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An Open Letter To All Islamic Organizations Regardless Of Their Mission

These conclusions are barriers to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil because the organizational missions become distractions, the conferences become bazaars, the speakers become celebrities, and the oppression becomes entertainment. The costs, the time, the subjects when not spent or aligned to act with a consciousness of the single Islamic mission is distraction. Furthermore, a time spent without redressing dehumanization, is money, hours, and agenda wasted. It is not to deny these separate issues need resolutions, and in the short term, Islamic organizations and nonprofits do fulfill that mission. However, Believers warrant a world view of Islam. The work is to recognize and remove the real cause of the oppression. This is the greater goal and the singular mission, since eradicating it will resolve all the crises that Islamic organizations address. The objective is to create a humane society where Islam is peace: violence, poverty, and oppression is relieved.

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Open Letter to Muslim Organizations

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatahu,

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have a common enemy. It has been our enemy since the creation of Prophet Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). The perpetrator of all violence, and deceptions emanates from this evil force. It is the excuse Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted for struggle and success. It is an arena for human kind wherein Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) separates the monotheist from the rest; wherein He has offered the reward to those who believe and destruction to disbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy. By description, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives context to the relationship of humans and Iblis with multiple ayah from Quran. He says:

O you who believe! Enter perfectly in Islam (by obeying all the rules and regulations of the Islamic religion) and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan (Satan). Verily! He is to you a plain enemy. (2:208).

Quran 17:64

“And Istafziz [literally means: befool them gradually] those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience), make assaults on them with your cavalry and your infantry, mutually share with them wealth and children (by tempting them to earn money by illegal ways usury, etc., or by committing illegal sexual intercourse, etc.), and make promises to them.” But Satan promises them nothing but deceit. (17: 64)

Quran 7:17

Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You).” (7:17)

And he (Iblis, Satan) had no authority over them, except that We might test him, who believes in the Hereafter from him who is in doubt about it. And your Lord is a Hafiz over everything. (All­ Knower of everything i.e. He keeps record of each and every person as regards deeds, and then He will reward them accordingly).

The Quran is an eternal miracle, with its text as relevant today as it was 1440 years ago when it was revealed to our Beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). It is a “guidance for certain”, which means it is the map to lead us toward success in this world and in the Hereafter. Then why do we separate it from our daily lives – moment to moment? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) provides fail-safes against forgetfulness, neglect, and laziness as He prescribes daily spiritual actions: salah, fasting, dhikr, da’wa, charity, instruction, so that we can remember our responsibility and duty to Him, and so we won’t forget our purpose (“Enter perfectly into Islam—submission). And when we remember Him, He remembers us …

Quran 2:152

Therefore, remember Me (by praying, glorifying, etc.). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. (2:152)

He also says:

Quran 9:112

 

(The believers) who repent for their sins, worship God, praise Him, travel through the land (for pious purposes), kneel down and prostrate themselves in obedience to God, make others do good and prevent them from sins and abide by the laws of God, will receive a great reward. Let this be glad news for the believer. (9:112)

And

Quran 3:110

You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fasiqun (disobedient to Allah – and rebellious against Allah’s Command). (3:110)

And reminds us to

Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.

Thus, the Quran exhorts individual responsibility, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also enjoins collective responsibility. (Even within the individual actions of Muslims, there is a collective good. Consider the pillars of Islam.) Keeping the two points in mind: (1) the Quran is timeless; (2) Islam is an individual and a collective task. Now, join the two claims with a third: (3) the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was the final prophet – a universal messenger. The weight of these truths is on the Muslims (Believers), and to neglect this bounty, is to deny the covenant made between Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) That covenant was sealed by the final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was given and embodied the Quran by exemplifying his Sunnah – the pillars and principles Islam.

Furthermore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the ayah from Sura Taubah, listed the tasks of Believers: repent (taubah), pray (salah), praise (dhikr), travel (seek knowledge), thank (shukr); enjoin the good and forbid the evil (establish justice and economy). However, these actions, which depend upon guidance from the Quran and sustenance by the character of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) require solidarity, unity, and support from the Ummah; meaning, those who Believe and adhere to the commands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Without bonds followed by harmony, Muslims are unprotected and prey to the machinations and evils of Iblis (a oozu billahi minashaitan ir rajeem).

Islam is lived by jamaat, not by individualism. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) follows the ayah of Sura Taubah with the consequences of inaction:

Quran 11:116

 

If only there had been among the generations before you, persons having wisdom, prohibiting (others) from Al-Fasad (disbelief, polytheism, and all kinds of crimes and sins) in the earth, except a few of those whom We saved from among them. Those who did wrong pursued the enjoyment of good things of (this worldly) life, and were Mujrimun (criminals, disbelievers in Allah, polytheists, sinners, etc.). (11:116)

“Allah said he saved the people because they were reformers (by enjoining the good and forbidding the evil), and didn’t say He saved them just because they were righteous” (Hadith Commentary).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) bears witness to these truths, when he is reported to have said:

  • The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Allah does not punish the general masses for the sins of the few evil-doers, until they see the evil apparent and they are able to forbid it (but they don’t). If they do that (not forbid the evil) then Allah will punish the general masses along with the few evil-doers” (Reported by Ahmad)
  • The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “By the one who my soul is in His hand, you shall enjoin the good and forbid the evil, or Allah will be about to send a punishment to you from Him, then you will call Him and He will not answer you” (Reported by Tirmidhi)

After this, there are some observations that disclose the scattered condition of this ummah and the resulting disunity that impairs our ability to fulfill this dire obligation of “enjoining Ma’ruf and forbidding Munkar.

  1. According to the Guide Star Directory of (Islamic) Charities and Nonprofit Organizations, there are over 1200 Charity and Nonprofit organizations in the U.S., with each vying for followers and support. Notwithstanding the legitimacy and mission of them all, the number itself infers secularism and separatism as each organization does indeed have a different goal even though each may be categorized under a specific function.
  2. The spread of Islamic organizations reflects a spread of diverse ideological principles, which, singularly, may or may not represent a common purpose – Islamically.
  3. The organizations are individualistic with each identifying and persuading their own program to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, but in fact their efforts may or may not align with the end goal, which is Islamic monotheism.
  4. The intention of these organizations may be simply to organize around a particular issue (a good thing), but does the organization recognize the one issue as a symptom of a larger “evil” that needs to be highlighted and eradicated? Do these organizations intend to bring that solution or merely repeat a process, which may not originate from an Islamic principle?
  5. While a few of these organizations have aligned as “councils” or “groups” to coalesce and advocate for the larger Muslim community, are these coalitions authentic or exemplary of the larger Muslim communities and the communities of the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
  6. Islamic organizations and nonprofits have become polarized and popularized; persuading the audience by rhetoric rather than real actions against oppression, which exists here and around the world.

These conclusions are barriers to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil because the organizational missions become distractions, the conferences become bazaars, the speakers become celebrities, and the oppression becomes entertainment. The costs, the time, the subjects when not spent or aligned to act with a consciousness of the single Islamic mission is distraction. Furthermore, a time spent without redressing dehumanization, is money, hours, and agenda wasted. It is not to deny these separate issues need resolutions, and in the short term, Islamic organizations and nonprofits do fulfill that mission. However, Believers warrant a world view of Islam. The work is to recognize and remove the real cause of the oppression. This is the greater goal and the singular mission, since eradicating it will resolve all the crises that Islamic organizations address. The objective is to create a humane society where Islam is peace: violence, poverty, and oppression is relieved.

The emergence of Islamic organizations and nonprofits in the U.S. was at first to provide a single jamaat wherein all Muslims could converge and unify. Muslims found Islam from the Civil Rights Movement. While Muslims arrived from foreign countries, these newly converted Believers preceded the communities of immigrants, and they became political movements, or legitimate practitioners of Quran and Sunna (according to their understanding, their readings, and sporadic teaching). Others converged on college campuses as students, still other Muslims from foreign lands were invited to America. Certainly, the intent of the MSA and ISNA was to become an umbrella organization for all Muslims. Indeed, most Muslims found commonality with them. At the same time, those Islamic governances within the American grassroots communities, founded by “ex-slave” generations of convert Muslim men and women failed to garner support even though the development of these communities represented the authentic evolution of Islam necessitated for dawah in this country.

Two characters generally distinguish these indigenous Muslim men and women:

(1) Love for Islam, and  (2) a desire for Muslim unity. Although these distinguishing characters are separate by explanation, they are joined for action.

They loved one another because they internalized what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:

Quran 3:103

And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Quran), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus, Allah makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.,) clear to you, that you may be guided. (3:103)

And,

Quran 9:71

The believers, men and women, are Auliya’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. (9:71)

And,

Hadith of the Prophet conveyed:

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَثَلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فِي تَوَادِّهِمْ وَتَرَاحُمِهِمْ وَتَعَاطُفِهِمْ مَثَلُ الْجَسَدِ إِذَا اشْتَكَى مِنْهُ عُضْوٌ تَدَاعَى لَهُ سَائِرُ الْجَسَدِ بِالسَّهَرِ وَالْحُمَّى

The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever. Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 5665, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi 

It portends a model of community.

In the U.S., the essence of Islam is rooted in unity. Indigenous brothers and sisters chose Islam as an answer to the fitna in America, especially in the urban areas. Collectively, we believe both the indigenous and the immigrant Muslims are situated in America to respond to the prayers of the oppressed around the globe. Efforts have been made, martyrs have been taken; organizations have been raised, yet neither have furthered a unified body to fulfill that mission.

Why?

Zaynab Abdullah is a slave of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). An educator with 40+ years experience, she is currently teaches at Al Huda School. This mother of 10 and a grandmother of even more, is the founder and Director of Islamic Home School and Network, Incorporated (IHSAN Inc.), a satellite and umbrella program, which facilitated instruction for home educated and adult clients in the Detroit, Michigan. A seasoned community activist and program coordinator for community based centers including Youth Against Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs summer grant program in Detroit, Highland Park Community Center. She is a Public speaker, a MIST Coach and AP College Board Table Leader. She follows a legacy of generational human and civil rights activists.

Ed. Note: Part 2 will be published soon.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ayisha J

    January 30, 2019 at 9:08 AM

    Our problem is religious illiteracy

  2. Avatar

    Sameer

    February 2, 2019 at 10:10 AM

    salaam aleikum,

    excellent article, see this article on same topic:
    http://www.isiyasah.com/2017/04/the-necessity-of-amr-bil-maroof-wa-nahy.html

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman

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My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.

 

We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.

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Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam

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Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.

Footnotes:

  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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