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

The most difficult test of one's faith: the moral corruption of a spiritual teacher

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.

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.

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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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60 responses to “What Do I Do When I Find Out My Favorite Preacher Is Corrupt?”

  1. Omar says:

    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.

    • bmh says:

      that comment above though..

    • Anda says:

      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…

      • Omar says:

        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.

    • Mohammed says:

      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. Sue says:

    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..

    • Amatullah says:

      ” 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. Zawja Salman says:

    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. Zeba says:

    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. Muhammed says:

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

  6. muslimah says:

    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. Abu Asiyah says:

    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. Yaseen says:

    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. Mohammed says:

    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. Imaan says:

    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. Abdullah says:

    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. Esha says:

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

  13. Umm? says:

    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. Nora says:

    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. Ismaeel Abdul Fattah says:

    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. Ameen Yoosufzai says:

    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…

    • justice says:

      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.

    • Mian Reagan says:

      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. umm Fatima says:

    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. omie says:

    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 says:

    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).

    • Shondha Bati says:

      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 says:

        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.

    • Abdullah says:

      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. Mohammed says:

    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.

    • Shondha Bati says:

      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?

      • Mohammed Patel says:

        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. Tricia says:

    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 says:

      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. Imama says:

    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.

  23. Ruhee says:

    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. Arjmand says:

    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. Upset says:

    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. Rabia says:

    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. 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. Abdul says:

    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. Soumayah says:

    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. Zainab N says:

    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. suraiya kasim says:

    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. Noor says:

    “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.

    • Afifa says:

      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. Noor says:

    ‘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.

    • Afifa says:

      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. Noor says:

    ‘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. Ameen says:

    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. Roneca says:

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

  37. Ovais jamshed says:

    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. Rahad says:

    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. Roneca says:

    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. Noor says:

    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. Anila Jahangiri says:

    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.

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