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An Open Letter to the “Religious” Regarding Acceptance

Alḥamdulillah, we are currently living through and experiencing the last ten nights of Ramadān. One of these nights is Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power, a night that is better than a thousand months. The Prophet ﷺ told us,

Whoever stands in prayer on the night of power with faith and expecting reward, then all of their previous sins will be forgiven.”[1]

This is meant to be a very spiritual time of the year, where a person increases their acts of worship and devotion, trying to build a stronger connection with their Lord and Creator.

However, I have to admit for the past few nights there has been a certain heaviness in my heart that is preventing me from feeling the full potential of these blessed nights, and is causing me to be distracted and bothered. This heaviness I’m feeling is the attitude of “religious” people towards our imams, scholars, and religious institutions, for decisions they have made based on sound knowledge, understanding, consultation, dua, and sincerity. I know I should be stronger and let people say and think whatever they want. I should, as they say, let the haters hate. But this is an issue that needs to be dealt with head on, in a very direct and clear manner, if we want to move forward as a minority Muslim community in America.

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A few years ago a group of scholars, after discussions, research, and consultations with other scholars, decided to adopt the position of global moon sighting, a valid legal opinion, for deciding the beginning and end of Ramadan. This led to accusations within the community of leniency in matters of religion, pandering to the majority, deviancy, and other baseless, unfortunate claims. Similarly, this year we started fasting based off reports of highly respected and trusted individuals who sighted the crescent with the use optical aids. Using optical aids to sight the crescent is a valid legal position[2]. Despite that, we still heard similar remarks and statements from a certain segment of the community.

Along the same lines, this year, at the Institute of Knowledge, we decided to organize an all female tarāwīḥ for our female students who have completed their memorization of the Quran. The permissibility of having an all female congregation led by a female is a valid legal position[3]. However, since this is something new and unfamiliar, we again started hearing critical types of statements and remarks. The hurtful part is that these concerns were never brought up to us directly.

It is extremely important for us, especially our “religious” community members, to understand that within Islamic Jurisprudence there are a number of issues in which there are valid, accepted differences of opinion. Valid differences of opinion in secondary religious matters have always existed. They existed among the companions during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, they exist now, and they will exist until the end of times. There are differences of opinion among the various schools of jurisprudence and even within them. Pick up any book of Ḥanafī fiqh and you will find a number of examples where Abū Yūsuf and Muḥammad raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) disagreed with their teacher Abū Ḥanīfah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

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Issues in which there are valid differences of opinion are classified as mujtahad fīh, meaning a matter subject to interpretation. These are issues that are open to interpretation and allow for scholarly difference. A mujtahad fīh issue is any issue that does not have a definitive proof. Imam al-Ghazālī raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) defines it as, “every legal ruling that doesn’t have a definitive proof.” Since they are open to interpretation there will obviously be differences of opinion. For example, according to the Shāfiʿī position, a person should raise their hands to their shoulders when starting prayer. According to the Ḥanafī position, a person should raise their hands to their ears. There are differences regarding how to hold one’s hands in prayer, the ruling of reciting Surah al-Fātiḥah, reciting behind the Imām, saying āmīn out loud, and the list goes on and on.

Issues of Islamic Jurisprudence aren’t as black and white as people make them out to be. As a matter of fact, they are very complex and require the expertise of scholars to comb through the Quran and aḥadīth, search for relevant texts, then use the rules of the Arabic Language, principles of fiqh, and their understanding to extrapolate and derive rulings. In addition, they look at the conclusions of previous scholars and experts, and understand their arguments and reasoning for those particular conclusions. It’s possible that two scholars will have the same verse in front of them but because of their different principles and methodologies, will arrive at two opposite conclusions. Basically, fiqh is much more complex and nuanced than we think. Whoever tells you otherwise is being academically dishonest or is ignorant.

Adab Al-Ikhtilāf, the manners or ethics of disagreement, is unfortunately something that is greatly lacking in our communities. This is a subject that should be studied by all students of knowledge, scholars, imams, activists’, callers, and the general public. Issues in which there are valid differences of opinion should be dealt with a great level of tolerance and understanding. Just because someone follows a different opinion than ours or one that we are unfamiliar with doesn’t automatically make them wrong, lenient, or somehow a deviant who’s destroying the religion.

Unfortunately, that’s the attitude of a segment of the so-called “religious” community. If we see someone doing something we disagree with we automatically start judging them. If a scholar looks a certain way or dresses a certain way we automatically start judging them. I have noticed a lot of students of knowledge, graduates from traditional madāris, and graduates from Islamic Universities catching heat from “religious” individuals for not practicing certain acts classified as al-sunan al-zawā’id or for dressing a certain way (primarily wearing what we endearingly refer to as “pant/shirt”). Since ikhtilāf in these matters are allowed, we must show tolerance in such issues. This means that we shouldn’t label the opinion of others which may be different, but valid, as  deviant, an innovation, blasphemous, or creating fitnah. Rather we’re supposed to have an attitude of acceptance and inclusiveness.

No one should be rebuked, reprimanded, scolded, corrected, advised, or yelled at for following a valid difference of opinion. The Shāfiʿī’s developed a beautiful saying, “Issues of ijtihād are not rejected with force, and it is not allowed for anyone to force people to follow their opinion regarding them. Rather they should discuss them using scholarly proofs. If one opinion appears correct to a person, he should follow it, and whoever follows the opposite opinion then there’s no blame on him.”[4]

As a matter of fact when it comes to these types of issues we’re supposed to let people practice what they’ve learned as long as it’s a valid opinion. Sufyan Al-Thawri raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “If you see someone doing something that’s disagreed upon and you have another opinion, don’t stop him.”[5] As Imām Mālik raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) remarked, “If you try to change them from what they are familiar with to something they’re not familiar with, they will consider that disbelief.”[6]

Part of Adab Al-Ikhtilaf is praying behind others who may follow a different opinion than your own. For example, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with praying behind someone who follows the opinion of wiping over their socks, bleeding doesn’t break wudhu, or reciting from the mushaf during tarāwīh. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this and has been the practice of scholars throughout history. There’s a beautiful booklet written by Imām ibn Hazm raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) dealing specifically with this topic.

This lack of adab and tolerance from the “religious” and their attitude towards imams, scholars, and Islamic institutions for adopting and following valid positions they are unfamiliar with is extremely disheartening and hurtful. I mean, do they really think that someone who has spent anywhere from six to twelve or even more years of their life studying Islam, who has dedicated their lives to the service of Islam, is going to intentionally do something that is wrong or impermissible? Do they really think that they’re going to intentionally misguide the community? However, they are not entirely at fault because they may not know any better. Perhaps they haven’t been exposed to the diversity of fiqh and are only familiar with what they have been taught. They may even be doing so out of some sort of misplaced effort to uphold the truth or honor tradition.They may sincerely believe by speaking out they are engaging in some sort of nahy ʿan al-munkar (prohibiting evil).  A large part of the blame for this type of approach and attitude lies on the shoulders of some of our scholars and graduates who perpetuate this sort of intolerance and narrow-mindedness. As people of knowledge who have studied and are aware of these finer details of fiqh, it is important for them to be academically honest. How is it that they have studied for so long and are considered to be scholars, ulema, and imams, and haven’t learned how to deal with valid differences of opinion in a fair and balanced manner?

I came across an important principle while reading through Mufti Taqi Usmani’s transcribed lecture notes on Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī under the section of abwāb al-libās. The principle he highlights is:

الإنكار على غير منكر، منكر بنفسه.

A loose translation would be, “Censuring a matter that is not impermissible is impermissible itself.”

It’s time for us as a community to mature and move above and beyond these debates through education. The Muslim community in America is very diverse and this diversity is represented through our scholars and imams. We have scholars and graduates who have studied at different Islamic institutions, seminaries, and universities throughout the Muslim world. Some studied at Azhar, some in Madinah, some in Dār al-ʿUlūm, some in Syria, some in Yemen, some in Mauritania, and several other reputable places.

If you know anything about these institutes they have vastly different approaches towards Islamic Law and different ways of understanding texts of the Quran and Sunnah. All of these institutions are products of their environment; they were dealing with different realities religiously, socially, politically, and economically. Graduates who have studied at these different places have also adopted some of these different approaches and understandings.  We’re entitled to our own opinions, as long as they’re valid. We can argue in favor of them and defend them till we’re red in the face, but at the end of the day we should all still be able to sit down and talk to each other. We have to have mutual love, respect, and understanding. Love, respect, brotherhood, and unity are far more important than our own individual differences of opinion.

This diversity of opinions shouldn’t lead to disunity. Unity and conformity are two separate things. Islam requires us to have unity amongst ourselves, not conformity. May Allah ﷻ guide our hearts to what is correct, bring our hearts together, and unite our community.


[1] Muslim, k. Ṣalāh al-musāfirīn wa qaṣrihā, b. Al-targhīb fī qiyām ramadān wa huwa al-tarāwīḥ

[2] The use of optical aids to sight the moon is a valid position within the scope of fiqh. I will address the issue in a separate article after Ramadān.

[3] This will also be addressed in a separate article after Ramadān.

[4] إن مسائل الاجتهادية لا تنكر باليد، و ليس لأحد أن يلزم الناس باتباعه فيها، و لكن يتكلم فيها بالحجج العلمية، فمن تبين له صحة أحد القولين تبعه، و من قلد أهل القول الآخر فلا إنكار عليه

[5] عن الإمام سفيان الثوري أنه قال، “إذا رأيت الرجل يعمل العمل الذي قد اختلف فيه و أنت ترى غيره فلا تنهه”.

[6] عن الإمام مالك، “إن ذهبت تحولهم مما يعرفون إلى ما لا يعرفون رأوا ذلك كفرا.”

 

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Director of Religious Education at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He regularly delivers khutbahs and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in southern California.

 

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Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Director of Religious Education at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He regularly delivers khutbahs and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in southern California.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ramadan

    June 14, 2018 at 5:06 PM

    Jazakallahu khayr

  2. Avatar

    fareen

    June 21, 2018 at 6:55 AM

    Hi Furhan Zubairi, I read your information its really good and readable for viewers.The way you wrote the content is impressive.

  3. Avatar

    abuCocoa

    June 26, 2018 at 11:02 PM

    can you please fix the formatting on MM? not everyone likes to view websites when they are completely full screen…

  4. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    July 10, 2018 at 4:30 AM

    Masha Alla , well written and informational.

    Allah bless you.

  5. Avatar

    M H

    July 10, 2018 at 5:29 AM

    Just what I needed! JazakAllahu Khayran for the article.

    Fiqh is an ocean, and often we are only exposed to a puddle. Arguably that’s because that’s all we need to go about our daily business, and to actually refer to Ulama in times of need.

  6. Avatar

    Hamid

    June 4, 2019 at 11:45 PM

    JAK for the writeup.
    My observations in this regard are as follows:
    1. IMO, the absence of a central religions body (for example AWQAF or National Religious Committees) in the West (among the Muslims) has left a vacuum that is filled by those who are qualified, somewhat qualified, and not qualified at all. You can easily assign different people/roles within our community structure to each of these categories (mashaykh/imams, ulema/scholars, qaris, board members, youth leaders, dude with nice voice, born-agains (Muslim equivalent of evengalist), etc.). Many of these people think of themselves as vanguard of Islam and its heritage and tradition.

    2. For some reason, many students of knowledge as well as graduates from Islamic institutes are quite disillusioned about the competence of Muslim scholars and institutions in the East and try to overcompensate when they go back to their communities as “they have the freedom to bring about a change or reform that is not afforded to those in many Muslim countries”. As a result of this, many of these same people criticize the Muslim clergy thus undermining their own value and interest. This is a nuanced observation that is best experienced by those who are cultured enough to see and understand this BTW.

    3. The quest of knowledge doesn’t begin with the knowledge itself; mannerism, attitude and decorum is the initiation phase followed by actual pursuit of Islamic knowledge. This is why we end up with folks belonging to the warrior strand and not the spiritual and healing strand. All of my main mashaykh (sh Wlaeed Idrees, Sh Hatem Alhaj..) always stressed the importance of attitude and mannerism over accumulation of knowledge.

    4. Ardent students of knowledge from the Muslim institutes also need to own up to their mistake because they perpetrated an environment of mistrust of “established authority”, Muslim institutes and the old guard of scholars and students of knowledge. This is a cycle and what goes around comes around.

    5. Like you mentioned, there’s just such a general lack of the basic understanding of the abundancy and respect of varying opinions in the Islamic heritage that people have little clue about the richness of that heritage. As long as this exists, we will have narrowmindedness and conflicts about the elemental issues.

    These are some initial thoughts in no particular order with no intent to critize or harm.

    JAK.

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#Current Affairs

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

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

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

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

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

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

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

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

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 9: A Good Word

Now that we have learnt about the life of this world, let’s talk about a good word.

I want you all to close your eyes and think of a beautiful tree. 

Question: Who can tell me what their tree looks like? Is the tree big and strong? Does it have lots of branches and leaves? Does it have fruit?

Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something really nice to you.

Question:  What are some of the nice statements you remember people telling you?

Question: How did those statements make you feel?

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Yes, they fill us up with a warm feeling. We may have felt proud of ourselves and we may have felt loved. Do you know that Allah [wt] describes a good word to a good tree? 

In Surah Ibrahim, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ 

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تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ 

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? [Surah Ibrahim; 24]

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. [Surah Ibrahim; 25]

Question: Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something mean to you. How did that make you feel?

It’s not fun to remember the mean stuff right? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continues in Surah Ibrahim and says:

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. [Surah Ibrahim; 26] 

Question: What do you think are good words we can use to build strong, firmly rooted trees?

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History and Seerah

Podcast: Five Historic Events That Rocked The World During Ramadan | Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter

We all know that Ramadan is the month of fasting, abstinence and reflection. Ramadan also just happens to be a month of awesome history defining events that shaped the world we live in today.

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