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God’s Plan and Muhammad Ali – Imam Zaid Shakir

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The analytical methods which postmodernism has given birth to are qualified by many sad features. One is the rejection of the idea of greatness. These methods leave no space for great men or women. What we find instead is an unrealistic leveling that reduces every prince to a valet and confers upon every valet princely pretensions. For example, Malcolm X, eulogized by Ossie Davis as a “black shining prince,” a man who had the courage to change when his commitment to the truth demanded change, as highlighted in his autobiography, is reduced to a conniving hustler who is constantly “reinventing” himself in Manning Marable’s deconstruction of his life.

More disturbing, and of perhaps greater import for Muslims, is the removal of God as an active agent in history. Providence has no bearing on historical outcomes. Similarly, Divine guidance is not to be considered when examining the complicated array of decisions and choices that lead any of us to become who we are. There is only a boring, random collection of unrelated accidents, which if they are to be examined systematically, it will be through a framework provided by sociology or anthropology. Some would call the whole arrangement, “new school.”

Being an old school person I have never been impressed with the new school. It is much too predictable and intellectually hegemonic. There must be ways of assessing reality that differ from the stark materialism bequeathed to us by the modern and now post-modern West. Islam provides us one of those alternative approaches, for more than any other system it demands that the Divine be considered in all things. It is through the prism of Islam, specifically through the unfolding of God’s plan, that I wish to examine some of the major aspects of the life of Muhammad Ali, may God have mercy on him.

My contention is that Ali would never have become Ali had not God both prepared him for his times and prepared his times for him. That preparation began with Ali’s deeply religious mother, Odessa Lee Clay. His mother’s deep religiosity left an indelible imprint on the young Ali. That imprint would influence Ali becoming a dedicated member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and a faithful follower of Elijah Muhammad. It would also sustain Ali once he moved away from the NOI under the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, and later in his life as he became more deeply influenced by more traditional expressions of Islamic spirituality.

Of course, it is highly possible for a child growing up without the influence of a devout parent to end up deeply religious, however, the odds are greatly enhanced when those closest to you during your formative years are themselves devout. In both his home and in church Ali was being prepared for a religious life. This is something all who knew Ali note. Like Moses, his being placed in a particular house was one of the first notable acts of Divine intervention in Ali’s life.

Ali was also conditioned in childhood to make the kind of history-altering choices he would make later in life. He knew from a young age that there was danger in the path of a black man in America, hence, whatever decision you made you needed to be prepared to die for it. This sense of danger was drilled into Ali’s consciousness by the lynching of Emmitt Till. Ali would never forget that brutal Mississippi murder of a young man his own age. It informed him of the depths of hatred some men could sink to when you offended them, either via imagined or petty offenses, such as that attributed to Emmitt Till, or in highly charged ways, as Ali would later do. That being so, Ali knew that when you took a stand you had best be prepared to die for it. Hence, he was dead serious when he said, commenting on the hell he caught when he refused induction into the United States military, “Whatever the consequences may be, I will not renounce the religion of Islam. I’m ready to die. If you put me before a firing squad tomorrow, I’m ready to die.” Both that consciousness and courage were necessary gifts God gave to Ali.

Ali’s boxing career itself began with what can only be described as an act of God. Of course, as Muslims we believe that everything is “an act of God,” I state it here for emphasis. That particular act was the theft of Ali’s brand new bike. Such an occurrence is common. I can remember my bike being stolen as a young boy, however, what happened next is extremely uncommon. First of all, Ali reported the theft to the police, something I never considered doing because the relationship between the police and those living in the vast public housing project I grew up in was such that you did not think of inviting the police to intervene in such matters.

Young kids in our community were usually trying to avoid the police at all costs. Ali, however, went to the police and the officer he found, in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, happened to be a white boxing coach, Joe Martin, who had taken an interest in helping young black kids. Instead of blowing off the skinny twelve-year-old he suggested that he learn how to fight if indeed he wanted to punish the thief were he to find him. There are tremendous odds against this series of events occurring as they did. God had a plan for Ali and Ali was always aware of that fact.

In preparing Ali for the world God blessed him not only with incredible physical ability, perhaps, during the earlier phase of his boxing career, he possessed the fastest hands in the history of the sport. He was also blessed with great physical beauty and a quick, poetic wit. There had been many talented boxers before Ali. We could mention in that regard one Ali himself idolized, Sugar Ray Robinson. However, none possessed Ali’s charisma and beauty– two attributes that would serve him greatly via the medium of television.

In that regard, God brought Ali unto the national stage at a time when television was just emerging as a household standard and Ali was tailor-made for that particular medium. Whether bombastically threatening Sonny Liston, predicting the round in which his next opponent would fall, playing around with the Beatles, or bantering with Howard Cosell, Ali was the first athlete whose fame and/or notoriety was boosted to such an extent by television. A medium had been prepared for Ali which would be instrumental in projecting him unto the global stage. Like John Kennedy, whose improbable victory over Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election was attributed in large part to his televised persona, Ali’s rise, initially as Cassius Clay, was greatly enhanced by television. Had he appeared even five years earlier he would have been just a talented boxer little known outside of the fight world.

Thereafter, God guided Ali to Islam. When one considers the likelihood of a brash, charismatic, highly successful athlete, with the prospect of making millions of dollars because of the aforementioned emergence of television and the tremendous revenues it opened up for top-level professional athletes (remember the picture of Ali sitting on a pile of cash), one must concede that Ali’s Islam itself is a miracle. God alone guided Ali to Islam and in so doing made him one of the most popular men on earth; for the entire Muslim world could relate to a boxing champion named Muhammad Ali. Ali became their champion. Had he remained Cassius Clay he would not have gained that degree of global recognition and popularity no matter how talented a fighter he was.

Ali’s popularity was further enhanced when he took his stand against participating in the Viet Nam War. By refusing induction into the United States military Ali suffered the loss of his title, the loss of his livelihood and the constant threat of losing his very life. However, he would not back down. By so doing, he was facing, up close, the same forces that were ravaging not just Viet Nam but countless other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In defying those forces Ali was now the champion of not just the Muslim world but the entire Third World. As he left the 1960s stripped of his title but steeped in his dignity, Ali was the most popular man on Earth.

Throughout the ordeal he was forced to endure because of the stand he had taken Ali was acutely aware of the dangers he faced. As we mentioned earlier, he was always haunted by the specter of Emmitt Till’s murder. Shortly after he became Muslim, his most significant early mentor, Malcolm X, was assassinated. Soon after Ali’s defiance of the US war machine, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down, in all likelihood because of the stand he had taken against the war in Viet Nam. Yet Ali persevered and he never resorted to taking a bodyguard. He knew that God was with him. When asked if he has a bodyguard Ali responded,

I have one bodyguard. He has no eyes, yet He sees. He has no ears, yet He hears. He remembers everything with the aid of mighty memory. When He wishes to create a thing He orders it into existence, but His order is not conveyed with words, which take a tongue to follow it or the sound carrying ears. He hears the secrets of those under quiet thought. Ask me, who is that? That’s God, Allah. He’s my bodyguard, He’s your bodyguard.

Through his courage and defiant speech, Ali had captured the hearts of the struggling, oppressed Muslim and Third World masses. He commanded the global stage. Yet there was another audience God prepared Ali to capture, white America. Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the army occurred at a time when the movement to end the war in Viet Nam was just building up momentum. His courageous stand, taken as the heavyweight champion of the world instantly made Ali’s case the cause celebre of the antiwar movement. It also catapulted Ali, despite his involvement with the NOI, into the hearts of America’s rebellious white youths. As these youths, many of them attending elite universities, made their way into professional and public life, Ali would benefit in many tangible and intangible ways.

Not all of white America was antiwar though. Not all of white America had been able to cleanse itself of the persistent stench of racism to an extent that would allow it to embrace such a fiery young black voice. The conquest of larger swaths of white America would come not through Ali’s words but through his silence. As Ali, once famously dubbed the “Louisville Lip” owing to his loquaciousness, lost his speech he began to speak with the tongue of his state. It was that tongue that was able to touch the hearts of millions of white Americans who, pitiably, were not prepared to listen to the young Ali, or Malcolm, or Dr. King, or Fannie Lou Hamer, or the angry black youth flooding the streets of Detroit, Newark, Watts, Hartford, Chicago, Washington DC and elsewhere throughout the nation.

That silence allowed those who refused to listen to Ali or the masses he spoke for to finally hear him. God sent them a voice they could understand. That voice was a silent Ali. Contrary to what some may believe and have stated, that voice was not a passive voice of weakness, defeat and resignation. It was a powerful voice that roared through its dignity, love, compassion, perseverance, and its matchless affirmation of the ability of the human will to triumph over the most desperate circumstances. It roared in the presence of kings and presidents. It roared from the top of the Olympic stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. It roared, even after his passing, in Louisville, as Ali’s body wove through the streets of his childhood home en route to his final place of rest. It roars even today for those who care to listen.

Finally, it was also God’s plan was to enter Ali, in my estimation, into a relationship with Himself of love, nearness and service, a relationship Muslims refer to as Wilaya. Ali was once asked by a young man in Ireland what he planned to do after boxing? Ali’s response was that he planned to use his remaining days to prepare to meet his Lord. God facilitated that preparation, among other ways, by taking Ali’s speech. The ensuing silence led to the contemplation, serenity, reflection, devotion and service necessary to cement Ali’s relationship of Wilaya with his Lord.

Finally, just as God ordered Abraham to proclaim the pilgrimage among all nations of the world, promising him that He would ensure that every soul would hear his voice, He made sure that all of the nations of the world, even those who refused to listen, would hear Ali’s voice. It was always a voice calling to peace, and ultimately to love, mutual respect and goodwill towards all. As we stand today in a nation rife with polarizing hatreds, resurging racism, entrenching tribalisms and a debilitating refusal to listen to each other, it is time we started listening to Ali. It is God’s plan.

Imam Zaid Shakir

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Imam Zaid Shakir is a scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. In 2001, he was the first American male graduate from Syria's Abu Nour University.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kanwal

    June 3, 2018 at 2:38 PM

    Thank you for writing this! This gives me confidence in Gods plan for me. I may not be like Muhammad’s Ali, but I hope to change the lives of many using Islam as guidance InshaAllah.

  2. Avatar

    Seth Ibrahim

    June 3, 2018 at 2:51 PM

    A moving tribute with Historical significance, and a reminder for any who would take a lesson from it.

  3. Avatar

    Virginia Bemis

    June 3, 2018 at 2:55 PM

    All of us with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonism will remember him with great respect and thankfulness for what he did to help us. His work in raising awareness of the disease and the research and treatment centre he founded will be helping people with Parkinson’s for years to come.

  4. Avatar

    Ali

    June 3, 2018 at 2:56 PM

    Boxing is haraam and his awrah is not covered. Why are we celebrating this man?

    • Avatar

      AMJAD

      June 3, 2018 at 5:26 PM

      Because he made a more positive image of Islam, and he knocked out racism in America. He was such a very religious Muslim, that almost everything he did in life, he depended on Allah for that. It doesn’t matter what’s haram in boxing. That’s not the point.

      – He spread a positive image of Islam
      – He knocked out white establishment America
      – He was a very religious Muslim and loved Allah.
      – Everything he did in life, he depended on Allah.

      Allah does not denounce Muhammad Ali because of him being a boxer. Besides, Muhammad Ali loved Allah so much. Allah would have loved him back.

      This is why you should celebrate him

      • Avatar

        Ali

        June 6, 2018 at 5:24 PM

        Maryam, since when is hitting people on the face and head for sport a halaal thing?

    • Avatar

      Maryam

      June 6, 2018 at 6:30 AM

      How on earth is boxing haram?? If you have a problem with what the players are wearing, then change the dress code, not the job.

  5. Avatar

    IllustratedFrugality

    June 3, 2018 at 9:38 PM

    I think it’s a little inappropriate having a shirtless pic of him on the front page of MM. Yes, it’s a little blurred, and its not absolutely haram, but still. Be mindful for your Muslimah sisters.

  6. Avatar

    Jody Fleming

    June 4, 2018 at 5:03 AM

    My husband will be 85 years old next month and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 16 months ago. his main symptom were and rigidity or stiffness of his right-hand side.he also had some difficulty writing. The original diagnosis was confirmed three months later by a second neurologist. He was on one tablet of pramipexole (Sifrol), 0.25 mg three times a day. Four months ago his neurologist added Biperiden, 2 mg. he takes half a tablet of Biperiden three times a day. He still didn’t feel any better, Since the original diagnosis, his stiffness has slowly increased. He lost touch with reality suspecting it was the medication I took him off the Siferol (with the doctor’s knowledge) and started him on PD natural herbal formula we ordered from NATURAL HERBAL GARDENS, I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in Canada and they all gave a positive response, his symptoms totally declined over a 7 weeks use of the Natural Herbal Gardens Parkinson’s disease natural herbal formula. He is now almost 85 and doing very well, the disease is totally reversed! (Visit their website naturalherbalgardens. c o m) I am thankful to nature, herbs are truly gift from God. Share with friends!!

    • Avatar

      Sarmad

      June 17, 2018 at 7:30 AM

      Assalamu ‘alaikum,

      My cousin, who is a dentist by training with an MSc in Oral Surgery lost his sight about 9 years ago because of Glaucoma. I contacted The Natural Herbal Garden and they said by taking their herbal formula they are 100% sure he will regain his sight. My cousin has seen the top eye specialists in London and the only thing the could do is to relieve the pressure in his eyes. Do you think he should give the herbal formula a try? It costs $400.
      wa salaam,
      Sarmad

  7. Avatar

    Hina Khan-Mukhtar

    June 5, 2018 at 2:37 AM

    Beautifully written, masha’allah. What a wonderful summary of a great man’s life — so many opportunities to reflect and learn while reading this essay. I’m planning on sharing it with my 14-year-old so he can also see why it’s important to know about one of the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali.

  8. Avatar

    Bushraa

    June 6, 2018 at 12:09 PM

    Assalaamu’alaikum. The article mentions a reply of Mohammad Ali:

    “When asked if he has a bodyguard Ali responded,

    I have one bodyguard. He has no eyes, yet He sees..”

    But in Qur’aan and Sunnah, numerous times there are mentions about ALLAAH’S EYES…SO, the correct creed of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah is:”ALLAAH HAS EYES”. We cannot say that, Allaah has no eyes…

    My humble naseehah to the author Imam Zaid Shakir:

    When the honorable Imam (hafizahullaah) spreads a quotation of Mohammad Ali(may Allaah have mercy upon him), which delivers wrong conception about the attributes of ALLAAH SwT or Islamic Creed/Religious matter, then he has the RESPONSIBILITY to also ADD the CORRECTION with that misleading quotation.

    This is a humble naseehah for the sake of Allaah..hope Imam Zaid Shakir(hafizahullaah) will revise and re-write the article and ADD a “NOTE of CORRECTION” with the previous post and the subscribers will receive an e-mail of the new corrected article before late.

    Assalaamu’alaikum.

  9. Avatar

    Ali

    June 6, 2018 at 5:26 PM

    Amjad, if it was a Muslim female boxer (and all the ones that exist get a lot of hate for not being a “good” Muslimah), then would you be saying the same thing?

    • Avatar

      AMJAD

      June 24, 2018 at 5:56 PM

      Do try to switch topics to female boxers. I’m talking about his deep faith in Allah, not about female boxers. His deep faith in Allah is what mattered most to Allah. Just because he was a boxer doesn’t mean Allah won’t accept him.

  10. Avatar

    michaelarchangel

    June 8, 2018 at 5:15 PM

    haha hes not getting into heaven until he changes his name back to what his mother gave him..good try…no

  11. Avatar

    AMJAD

    June 24, 2018 at 5:57 PM

    Don’t try to switch topics to female boxers. I’m talking about his deep faith in Allah, not about female boxers. His deep faith in Allah is what mattered most to Allah. Just because he was a boxer doesn’t mean Allah won’t accept him.

  12. Avatar

    sery why

    June 27, 2018 at 8:18 PM

    for every dollar Ali made for himself the capitalist system (was it is it “white”-ruled?) made several – the rich got richer by way of Ali’s boxing endeavours
    it was NOT “slaying and being slain in the cause of Allah”
    and now what is Trump doing with black help of course like the help of Kanye West and even Floyd Mayweather?

  13. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    July 4, 2018 at 2:25 AM

    Well Written, Keep it up!!!

  14. Avatar

    mae

    February 24, 2019 at 6:16 PM

    Do the Vietnamese or the Vietnam Govt aware of Ali’s refusal to fight against them ?

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#Culture

Messiah, A Fitnaflix Production

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Netflix released Season 1 of a new thriller series called “Messiah”. The series imagines the emergence of a character claiming to be sent by God, the Messiah, or Al-masih (messiah in Arabic) as he is referred to in the television series. 

This so-called Al-masih first emerges in Damascus at a time when ISIS is about to storm the city. He then appears in Palestine, Jordan and ultimately America. Along the way, he performs miracles and dumbfounds the Israeli and American intelligence officers charged with tracking him and figuring out who is enabling him. The season ends with a suggestion that he is truly a divine man, with the ultimate miracle of reviving the dead.

The entertainment value here is quite limited. Some stretches of the series are just flat or straight out boring, and the acting is not all that great. However, the series does create an opportunity for discussion about Muslim eschatology (the knowledge of the end of times), response to fitnah (faith testing tribulations) and Muslims portrayal in and consumption of entertainment media. 

The series shows some sophistication in the portrayal of Muslim characters relative to what people have been accustomed to with Hollywood. Characters that are situated in the Middle East are performed by actors from that region who speak authentic regional Arabic (including Levantine and North African dialects). The scenes appear authentic. While this is progress, it is limited, and the series falls into oversimplification and caters to typical stereotypes. While several Muslim characters draw the viewers’ empathy, they are not used to provide context or nuance for issues that the series touches on: ISIS, refugees, the Israeli occupation and suicide bombings. The two American Muslim characters are never really developed. In fact, all Muslim characters tend to be “flat” and one dimensional. This is in contrast, for example, to American and Israeli characters which appear multi-dimensional and complex, often dealing with personal challenges that a Western audience is likely to identify with (caring for an aging parent, mourning the loss of a spouse, balancing career and life, dealing with family separation, abortion, etc.). While Muslim characters are shown as hapless refugees, terrorists, religious followers, political activists, a university professor and student, their stories are never developed.

The show repeatedly refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is also consistent normalization of Israeli occupation and glorification of the occupying forces.  

Islamic eschatology 

Orthodox Muslims affirm a belief in “the signs of the End of Times, including the appearance of the Antichrist, and the Descent of Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) the son of Mary 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), from the celestial realm. We also believe in the sun’s rising from the west and the appearance of the “Beast of the Earth from its appointed place” [1]. Dr. Omar Al-Ashqar gives a detailed review of the authentic narrations regarding the signs of the end of times in his book Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra [2]. When it comes to actual figures who will emerge in the end of times, Sunni scholars generally affirm the following:

  • Imam Mahdi, who is a just ruler who will share the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name. 
  • The False Messiah (Antichrist), or Al-Masjih Al-Dajjal, who will be the greatest fitna to ever to afflict this Ummah. 
  • The True Messiah, Isa ibn Maryam, who returns in the end of days, kills the Antichrist and rules for 40 years and establishes justice and prosperity – close to the time of the day of judgement. 

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned that the fitna of Al-Dajjal will be the most severe ever. In a hadith narrated by Ibn Majah and others, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is reported to have said, “Oh people, there has not been a fitna on the face of the earth, since God dispersed the progeny of Adam, greater than the fitna of Al-Dajjal. Every prophet of God warned his people from Al-Dajjal. I am the last prophet. You are the last Ummah. He will appear amongst you no doubt!”

Al-Dajjal comes after a period of famine and drought. He will be one-eyed and will claim to be God. Believers will recognized a mark or word of disbelief on his forehead. He will perform many miracles. He will endow those who follow him with material prosperity and luxury, and those who deny him will be inflicted with deprivation and suffering. He will travel at high speeds, and  roam the whole world, except Makkah and Madinah, which he will not be able to enter. He will create a heaven and hell, command rain, the earth, animals, and resurrect the dead – all supernatural occurrences that he has been afforded as a trial and test for others. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) went as far as encouraging us to flee from confronting him, because it will be a test of faith like no other.

Reflections on the series and lessons to be learned

The Prophets and the righteous are not tricksters and riddlers.

The Netflix series portrays the character ‘al-masih’ as someone who speaks cryptically; it is never clear what he is teaching and why. He leads his followers on long physical journeys without telling them where they are going or why. He speaks in riddles and tortures his followers with mental gymnastics and rhetorical questions.

On the other hand, a true prophet of God offers real guidance and brings clear teachings and instructions – the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) spoke clearly to his followers, he taught them how to worship Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone, to be just, to uphold the ties of kinship, to look after one’s neighbour, and so on. He did not abandon them in a state of confusion to fend for themselves. Moreover, “al-masih” deceives his followers by concealing his true name (“Payam Golshiri”) and background – something a righteous person would never do, let alone a prophet.

What Netflix got right and what it got wrong

The Al-masih character initially emerges in Damascus (and the Islamic tradition mentions Isa ibn Mariam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend in Damascus). However, the character is eventually revealed to hail from Iran. A number of ahadith refer to Al-Dajjal first appearing in Khurasan, which is part of modern-day Iran. He poses as a righteous person, but it is revealed that he doesn’t pray at all. He quotes religious scripture, but only to service his cryptic speeches. That Al-Dajjal would pose as a religious person would not surprise Muslims, since some hadith mention he will emerge from the remnants of the Khawarij, a heterodox group known for overzealousness and fanaticism [3]. Al-Dajjal travels the world at fast speeds, disappearing from one land and appearing in another, just as the character in the series does. 

messiah

photo credit: IMDb

However, numerous features of Dajjal would make his identity obvious to believers, not the least of which is that the word ‘disbeliever’ will be written – whether literally or metaphorically (scholars differ) – on his forehead in such a manner which even those unlettered would be able to read. Physically, Dajjal is a short man, with a deformity of his legs, and one of his eyes is likened to a “floating grape”, sightless, and “green like glass”. The Prophet is said to have focused on these physical features because they are so manifest and eliminate any confusion.

Al-Dajjal’s time overlaps with that of two other eschatological figures – Imam Mahdi and Esa ibn Maryam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Imam Mahdi is prophesized to fill the world with justice and rule for seven years, after which Dajjal will emerge. While the Muslims following al-Mahdi are taking shelter in Damascus, Prophet Esa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will descend and eventually slay the Dajjal. Therefore, according to the Islamic eschatological tradition, things will get better before they get worse before they get better again – Imam Mahdi precedes Dajjal and Dajjal precedes Prophet Esa [2].

Safeguarding against tribulations

The best safeguard is to have sound knowledge of theology and law, and to have our iman rooted in revelation and reason. For example, the most basic understanding of Islamic theology would lead us to reject any man who claims to be God, as Al-Dajjal will claim. With basic Islamic knowledge and reasoning, we would know that Allah does not manifest in human-like form, much less one that is deformed, as Allah is the all Powerful and Perfect. Could it be that at the end of times even such essential Islamic knowledge is lacking? 

walking on water

Al-Dajjal deceives people by his miracles and supernatural abilities. Our iman should not be swayed by supernatural events and miracles. We should measure people and ideas according to their standing with the Shari’ah. We must keep our heads level and not be manipulated because we cannot explain an occurrence. 

Al-Dajjal also lures people by his miracles and by his ability to give them material prosperity, comfort and luxury. We must tie our happiness and sense of satisfaction to eternal spiritual truths, not to the comforts of this life, and be willing to give up what we have for what we believe. We should live simply and not follow into the path of excessive consumerism and materialism.  

Another important consideration is not to base our connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) on another human being (except the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Scholars, celebrity preachers, imams and teachers are all prone to error and sin. We must use the Shariah and the Prophet Muhamamd’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) character and teaching as the filter by which we evaluate them, not the other way around. Despite his obvious deformities, the Antichrist will be a mesmerizing blinding celebrity, but whose falsehood will be uncovered by believers who make judgements based on loyalty to principle, not personality. 

Is it time to live on a remote mountain?

The clearest indication of the nearness of the Day of Judgement is the prophethood of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The Prophet likened the difference between his time and the Day of Judgement as the difference in length between the index and middle fingers. However, before we sell everything and move to a remote mountain, let’s exercise care in projecting Islamic eschatology on the political events of our times. The reality is that no one knows when these things will happen. Explaining the current phase in our history away by end of times theories or conspiracy theories, are simpleton intellectual copouts that lead our Ummah away from actively working towards its destiny. Anyone who has claimed that this event (remember Y2K) or that event is a major sign of the Day of Judgement has been wrong, so far. There were scholarly guesses in the early centuries of Muslims that expected the Hour 500 years after the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) death. Yet, here we are. No one knows.

The best you can do is stay calm and make salat!

Muslims and the entertainment media

This increased sophistication and the apparent familiarity with Islamic sources exhibited by Messiah producers should lead us to value the importance of producing accurate, authentic and polished material and content about Islam and Muslims and our community’s role as a source of information. 

It is also important for Muslims to produce works for the mass media and entertainment industries. This is no longer the era of the sole MSA Da’wah table. Sophisticated, entertaining and authentic media production is an imperative for modern Muslims.  When we don’t tell the story, someone else will. 

Make it a Netflix Night?

We may refer to it as Fitnaflix, but let’s all admit that we cannot avoid television and the entertainment industry, for better or for worse. We can however moderate, guide and channel its use. Start breaking the isolation in which many of our children and young adults consume media. Families should watch TV together and use it as an opportunity to model how we select appropriate material and to create teaching and discussion moments. Parents should know what is influencing their kids even if they don’t like it. 

Some parts of the series Messiah, despite its flaws (and an explicit sexual scene in episode 9, not to mention profanity), could be used as a teaching moment about trials and tribulations, the end of times and the importance of Muslims engaging in the entertainment industry in a principled and professional manner. 

Ed’s note: Much of the series’ content is R-rated. Besides depictions of terrorism and other mayhem, sexual activity and brief rear nudity are shown. Mature themes include abortion, adultery, infertility and alcoholism.

Works Cited

[1] T. C. o. I. Al-Tahawi, Hamza Yusuf (trans), Zaytuna Institute, 2007. 
[2] O. Al-Ashqar, Al-Qiyamah Al-Sughra, Dar Al-Nafa’is, 1991. 
[3] [Online]. Available: https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/06/23/dajjal-emerges-khawarij/.

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Podcast: Lessons from the Life of Malcolm X | Abdul-Malik Ryan

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One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them.  Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain.  This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.

The only real and meaningful tribute we can pay to Malcolm X is to follow his example. Click To Tweet

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Podcast: We Are All Slaves of Allah | Hakeemah Cummings

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Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?

 

Read by Zeba Khan, originally posted here on Muslimmatters.org.

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