities”, it sees Uyghurs not only as foreigners, as made clear with their completely distinct language, history and culture, but also as existential threats to its despotic power. As internal but “foreign” threats, the Uyghur people have been imprisoned, enslaved, indoctrinated and murdered. There can be no going back after this horror. The only solution is for the Uyghur people, completely foreign to China, to formally exist outside of the jurisdiction of the Chinese government as their own nation.

#4: Al-Jifri asks how COVID-19 can be divine punishment if Communist Party authorities themselves remain untouched by the virus

While we agree with al-Jifri that we are in no position to state definitely whether any worldly occurrence is a direct act of Divine punishment, we question a few of the implications presented during the lecture. For example, the shaykh asks how the coronavirus pandemic can logically be considered Divine punishment if the individuals, who made the governmental decisions resulting directly in the oppression against Uyghurs, themselves remained unscathed by the virus. We respond: How can a virus which has debilitated the economy and social structure of a country, whose government is committing genocide against millions of colonized peoples, including millions of Muslims, not be? This article does not aim to delve into a metaphysical discussion on the nature of blame and culpability, but we can simply ask how the shaykh knows that none of those individuals he identifies did not fall ill. 

Additionally, we question why such a punishment could not target an entire corrupt regime — or even a complicit or apathetic populace — and not simply certain individuals, who he might deem actually culpable. 

The fact of the matter is this: We do not know how many of the Uyghurs who are trapped in concentration camps, prisons or forced labor factories, have been additionally subject to this seperate CCP oppression — a virus which only became as terrible of an international menace as it has due to the deception and inadequacy of the CCP. We hope their number is very low, but also understand that the illness of Uyghurs does not indicate that the CCP is any less problematic or morally horrific in its dealing with the virus and with the regime’s colonial holdings. The shaykh  also asks why other oppressors would not be more deserving of a plague such as this one. To this we repeat the shaykh’s  question to himself: Who are we to question God’s methods? The burning of the Amazon is not certainly a punishment for the South American nations whose borders it crosses, or it may be a punishment for humanity at large — we cannot know. 

It does not take an act of divine punishment for us to recognize the immorality of an action or event. We do not wait for lighting to strike us down before we realize we may have committed a misdeed. In the same way, we do not know if COVID -19 is divine punishment, but we do know that the oppression of Uyghurs is a moral outrage and requires immediate international action, especially from fellow Muslim brethren. 

 As previously noted, we do not seek to act as interpreters of God’s will. On the contrary, we only seek to act according to a well-established Islamic tradition of taking ʿibrah, a lesson derived from a moral experience, from what we observe in the world. Even while carefully performing this observation, we acknowledge that our derivations are zannī, or of uncertainty. This being said, we believe that our history and faith have so clearly called for justice and religious freedom that to ignore the direct suppression of Islam or Muslims, especially through means as violent and cruel as those practiced by the Chinese Communist Party, is to commit a definitive moral misdeed.

This kind of deduction by ulema and regular Muslims alike has been practiced for centuries. One pertinent example is of an individual named Mirza Ghulam of Qadiyan, who apostatized from Islam in the late 19th century as a claimant of prophethood, and experienced a rather gruesome death due to dysentery. His downfall has been commonly interpreted (taʾwīl) as punishment, for his attempting to act as a divinely ordained prophet of God. This kind of informed and qualified interpretation has been performed for centuries and is allowed for any individual so long as they ultimately believe in the finality of the Knowledge and the Will of God. W’Allāhu Aʿlam (God knows best).

Action Items & Closing Notes

We do not seek to find out the intention of Habib Ali al-Jifri’s speeches on the situation of our Uyghur brothers and sisters – he may have simply been misinformed. What we can do, however, is question the sources of his information and highlight the graveness of his actions and words. The fact of the matter is that millions of Muslims are detained by China for committing simple acts of faith that people elsewhere have the pleasure of doing each and every day– including saying “Bismillah” before they take a bite of food. As we observe Ramadan currently, it is devastating to think of the Uyghurs, who are forced to eat and drink, let alone drink alcohol and eat pork, during the holy month to prove their “innocence” from Islam to the Chinese government. While we sit with our families and break our fast, Uyghurs and other Turkic people suffer silently in thousands of prisons and labor camps far from their families. 

This scholar, or those who have misinformed him, have not only dismissed the CCP’s violations against our religion and the Ummah at large, but have also attempted to disincentivize hundreds of thousands of free Muslims from aiding the Uyghur people in their plight against the CCP.

We ask that you to pray that the oppression of the Uyghur people ceases as soon as possible; but also urge you to boycott Chinese or Chinese-made products likely to be reliant on Uyghur slave labor; to actively spread the word on the suffering of East Turkistan; and to build interest groups and networks to pressure governments to lower their dependency on China, while increasing economic and political collaboration between Muslim people. Change starts with and around each and every one of us; inquire about Uyghur-East Turkistani exiles in your area and country, and organize your communities to help stranded Uyghur orphans, students and other disadvantaged individuals survive as Muslim Uyghur people with their culture. Lobby for issuing Uyghurs passports and securing Uyghur emigres refugee-asylee status and protection. Stop “extradition-repatriation” of Uyghurs to China. Call for a united diplomatic effort of Muslim, Arab, and/or Turkic and others concerned for freedoms countries against China’s atrocities. They should act according to inter-state relations and not as slavish would-be vassal states, and hold a respectable diplomatic stand vis-à-vis China from our countries.

We ask that you get your universities involved by both raising awareness on campus as well as by assessing your university’s relationship with China. Check to see if your school has a Confucius or China Institute. These entities often serve as a public educational arm of the Chinese government abroad, and are controlled by the CCP — thereby enabling them to exercise soft power all over the world. Insist that these institutes make a statement and acknowledge the atrocities faced by those in East Turkistan, and call them out if they do not. Call for a double background check for Chinese researchers lest they actually be informants as often happens in the U.S. Countless events and panels discussing the horrors committed by the CCP have been canceled by universities around the world due directly to Chinese pressure. Call for university endowments to divest from China. Finally, call on your school to increase funding for Uyghur/Turkistani studies and to set up scholarships and grants to assist exiled Uyghur students and scholars — their lived experiences are essential to hear, accept, and make sure fewer people have to go through again. 

 It is important to ensure the political and economic independence of academia– without which generations of students will maintain worldviews colored by propaganda and complicit in the oppression of millions. Insist that your school cuts ties with Chinese bodies violating academic freedoms, similar to how Cornell cut ties with a Chinese university. Hold your universities accountable regardless if they are directly complicit in, or just silent on, the human rights abuses China commits. Demand that these important institutions divest from these China and the CCP. 

We have seen large-scale protests across the Muslim world, especially in countries, whose governments have remained silent against the oppression in East Turkistan for fear of Chinese retribution, and hope to see even more people push their governments to pressure the CCP. The shaykh encourages members of the audience to maintain an Islamic guiding moral principle and to act on it. We agree with this wholeheartedly — but we vigorously disagree with his calls to (in)action. Instead of focusing only on ourselves and our individual economic and academic developments, we also hope to fight for the Uyghur and other Turkic people’s ability to do the same — to practice their faith, live without fear of imprisonment, and in a homeland that is formally their own. This is not a hopeless cause– our voices can and must be heard, inshAllah. 

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رضي الله عنه قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا

From Anas Ibn Malik, Allah be pleased with him: The Prophet Muhammad, the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him, said: if the day of judgement is upon you, and in your hand is a seed, plant it. 

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
  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, 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 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.

Dislclaimer: The authors acknowledge Habib Ali’s willingness to retract his statements, and appreciate his dua for the oppressed Uyghur when faced with rightful criticism. However, the retraction came to our attention towards the very end (on May 12, article published May 14) of writing the piece (a month long process) and despite being a welcome move, does not remove the falsehood of most of his takes. He only corrects the first item from his otherwise totally-problematic takes. After an online correspondence with Uyghur activist Abdulghani Thabit, Habib Ali only corrected his statement number 1 from the longer talk. The three other misleading takes remain and were thus addressed in the piece. The authors tried their best to give all due respect to someone who dons the mantle of ‘scholar’. Our intention is not to attack Habib Ali or any other scholar, rather we seek to use his misleading commentary (corrected albeit in part by the Shaykh later) as a segue into educating the largely ignorant Muslim masses susceptible to Chinese propaganda on Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause.

Here is a condensed Arabic version of this article translated by Imam Abdul Jabbar

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Ramadan

Podcast: Revisiting Women-Only Tarawih | Ustadha Umm Sara

I still remember the first time I heard of a women-only Tarawih congregation. I was about 10 years old and my father had told me that Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1914–1999), a prominent Indian Hanafi scholar of the past century, had written a book about his mother (d. 1968) who was a hafidha (memorizer of the Quran) and had mentioned she would lead women in Tarawih. Shaykh Nadwi had written:

“What a beautiful era it was when they (his mother and aunts) all would recite one juz each in Tarawih. They would follow the fatwa of some scholars and have their own congregation in which there would be a woman Imam and women followers. Their Tarawih congregation would go on from after Isha till almost Suhoor time. All of them would recite Qur’an very beautifully with impeccable pronunciation. If it’s not disrespectful I would say that they recited better and more accurately than many of today’s scholars. Their heartfelt passion and natural melody would add even more beauty to this. I recall one time I stood for a long time watching my mother recite as she was leading Tarawih. It felt as if rain was descending from the heavens. I still have not forgotten the beauty of that moment.” (Nadwi, 1974).


The full original piece that this podcast is based on may be read here.

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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.

Podcast recorded and produced by Zeba Khan

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.

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