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UAE Peace Forum is Just the Tip of the Iceberg of Some American Muslim Ulema Undermining Their Followers

Ed. Note: We understand that this is a matter of current public debate, MM welcomes opeds of differing points of view. Please use this form.

On December 5th, 2018 the government of the United Arab Emirates sponsored the “Annual Conference of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies” in Abu Dhabi. The forum began in 2014 as a means of countering the effects of the Arab Spring, in which young people living under tyrannical regimes around the Arab world clamored for a life of democracy, freedom, and dignity. The UAE fearing that such a call for justice would spread to its own borders set up this forum in order to undermine such calls for democracy in and around the Arab world. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, the vice president of this forum, has taken a lot of flack over the past few days. But flack over American Muslim leaders undermining the American Muslim community at the expense of hegemonic powers should extend beyond this event and just Hamza Yusuf. Despite their work on Islam in the West, religious tolerance and building institutions, numerous traditionalist ulema including Hamza Yusuf, Mohamed Magid, Hisham Kabbani, and Talib Shareef have all supported a political agenda that hurts the American Muslims they aim to serve.

Before laying out this disastrous political agenda, it is critical to note the historic hesitation that ulema have had with any sort of partnership with or appointment by government authorities. Wael Hallaq writes in his book, “Introduction to Islamic Law” that:

“[Ulema] began to equate government and political power with vice and corruption. This attitude originated sometime around the end of the seventh century[about 80 years after hijrah]…As of this time, and continuing for nearly a millennium thereafter, the theme of judicial appointment as an adversity, even a calamity, for those so designated became a recurring detail…Jurists are reported to have wept—sometimes together with family members–upon hearing the news of their appointment; others went into hiding, or preferred to be whipped rather than accept office.”

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Ulema understood that their authority as religious scholars could be used to legitimize repressive governments. It is for this reason that numerous scholars including Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shaafi, Imam Malik ibn Anas, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Imam Jafar As Sadiq, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim, and Al-Suhrawardi spent time tortured and/or in jail as a result of their opposition to government policies. Any position within or partnership with a government was viewed with extreme suspicion, both by the ulema and the masses that followed them.

Even Shaykh Hamza Yusuf himself stated that “Muslims are very wary of any scholar who associates closely with a government, and they always have been…Because governments never do that out of the graciousness of their good will. They co-opt.”

Unfortunately, it seems like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s own relationship with the UAE has led him, over the years, to join in the UAE’s morally bankrupt positions on both the Muslim ban, anti-racist movements in the United States, and the dog-whistling of the Muslim Brotherhood to crush dissent. While Muslims and civil rights organizations around the United States were disgusted at the passing of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, the government of the UAE supported this ban that codified Islamophobia into law. Hamza Yusuf, arguably the most prominent Islamic scholar in the United States, did not utter a word in regard to the ban. Zaytuna College, the first and only accredited Islamic university in the United States which Hamza Yusuf is president of, also joined in Hamza Yusuf’s silence on this disastrous legislation.

The UAE has also sought to ally itself with Trump’s far-right agenda, scheduling secret meetings with Trump and other military contractors in an effort to get American-made weapons to use against civilians in Yemen. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, when asked at the 2016 Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) conference whether Muslims should ally with the Black Lives Matter movement, infamously replied, referring to the United States as “one of the least racist societies in the world” and disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement using the typical Fox News line that they do not say anything about Black on Black crime. The claim that the United States is “one of the least racist societies in the world” is considerably ridiculous considering that an unarmed Black person is killed in the United States every 28 hours. Some have defended his positions, emphasizing his call for personal reform.

In the same RIS speech, Yusuf also criticized political Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, suggesting that they, along with literalism, are what gave birth to ISIS. The government of the UAE has labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. It has even declared the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest and oldest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, a terrorist organization, based on non-existent, conspiratorial links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE’s defamation of CAIR has been repeated by some of the most virulent Islamophobes in the United States, such as Texas Senator, Ted Cruz.

Such a guilt-by-association link to the Muslim Brotherhood is problematic because the Muslim Brotherhood is an intellectual movement more than a centralized political party. While militant organizations that are labeled as terrorist groups by the United States government such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad come out of the Muslim Brotherhood, other Brotherhood-linked organizations reject violence and embrace Westernization and liberal democracy. For example, the Brotherhood-linked Ennahda movement in Tunisia has been credited with helping “drive democracy forward” in a post-Arab Spring Tunisia. The late anthropologist, Saba Mahmood, in her book “The Politics of Piety” outlined how women affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were empowered through participation in the organization. Many have theorized that affiliation with this decentralized organization called the “Muslim Brotherhood” is used by the government of the UAE to jail dissidents who may have zero affiliation or even familiarity with the organization.

Hamza Yusuf, in another speech, joined the government of the UAE in such incoherent attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood and broader political Islamic movements. He alleged that Sayyid Qutb, a prominent intellectual inspiration of the Muslim Brotherhood, was “a Marxist before he became Muslim.” Such a claim is completely false. Qutb was a Muslim his whole life, and never identified as a Marxist, although he may have read Marxist thought, which many intellectuals, both non-Marxist and Marxist, have done (Note: I have read Marx and reject the ideology. I would be surprised if Hamza Yusuf has not read any Marxist thought). Hamza Yusuf then stated that political Islam is merely “repackaged Marxism” and closed his talk by asserting that Marx was a racist who compared the Algerians to apes. Unlike Yusuf’s statement of Qutb’s Marxism before his “conversion” to Islam (which never happened because Qutb was never non-Muslim), I was unable to verify the truth of his claim regarding Marx and the Algerians. But I did contact five scholars of Marxist history, who claim to have never heard of such an assertion. In this speech, it seems that Sh Hamza Yusuf is making preposterous claims not based in reality to undermine such movements, steered by the UAE government.

Yusuf also claimed the government of the UAE was an example of a government committed to “tolerance.” This too is a ludicrous claim considering that the UAE jailed and tortured nearly 100 Emirati activists in the midst of the Arab spring, merely because they sought reforms. Human Rights Watch has also expressed “grave concern” over forced disappearances and torture in the Emirates. Amnesty International has also accused the UAE of war crimes as a result of the role that they have played in the bombing and blockade of Yemen, in addition to beatings, electric shocks, and sexual abuse in UAE-run prisons in Yemen. Over 1300 civilians have died in Yemen as a result of bombing, and an additional 50,000 children died from starvation in 2017. Experts warn that 13 million people in Yemen face starvation in “a famine of biblical proportions.” Yusuf in his praise for the UAE has not mentioned any of these facts, which reveal it to actually be one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Moreover, just like with regard to the Muslim ban, Hamza Yusuf has been silent on the oppression in Yemen too .

Without any statements by Shaykh Yusuf in explaining his silence or defending premier American Muslim organizations against smears, American Muslims are left connecting dots.

In addition to Hamza Yusuf, Hisham Kabbani, a Lebanese-American spiritual leader, who has made large leeway in African-American communities, too has backed an agenda that harms American Muslims. In a speech to the State Department in 2001, he stated that 80% of mosques in the United States are backed by extremist ideologies. He also cheered on George W Bush’s war on terror and was particularly avid in his support for the American invasion of Iraq. His predecessor, Nazim Al Haqqani, went as far as to declare that George W Bush and Tony Blair were awliya (reaching a level of sainthood) because they invaded Iraq. According to his obituary, Haqqani also asserted that Prince Charles had embraced Sufism in his heart and was going abolish the UK’s parliament and that all of the Middle East would be under one sultanate by 2011(none of these things ever happened).

Kabbani also established WORDE, a shady “American security organization” with Hedieh Mirahmadi, who also ran his Islamic Supreme Council of America. Mirahmadi is also a board member of the neoconservative and anti-Muslim organization, “The Committee on the Present Danger,” which includes individuals such as Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney and Newt Gingrich on their board. Regarding Muslims, Frank Gaffney said that “They essentially, like termites, hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions, for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.” Gaffney also claimed that Barack Obama is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood and engaged in “the greatest bait and switch since Adolf Hitler.” James Zogby said that “Daniel Pipes is to Muslims what David Duke is to African Americans.” For a man who claims to lead Muslims to ally with the people in this country most hell-bent on hurting Muslims leads one to wonder what the political commitments of Kabbani are.

Imam Mohamed Magid, the former President of ISNA, too was present at this “peace forum.” His presence at the forum troubled many who know the heavy amount of good efforts he has made for the community. But beyond his participation in this event whitewashing the UAE’s violations of human rights, Magid has also supported FBI within his mosque. He is currently Executive Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslims Society (ADAMS), which is one of the largest and most prominent group of mosques in the United States. Time Magazine in 2005 noted that he “regularly opens doors for [FBI] agents trying to cultivate contacts in his Muslim community.” Magid has clarified that he meets with the FBI regularly but these meetings  “convey … that our Muslim community needs to be treated as partners, not as suspects,” and Muslims need to “work with law enforcement to preserve our civil liberties and civil rights.” Imam Magid also emphasized that he and other Muslim leaders did “not use these monthly meetings to report upon the activities of our community members.”

ADAMS has also participated in a “Junior Special Agents Program” which is run by the FBI and targets fifth and sixth-grade students at the mosque with the stated goal of helping them develop “a violent-free style of life.” Only the most virulent Islamophobe would believe that 10 and 11 year old Muslim kids need to be taught how to live “a violent-free style of life.” For Imam Magid and ADAMS to allow such a program in the space of a masjid represents a significant lack of political literacy of the politics of power, racism, and Islamophobia.

Additionally, Imam Magid has also sits on the board of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. The Council consists of a partnership with the Islamic Society of North America and the American Jewish Committee, an organization that recently visited and met with numerous leadership in the UAE, including the Foreign Minister of the UAE, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The organization has defended the murder of peaceful protests in Gaza this past summer and even argued that progressive Jews who criticize Israel’s oppression of Palestinians are anti-Semites. Despite the fact that progressive Jews such as Rabbi Michael Lerner, who spoke in his eulogy at the funeral of Muhammad Ali about the importance of justice for Palestinians, have denounced the AJC, Imam Magid continues to sit on a board with them. This is strange as there are a plethora of Jewish American organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Bend the Arc, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and If Not Now, all of whom are great for building interfaith relations between Muslims and Jews while not throwing Palestinians under the bus in the process.

Imam Talib Shareef has also undermined the Muslim community through his projects. Shareef is distinct from Hamza Yusuf, Hisham Kabbani, and Mohamed Magid in the outlook that he comes from. He did not study for a long time overseas. In fact, most of his Islamic education comes from being a student of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad who transformed his father’s organization to Sunni Islam, in 1976. Imam Talib is Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington DC, a mosque inaugurated by Malcolm X when he was a member of the Nation of Islam, and known as “The Nation’s Mosque.”

Imam Talib, too, was present at UAE’s peace forum, sharing a stage with neoconservatives, Zionists, Evangelical Christians, and Arab despots. One could argue that these people are those most responsible for lack of peace in the world. One of the groups present was the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has a long history of anti-Palestinian and anti-Black racism. The Anti-Defamation League is one of five organizations that foster exchange programs in which American police officers travel to Israel and learn tactics from the Israeli military. These are the same tactics that have been used to help maintain a brutal military occupation of Palestinians for over half a century. In April of 2011, the St Louis County Police Department, which murdered Michael Brown, embarked on a weeklong training in Israel facilitated by the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL also helped spy on behalf of the Apartheid South African government in the 1980s. In his book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, Sasha Polakow-Suransky writes that ”As the anti-apartheid campaign its attention to Israeli links with South Africa, the ADL entered the propaganda frat, publically attacking Nelson Mandela’s ANC.” Nathan Perlmutter, then National Director of the ADL, even co-authored an article with Apartheid South Africa’s President, PW Botha, lambasting Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as “totalitarian, anti-humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israel and anti-American.”

Beyond this participation with such racist organizations, Imam Talib’s mosque has also taken CVE funding from the Department of Homeland Security. The Countering Violent Extremism initiative has been criticized not only for its lack of effectiveness but also for the manner in which it has made American Muslims as exceptional in their susceptibility to terrorism. Many civil rights groups such as the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Civil Liberties Union have condemned CVE. It has even referred to as a “Cointelpro 2.0” referring to the program that illegally spied on and surveilled influential figures in Talib’s own organization such as Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.

For an individual who literally heads a mosque founded by Malcolm X, it is a shame to see him cooperating with government agencies that have undermined Black people and Muslims in the past. It is truly disappointing to see him going to “peace conferences” with those who seek to undermine the aspirations of American Muslims, African Americans, Palestinians, Yemenis, and other Arab people advocating for a life of basic freedom and democracy.

Ultimately, it is sad that American Muslims have not been able to find a grounded, political agenda to live by. Rather, prominent imams around the country find themselves palling around with some of the most repressive regimes in the world. Perhaps the most saddening part about this is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. There is a rich history of Muslims around the world leading the fight against oppression, as opposed to legitimizing it. There lies the example Islamic anti-apartheid movements in South Africa led by figures such as Farid Esack and Ebrahim Rasool, in addition to Islamic scholars such as Emir Abdelkader, Amadou Bamba, and Omar Mukhtar fighting colonialism. One can also look to the examples of Imam Husayn fighting Yazid or the Prophet Moses 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) resisting the Pharaoh. The reality is that there is a rich legacy of scholars who resisted oppression. As to Islamic scholars who collaborated with oppressors, following generations have left them in the dustbins. If American Muslim ulema such as Hamza Yusuf, Talib Shareef, Hisham Kabbani, and Mohamed Magid continue to collaborate with oppressive governments in ways that obviously harm Muslims, they too will be condemned and forgotten by future generations.

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Hamzah Raza is a graduate student at Harvard University and an alumnus of Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, he received highest honors for his thesis on the role that South African Muslims played in the anti-apartheid struggle. He has been previously been published at the Huffington Post, Alternet, the Grayzone Project, Raw Story, and the Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @raza_hamzah

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Musa

    December 20, 2018 at 8:17 PM

    Great piece Alhamdulillah, put together well and highlights the key issues.

  2. Avatar

    ussif

    December 20, 2018 at 10:51 PM

    Great article, well documented Barak allahu fik. Did you try to contact Hamza Yusuf or the others for a reply?

  3. Avatar

    Farhat Ahmed

    December 21, 2018 at 12:09 AM

    Great Article Mr.Brown. This is something that has frustrated me for so long, religious scholars being subservient to human rulers and not to a sincere commitment of justice as commanded by Allah(S.W.T). We need more discourse like this to revive the spirit of early Muslimeen

  4. Avatar

    DI

    December 22, 2018 at 9:23 PM

    Hamzah,

    I don’t know much about your background but I think it is too easy to criticize ulema. I would prefer to conceal their faults more than anything. (As an aside: you quoted Farid Esack so you may want to read this: http://masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/esack.htm)

    Here is the problem criticizing ulema involved in this project.

    We act as if we elected them as our political leaders and they are beholden to us. They are not; they are beholden to Allah. Their duty as ulema is to establish the fardh and disseminate Islamic teaching. That’s it.

    Ulema are an endangered species. If all ulema in the world acted as revolutionaries how many ulema do you think would survive? And when that happens, who would teach your kids the deen and who would lead your salah and do your janaza?

    Muslim history is more than fighting oppression. Omar Muktar ended up the same way as Malcolm X – a shaheed. We have many shuhada amongst ulema. Islam in our times is about survival because our religion is the only valuable resource we have. Fighting oppression is a luxury. You likely would not be a Muslim today if it were not for the ulema in the past who did NOT fight the British but chose to continue tarbiya and teaching as means of resistance. They kept Islam alive rather than diving head first into oblivion. Quietism is about survival.

    I know that isn’t as romantic but that is the realistic view of things. For my own self, I hope the ulema at the UAE forum are playing the rulers, influencing and manipulating them behind the scenes for the best interests of the Muslims. All we can do is pray for them to have a positive influence or no negative influence on the Muslims at all.

    di.

    • Avatar

      Manisha

      December 24, 2018 at 9:25 AM

      That’s a brilliant reflection DI.
      Sometimes those criticizing don’t even bring solutions to the table. Nor do they know the intentions of those they criticize.
      If boycott (and not engagement) was always the answer, you might as well go live in a cave.
      Not to mention the aforementioned Shaykh did boycott a visit to the Whitehouse as she Ulema went, and some refused.

      If you cherry pick ? facts and not put them into context, you end up with bias that is no different to its polar opposite.
      Some good points in the article, however it’s (brotherhood) bias gives it a D – at best.

      I guess Havard don’t help when you’ve got things inside you that you’ll never change.

  5. Avatar

    Fritz

    December 24, 2018 at 10:13 AM

    This is a little too polemic. If you are going to write an article like this you have to posset the arguments from the other side otherwise – at times – this read like an incoherent rant.

    The real question is the nature of how to engage without necessarily condoning. At some levels, all of us will have to do this. You haven’t really explored this in any detail. As DI has mentioned, sometimes there is no ideal situation where you can just jump and take an adversarial position all the time on everything.

    Also, lets not forget, the prophet

  6. Avatar

    Wulf Nesthead

    March 2, 2019 at 5:33 PM

    As some others have observed, a piece like this has limited utility. Reducing organizations or even entire countries to those specific aspects or historical positions which one finds problematic is at best a questionable strategy. Guilt by association is likewise less than helpful, especially when we are trying to promote dialogue with institutions which, like it or not, are in power. The world is by its nature full of individuals who may not necessarily see eye to eye. Making a point of condemning the faults of those at the table is less than constructive. We will hardly get a hearing if we were busy inveighing against every sin of the hosts.
    If we wait until those in power are all righteous men and women before sitting down with them, we will be waiting for a very long time. Some of the scholars mentioned here are also some of the greatest ‘ulema to have blessed our soil. They have an immense job to do. I suspect that to decry the idea of political involvement by individual ‘ulema and then accuse them of betrayal for not holding forth on every political question under the sun, or for not holding specific opinions which agree with our own, may be an indiscretion.betrayal
    Meng-tse, whom the barbarians call “Mencius,” wrote about a man who was so concerned with rectitude, he would not associate with anyone remotely connected to unrighteous behaviour. As a result he lived his life in isolation and never accomplished anything. Ever.

  7. Avatar

    willowema

    January 9, 2020 at 12:57 AM

    Amazing reading, well researched and documented. Thanks for sharing.

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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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Coronavirus

Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

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

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

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

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Eid Day Must’s

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

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

Virtual Parties

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

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

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

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

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

Alternative “Outings”

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

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

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

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

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

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

Eid Mubarak!

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#Islam

Eid Prayer During the Pandemic

Introduction

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

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

The Obligation of Eid

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

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

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

The Khutbah of Eid

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

Congregations

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

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

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

Recommended Eid Rituals

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

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

Requirements to Conduct Eid Prayer

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

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

Conducting the Eid Prayer

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

Mālikīs[25]

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

Ḥanbalīs[27]

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

Shāfiʿīs[28]

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

Ḥanafīs[29]

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Allah knows best.

AbdulNasir Jangda

Sohaib Sheikh

26 Ramadan 1441 AH/19 May 2020 CE

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


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

[2] Bada’I al-Sana’I 1:274

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

[4] al-Mughni 2:304

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

[6] Qur’an 108:2

[7] Sahih al-Bukhari 2678

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[18] Sahih al-Bukhari 13:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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