Connect with us

#Society

The Unfinished Business of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Imam Zaid Shakir

Avatar

Published

on

During these days many in this country are commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929. While most remember Dr. King for his soaring oration, symbolized by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered before a sweltering throng at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963, Dr. King was far more than a moving orator. He was a formidable intellectual, an effective organizer and a passionate advocate for the freedom of his people. These qualities combined with Dr. King’s oratorical abilities to make him an individual oppressive political powers came to both despise and fear.

For all that he was able to accomplish in the context of the Civil Rights struggle and in advancing the rights and dignity of African Americans, Dr. King realized that his work was not complete; neither in the South nor in the North, as his painful experience in Chicago underscored. To a certain extent, his unfinished work is larger than the Civil Rights struggle. That larger work revolves around what he identified as the evil triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism. Decisively combating these evils is a daunting challenge, some might even describe it as nearly impossible. Dr. King realized, however, that with the help of God all things are possible and he thus never lost hope that we could overcome these forces. As people of faith, this should be our firm belief.

Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace. It is a community that came into existence as a multiracial force and lists anti-materialism as one of its foundational principles (renounce the world and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will love you). I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work. This is absolutely critical for the wellbeing of our nation and the world for as long as those evils rip through the waters of our collective humanity, the dehumanizing violence they give birth to will follow in their wake.

In his powerful but oftentimes overlooked speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” delivered at the Riverside Church in Manhattan on April 4, 1967, Dr. King showed how these three evils are connected and how they combine to make the United States, in his words, “…the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” The fact that such violence continues, unabated, should cause all of us to reflect deeply on why we as a society have not done more to address it. The gut-wrenching violence we visited upon Vietnam has directly afflicted Afghanistan and Iraq and indirectly defines the fate of nations like Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Palestine.

I believe one of the reasons we have done so little to arrest that violence is because we as a nation are so effective in denying its existence. In the words of a popular song, “Memories may be beautiful and yet what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget…” As a society, we find it far too easy and convenient to simply forget the painful horrors of native genocide, chattel slavery, Jim Crow and its accompanying brutalities, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or the next place whose name might be added to this list. Dr. King forces us to remember these horrors and the violence they birthed –through the brilliance of his oration, the seriousness of his struggle and the testimony of his death.

The following quote from Francis Fitzgerald’s vivid chronicling of the Vietnam War, “Fire in the Lake,” serves to both awaken us to the magnitude of American violence and also the tragedy of how easy it would be to replace Vietnam with Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria or Yemen and find that it would be an apt description of any of those places. She writes:

In the refugee camps and isolated villages people die of malnutrition and the children are deformed. In the cities, where there is no sanitation and rarely any running water, the adults die of cholera, typhoid, smallpox, leprosy, bubonic plague, and their children die of the common diseases of dirt, such as scabies and sores. South Vietnam knows nothing like the suffering of India or Bangladesh. Comparatively speaking it has always been a rich country and the American aid has provided many people with the means for survival. But its one source of wealth is agriculture and the American war has wreaked havoc on its forests and paddy lands. It has given great fortune to the few while endangering the country’s future and forcing the many to live in the kind of “poverty, ignorance and disease” that South Vietnam never knew before.

Still, the physical destruction, perhaps, is not the worst of it. The destruction of an entire society –“That is, above all, what the Vietnamese blame the Americans for,” said one Vietnamese scholar. “Willingfully or not, they have tended to destroy what is most precious to us: family, friendship, our manner of expressing ourselves.” … “Physical death is everywhere but it is the social death caused by the destruction of the family that is of overriding importance.”

One could realistically ask why mention these things at this time when we should be celebrating Dr. King’s life and work? Why should we even care when we can do little or nothing to change such monstrous realities? I would respond that his nonviolent opposition to the stultifying violence of our country is the very essence of Dr. King’s life and work and collectively, with the help of Allah, we can begin to change the regime perpetuating that violence. I would respond to the above queries with a different set of questions. Namely, how many more innocent societies have to be destroyed before we as a people say enough is enough? What type of world do we wish to leave our children? Is it one where the situation described in “Fire in the Lake” becomes so common that it does not even prick their consciences. Have we become so blinded by the American dream that we can no longer see the accompanying global nightmare that helps to make it possible?

Some would say that the mere mention of such issues is overwhelming for the average person and hence could well lead to a type of socio-psychiatric paralysis. One the beautiful features of Islam is that it allows us to recognize our limitations while still maintaining a principled opposition to wrong. By so doing we are able to escape becoming socio-political zombies. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Almighty God upon him) wisely stated,

“If one of you sees something wrong let him change it with his hand. If unable to do so let him speak out against it. If still unable to do so let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest manifestation of faith.”

Thus, if one finds himself or herself unable to do something lawful and practical like joining with the work of the Quakers or other institutions with a long history of nonviolent anti-war activism in this country, or founding a similarly-oriented Muslim group, let him or her speak out against it at every forum and via every medium available. If even that is not possible then let them hate it in their hearts. Doing so is the least we can do to honor the life, legacy, and sacrifice of Dr. King and hopefully, it will serve as a first step in our moving to finish the work he so valiantly started.

Imam Zaid Shakir

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

Avatar

Published

on

How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

Continue Reading

#Society

Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions

Rehan Mirza, Guest Contributor

Published

on

muslim led institutions

Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.

Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.

The Organizational Light

As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have

Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.

Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.

Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.

The Personal Imperative

What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.

When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.

We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.

The Collective Affect

When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.

These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.

And Allah always knows best.

Continue Reading

#Islam

The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman

Published

on

Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

Continue Reading

Trending