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What Fasting Demands From Us | Mufti Taqi Uthmani

The following is an English translation of “Rozah Humsay Kia Muṭālbah Karta Hai” by Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Muhammad Taqī ‘Uthmāni, which was published by Idārat-ul-Ma‘ārif Karachi in 2012 CE/1433 AH.

By Shaykh Al-Islam Mufti Taqi Uthmani

[After Praise and Salutations]

I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan.

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With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful.

Allah says:

“The month of Ramaḍān is the one in which the Qur’ān was revealed as guidance for mankind and as clear signs that show the right way and distinguish between right and wrong. So those of you who witness the month must fast in it…” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:185)

The blessed month of Ramaḍān is about to begin in a few days. Who among the Muslims does not know the greatness and blessedness of this month! The extent of His Mercy that descends upon His servants is unfathomable.

Allah Almighty has made it a month of worship. In this month, there are those actions that every Muslim knows and fulfills. For example, Muslims observe the fast in this month and they also know that the tarāwīḥ prayers are from the Sunnah. All praises are due to Allah that He gives Muslims the tawfīq to fast and He grants them the honor of attending the tarāwīḥ prayers. However, right now I want to shed light upon another aspect of this blessed month.

Ramaḍān is commonly viewed as only a month of fasting and tarāwīḥ, and that there is no other significance to it. Without a doubt, the fasting and the tarāwīḥ prayers are two major acts of worship in this month. However, the reality is that the blessed month of Ramaḍān demands more from us!

Allah says:

“I did not create the Jinns and human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.” (Surah al-Dhāriyāt, 56)

Were Angels Not Enough To Worship God?

Some people raise an objection that if the sole purpose behind the creation of human beings is to worship Allah, then why was there a need for creating humans in the first place, as the angels were fulfilling this role quite stupendously. When Allah said to the angels, “I am going to create a deputy on earth!” They asked: “Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodshed, while we proclaim Your purity, along with Your praise, and sanctify Your name?” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:30). Just as the angels questioned Allah regarding the humans, similarly, these people raise this objection.

The worship of Allah by the angels is of a different category than the worship of Him by humans. This is because their worship of Allah is without free-will. It is impossible for them to not worship Allah even if they do not want to. Allah has taken away from them the ability to commit a sin, feel hunger or thirst, and they have no sexual desires. So much so that they do not have the temptation to sin. Therefore, Allah has placed no reward for their worship, because if they cannot sin, then their worship without the temptation to sin is not a special feat (on their part). Thus, they receive no reward for it.

Take, for example, a blind man who has never seen the colors of this world, who never watched a movie in his life, nor did he ever glance upon a non-mahram woman. What has he done to prevent himself from these sins? Nothing, because he does not have the ability to commit these sins.

On the other hand, there is a man who has eyesight. In spite of his heart’s desire to gaze upon the non-mahram woman, he curbs his carnal desires and seeks refuge in Allah and lowers his gaze. Even though both these men are abstaining from these sins, there is a great difference between the two – the former is unable to commit those sins, whereas the latter has the ability, yet he prevents himself from committing them.

Therefore, if the angels do not eat the entire day, it is not something significant because they do not feel hunger nor do they possess the desire for food. Human beings, on the other hand, possess these desires, so much so even the noble Prophets of Allah were in need of food. Therefore, the disbelievers criticized the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) saying, “What sort of messenger is this, who eats food and walks in the markets?” (Al-Furqan, 7) It’s clear from this verse that the Prophets of Allah had the need for food as well. Since there is a desire for food and an individual curbs their desire and abstains from it because of the command of Allah, then this act is something special.

Human beings, in spite of having the desire for food, drink, and sexual relations, curb their desires when they remember Allah. Therefore, He placed special value to this abstinence from sins by granting a reward for it. Although they want to fulfill their carnal desires, due to the fear of Allah, they lower their gaze and prevent their eyes from glancing upon that which is prohibited; they prevent their ears from listening to the sinful sounds and indecent conversations; they leash their tongue from uttering words that are inappropriate; they prevent their feet from walking towards the places of sin. Human beings have been created for these acts of worship (i.e. abstaining oneself from sins out of Allah’s fear and obedience), whereas, the angels are incapable of it.

Story of Prophet Yūsuf:

The story of Prophet Yūsuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and that which he was tested with by Zulaykha is known to Muslims. The Noble Qur’ān states that Zulaykha offered herself to Prophet Yūsuf and invited him towards sin, and during that moment both of their hearts thought of the sin.

Surah Yusuf

And when Yūsuf reached maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. And thus We reward the doers of good. (22)

Surah Yusuf verse 23

And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “[I seek] the refuge of Allah. Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.” (23)

Surah Yusuf 24

And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants. (24)

(Surah Yūsuf, 12: 22-24)

Some among the laity think that to mention something like this about Prophet Yūsuf (may Allah grant him peace) is disrespectful towards him and find it objectionable. However, the Noble Qur’ān wants to explain (by mentioning this) that in spite of his heart thinking of the sin, Prophet Yūsuf chose to flee from her invitation out of his fear for Allah and reminding himself of His Grandeur, and by doing so he submitted himself to the command of Allah.

On the contrary, if there is no desire in the heart towards the sin, no ability to commit it, and there is no urge to fulfill desires, then refusing the invitation of thousands of Zulaykhas is of no significance! It is, however, important when there is the temptation, the heart desires it, and the environment encourages it, and then in submission to the command of Allah one says, “مَعَاذَ الله” “I seek refuge of Allah” (Surah Yūsuf, 12:24). This is the worship that Allah has created mankind.

Our Lives Have Been Traded:

Since the purpose behind the creation of humanity is to worship Allah, it should have been that we worshipped Him day and night without having permission to do anything else.

Allah says:

Surah Tawbah 9:11
“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise.” (Surah al-Tawbah, 9:111)

Since our lives have already been traded as the verse explains, we have no claim of ownership in our life, rather it is a sold product. Had Allah commanded us to worship Him day and night, prostrate to Him long hours, and had the prohibited us from busying ourselves with any other activity besides His worship, it would have been a just command, because we have been created for the sole purpose of worshipping Him.

However, my life be sacrificed for Allah, He bought our lives and wealth, and He gave a full price of it in exchange of Jannah, and then He returned the lives and wealth to us. Moreover, He allowed us to eat, drink, and earn a livelihood. With that, He just commanded us to establish the five daily prayers (along with a few other obligations) and He commanded us to abstain from a few things. Besides these obligations and a (few) prohibitions, we were given liberty to live as we please. All of this is from His Mercy and His Grant.

Come Towards Your Purpose In This Month:

Allah knew that by allowing human beings to engage in earning livelihood their hearts would slowly be covered with heedlessness. Therefore, from time to time, Allah placed opportunities for His servants to remember Him and turn back to Him.

For eleven months, we work, trade, do labor, farmlands and grow crops, enjoy our family and friends, eat and drink, and as a result, we begin to become heedless. So Allah placed this month of Ramaḍān to remind people of their purpose of life, the purpose for which they have been created and sent to earth. So that they could engage in worship and reconnect with Him, and seek forgiveness for the sins that have accumulated in the past eleven months. So that they can uncover the curtains of heedlessness that have enveloped their hearts, and cleanse their hearts of darkness so that they can reach the potential (for which they were created).

Mufti Taqi what is fasting?

What Does “Ramaḍān” Mean?

The correct pronunciation of Ramaḍān is with a fatḥah (zabar) on the letter meem (م), i.e. رَمَضَان (Ramaḍān). To pronounce it with sukūn on the letter meem, i.e. رَمْضَان (Ramdan) is incorrect. As for its meaning, much has been stated, however, linguistically it means scorchedness, extreme heat that burns. The very first time this month was being named, it was during a scorching summer, therefore, they called it “Ramaḍān”.

However, the scholars explain the reason for naming this month as Ramaḍān is that in this month Allah burns the sins of His servants out of His Mercy and Benevolence. Therefore, remove the curtain of heedlessness from your heart and cleanse it from the darkness of sins. Repent for the sins committed in the past eleven months and seek forgiveness in this month for the mistakes and shortfalls. Come back to Allah and begin a new chapter in your life!

The Noble Qur’ān states:

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:183)

This means that the fast of Ramaḍān is made obligatory in order for us to develop taqwa and put an end to the life of heedlessness. Just as a machine needs servicing for its parts to function properly, Allah has made this month a means to “overhaul” His servants’ hearts so that they can live with renewed conviction.

Take A Break:

Therefore, this month demands from us that we make time for it. Just the fast and tarāwīḥ prayers would not be enough, rather we must free ourselves from other obligations that have kept us busy in the past eleven months. We should focus on our life’s purpose and the purpose of our creation.

If for some reason, we are not able to free up this month solely for the worship of Allah, then we must make as much time as possible, however much our circumstances allow us, and we need to utilize it in the worship of Allah. For this, we would need to plan ahead and have a (personal) Ramaḍān program.

How to Welcome Ramadan?

There has been a practice of welcoming Ramaḍān that originated from Egypt and Syria and now has spread in many countries. Basically, a couple of days prior to the beginning of Ramaḍān, a community event is hosted to welcome the month. It is hosted with sincerity and noble intentions. However, it is often those very practices that begin with noble intentions that later take the form of reprehensible religious innovation, and in a few places, it has taken such a form already.

The best way to welcome the month of Ramaḍān is to reschedule your daily routine for the coming month to give you the most time for worshipping Allah. Before Ramaḍān begins, think of all those activities that can be reduced in the upcoming month that can free you up for increased worship. If someone is able to free up their entire month then Subḥān-Allah, otherwise, free yourself up as much as you can by abandoning that which can be abandoned or delaying that which can be delayed until after the Eid, so that you can spend as much of your time in the worship of Allah.

This is the best way of welcoming the month of Ramaḍān. If by the Will of Allah, someone is able to reorganize their routine for Ramaḍān then they will be able to avail the most of this month by reaching its true spirit and the abundance of blessings that come with it. Otherwise, the month will pass by and you will not be able to benefit from its true spirit and blessings.

What To Do With The Free Time

When you have made yourself a Ramaḍān routine and freed yourself up with extra time, how would you utilize this time?

The fast of Ramaḍān is obligatory, that much is certain. As for the tarāwīḥ prayers, it’s importance is also known. Whoever has an atom’s weight of imān, and honor and respect for the blessed month of Ramaḍān, they increase their acts of worship in this month. It is because of this reason that we see people who normally do not pray the five daily prayers in the mosque outside of Ramaḍān are also among those who stand in the long tarāwīḥ prayers. All thanks are due to Allah that because of the blessings of this noble month, the believers increase their ṣalāh, dhikr (remembrance) of Allah, and the recitation of the Noble Qur’ān. However, one important aspect that gets neglected, when it should be the top-most priority for this month, is abstaining from sins and trying to make Ramaḍān a sin-free month.

Whoever has an atom’s weight of imān, and honor and respect for the blessed month of Ramaḍān, they increase their acts of worship in this month.Click To Tweet

We should make sure that we protect our gaze by not looking at inappropriate things. We should protect our ears and tongues from listening and speaking that which darkens our hearts, and in this blessed month of Ramaḍān we should try to completely abstain from the disobedience of Allah. If you are able to spend this noble month free from sins then you are worthy of being congratulated and you have attained the blessings of this noble month, even if you did not offer a single supererogatory (nafl) prayer, nor did you increase the recitation of the Qur’ān or engaged yourself with the dhikr.

We have spent the past eleven months the way we have; Allah is offering this month to cleanse ourselves from our sins. Commit to yourself that you will not disobey Allah, that you will not lie in this month, nor would you backbite, or have an evil glance. Decide now that you will neither engage with bribery nor would you misuse your ears by listening to that which is prohibited, and that you will not consume riba (interest) for this one month alone!

Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi (d. 1943 CE/1362 AH)[1] once stated:

When an individual spends a sin-free Ramaḍān, Allah will put in their heart the urge to abandon the sins completely. Shaykh Ashraf Ali ThanwiClick To Tweet

Make a commitment to yourself that this is a month of Allah, the month of worship, the month to acquire taqwa. Every individual must self reflect on what kind of sins they are engaged in and then they must commit to themselves that they would abandon these sins in this blessed month.

What Kind of Fast Is This?

Fasting means to abstain from eating, drinking, and fulfilling sexual desires. All of these are by nature permissible in Islam – eating and drinking are permissible and for a man and a woman to fulfill their sexual desires through the institution of marriage is also permissible.

However, while fasting if you abstain from these three things, which are otherwise permissible, but you do not abstain from that which is already prohibited, e.g. lying, backbiting, evil glances, is this fasting? If someone is fasting from these three things, but they are lying or backbiting, or in order to pass the time they are watching indecent movies, would this be called a fast? They have abandoned that which was permissible but they did not abstain from that which is otherwise prohibited. It is, for this reason, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 1804).

It is true that from the legal point of view their fast would be valid, and if they were to ask a mufti, they would not be obliged to make up that fast after Ramaḍān. However, even though there is no making up for such a fast, they certainly have washed away the reward and blessings that accompany it. Therefore, such an individual failed to acquire the spirit of the fast.

The Purpose of Fast Is To Kindle The Light of Taqwa:

Ramadan Verse

As mentioned earlier that the Qur’ān says, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous” (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:183). This verse mentions the purpose of fasting is to kindle the light of taqwa.

Some scholars have said that the way fasting instills taqwa is by breaking the powerful hold of base human and animal desires. When a fasting person bears hunger, it crushes within them their base desires, which makes acting upon a sin, less attractive to them.

On the other hand, Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi, may Allah elevate his ranks, said that the fast, not only curbs base desires, rather it is in of itself a noble means of acquiring taqwa.

What is the Meaning of Taqwa?

Taqwa means to abstain from sinning while being conscious of the greatness of Allah. In other words, to constantly remind myself that I am a slave of Allah and He is watching me, and I will have to answer in front of Him; with this in mind, when a person abandons a sin, it is called taqwa.

As Allah says:

“But as for he who feared the position of his Lord and prevented the soul from [unlawful] inclination, then indeed, Paradise will be [his] refuge.” (Surah al-Nāzi‘āt, 79:40-41)

Hence, taqwa is when an individual out of the fear of standing in front of Allah, stops themselves from fulfilling their base and carnal desires.

My Lord Is Watching Me

Fasting is the best training for acquiring taqwa, even for a flagrant sinner, for when they fast their condition changes. On a hot summer day, when such a fasting person is alone in their room and they have their personal fridge with cold water, in spite of their desire to drink that cold water they don’t! If they do so there is no other person around to reproach them and they could very easily go out for ifṭār in the evening with friends, and no one else would know. However, they do not do it because their fasting was for Allah and they know that He is Watching.

Fasting is the best training for acquiring taqwa, even for a flagrant sinner, for when they fast their condition changes.Click To Tweet

Therefore, the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“Indeed your Lord said: ‘Every good deed is rewarded with ten of the same up to seven hundred times over. Fasting is for Me, and I shall reward for it.’ (Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhi, 764).

 

For all of the other actions, Allah will reward tenfold or seventy fold or hundred, even up to seven hundred times for charity. However, fasting is the only action that Allah has said that He will reward it because this is an action that is done solely for His sake. This awareness is taqwa, and fasting is one of the means and the manifestation of it.

Furthermore, as you are getting trained to acquire taqwa by abstaining from drinking that cold water then why do you not take it a step further? Why do you not abstain from the unlawful when you go out to work? Just as you fear Allah for drinking that cold water while fasting, why do you not fear Allah while dealing unlawfully in your business or at work? Why do you not prevent your eyes from the evil glances and your ears from the unlawful sounds and your tongue from the unlawful speech? Your Ramaḍān training course will only be complete if you abstain from all the unlawful things.

Just as medicine is necessary to cure a disease, so is the abstinence from that which causes it or adds to it! Allah has made fasting obligatory in this month in order for us to acquire taqwa, but that cannot be without the abstinence from sins. If you turn on the air-condition of your room, but you don’t close up your windows, it will not cool your room. Similarly, if you leave the windows of sins open, your fast will not be able to give you it’s desired benefit.

Real Objective Is To Obey

As mentioned earlier, fasting curbs the base desires within a person, however, this is a (secondary) wisdom behind it. The real objective of fasting is to obey the command of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Whenever they command us to eat, eating at that moment is the dīn, and whenever they command us to stop eating, then at that moment the dīn is to stop. The entire dīn revolves around obeying Allah and His Messenger.

You fasted the entire day and when the command came to open it at the sunset (ifṭār), it is recommended for you to haste in opening the fast and it is disliked to delay without a valid reason. The real objective of fasting is to obey Allah’s command and not to follow one’s desires. In regular circumstances, greed is a reprehensible characteristic. However, when He commands us to be greedy then acting upon it has it’s unique pleasure. A poet says:

چوں طمع خواہد زمن سلطان دیں

خاک بر فرق قناعت بعد ازیں

When the King commands to be greedy,

Dirt be upon being content.

When the Rabb of the worlds is commanding us to be greedy in ifṭār (by hurrying) then there is no pleasure in delaying it. On the other hand, if someone eats a morsel a minute prior to the sunset then they have broken their fast and now they will be sinful along with a penalty (kaffārah) of fasting sixty consecutive days. The issue here is not of eating a morsel or a minute prior to the sunset, rather it is the disobedience of Allah. The command of Allah was to open the fast after the sunset, which they disobeyed, therefore, they are now obligated to pay the penalty in the form of sixty consecutive fasts.

Likewise, for suhūr (the pre-dawn meal), it is recommended to delay closer to the dawn. Some people have dinner around 10 pm or 12 am and then they go to sleep until Fajr. This is contrary to the Sunnah. The practice of the Companions was to delay the suhūr and eat until it’s last-minute because this is the time in which eating is not only permissible but rather it is commanded by Allah. Therefore, as long as the time remained, they would consume their pre-dawn meal because this is in conformity and obedience to Allah’s command.

This dīn is all about obedience and this is what a believer is getting trained for in Ramaḍān. Shaykh Thanwi used to say: “Allah is saying to the believer to eat, whereas, the believer does not eat, then this is neither obedience nor servitude. Listen! There is nothing in having suhūr and there is nothing in leaving it, instead, there is everything in His obedience! Therefore, when He commands you to eat, so eat! Do not act otherwise.”

Seek Purity in Livelihood

Another important point that I want to shed light upon is the importance of consuming halāl at least in this month. You want to avoid a situation where you open your fast from the wealth that is polluted by riba or you have your suhūr from the wealth earned through bribery. What kind of fast would it be in which the suhūr and ifṭār are from harām wealth? Therefore, prevent yourself from harām earning and seek help from Allah! Speak to Him and say, “O Allah! I want to consume halāl, save me from the harām.”

Some people have halāl livelihood, however, because of their carelessness, some harām gets mixed with their earnings. For such individuals it is very easy to avoid harām, they just need to be extra careful in this month in how they do things at work. On the other hand, there are those whose primary mode of earning is from a harām source, for example, they might be dealing with interest. Regarding such individuals, Dr. ‘Abdul Ḥayy al-‘Ārifī (d. 1986 CE/1406 AH)[2] suggested that they should take a month leave from their work and only utilize the funds from halāl source for this month; if possible try to find another halāl work during this time. If this is not possible, then take a (non-interest bearing) loan for this month’s expenses and have a firm conviction that they will only consume and feed their family from a halāl source.

Ramaḍān is the month in which Satan gets chained and locked away. Therefore, it becomes much easier to abstain from sins. In spite of the increased worship in this blessed month, try to abandon the sins.

Conclusion

The third important note I would like to make before I conclude is to avoid anger in this blessed month. This month is of patience and forbearance, therefore, avoid anger so that you can abstain from the sins that follow it.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:
“If one of you is abused by an ignorant person while fasting, then let him say: ‘Indeed I am fasting.’” (Jāmi‘ al-Tirmidhi, 764)

As for worship in this month, it is known to all the believers that the fasting and tarāwīḥ prayers are the most important acts of worship. Additionally, the recitation of the Qur’ān is also an important form of worship, because in this month Angel Jibreel would review the entire Qur’ān with the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Therefore, increase the recitation of the Qur’ān as much as you can.

In addition to it, moist your tongue with the constant remembrance of Allah while you walk, drive, run your daily errands. Recite the following:

سُبحَانَ اللهِ و الحَمدُ للهِ و لا إلهَ إلا اللهُ و اللهُ أكبر

“Subḥānallāhi wal-Ḥamdolilāhi wa Lā ilāha illallāhu wa Allahu Akbar.” 

“All the praises are due to Allah, and all the thanks are due to Allah, and there is no god except Allah, and Allah is Greater.”

Also, increase the salutations upon Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), increase seeking your forgiveness and the number of supererogatory prayers. During the suhūr time, you have an ample opportunity to offer the taḥajjud prayers, therefore, wake a little earlier and offer a few taḥajjud prayers. Try to have focus in your salāt; the men should join the congregational prayers in the mosque, and above all avoid the sins.

May Allah give us the tawfīq to act upon what we have learned today, and may Allah make this Ramaḍān a month full of blessings, and allow us to fully benefit from it. Amīn.

Muhammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī, Karachi.

[1] Hakīm al-Ummah Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi was a twentieth-century erudite scholar from the Indian subcontinent. He was a Hanafi jurist, a scholar of hadith, an expert in Islamic philosophy, and a Sufi shaykh. His collection of Urdu fatwas “Imdādul Fatāwa” are a reference work for every South Asian Dār al-Iftā‘ that issues religious legal opinions according to the Hanafi school. He studied under luminaries of the likes of Mawlana Muhammad Qāsim Nānotwi, Mawlana Rashīd Aḥmed Gangohi, Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Maḥmūd al-Ḥasan, and threaded the spiritual path under Shaykh Ḥāji Imdādullah Muhājir Makki. Among his prominent students were Shaykh Ẓafar Aḥmad ʿUthmānī and Grand Mufti Muhammad Shafī‘ ‘Uthmānī.

[2] Dr. ‘Abdul Ḥayy al-‘Ārifī was one of the most prominent successors of Shaykh Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi in the path of tasawwuf. He was the spiritual guide of Shaykh Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmāni until he departed this world in 1986 CE. His body was laid to rest in the Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi’s graveyard.

“إنَّ اللهَ اشْتَرَى مِنَ المُؤْمِنِيْنَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ وَ أمْوَالَهُمْ بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ.

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    Dr Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui: An Obituary Of A Scholar of Seerah

    A leading scholar of Islamic studies with focus on Seerah literature and history, he unconventionally broke many stereotypes—both orthodox and modern and all his life epitomized the cause of Islam on the intellectual front.

    With the death of Yaseen Mazhar Siddiqui, at the age of 76, Muslims in South Asia lost one of the most respected and leading scholars of Islam. A graduate of, and now professor at Aligarh University is less known in the West for his 29 books than for his Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts at the Aligarh Muslim University, India, published in London in 2002 by the Furqan Heritage Foundation. An eminent Muslim religious scholar, academic and historian who served as director of the Institute of Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University. Siddiqui was a well-placed and reputed figure of great spiritual and intellectual insight recognized on national as well as international level. Siddiqui was instrumental over the past 30 years in the framing, development and streamlining the influence of Islam in Aligarh Muslim University. To commemorate the outstanding services of Hazrat Shah Waliullah and to promote the Islamic values, the Institute of Objective Studies instituted an Award known as “Shah Waliullah Award” to honour eminent scholars who have done outstanding work in Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Islamic Studies. The fifth Shah Waliullah Award was rightly conferred on Prof. Mohd Yasin Mazhar Siddiqi, as the renowned scholar for his contribution to Sirah and Historiography in Islamic Perspective in 2005.

    Siddiqui was an exceptionally modest and humble man, with an intellectually engaging and honest commitment to Islam, away from self-eulogizing claims of pseudo-intellectualism. His commitment to Islam, which occupied him for his whole life, left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people across territorial boundaries. One thing all this illustrates is Siddiqui’s intense sense of duty — a sense that he unthinkingly expected his colleagues to share. Siddiqui’s well-stocked mind, clarity and unflinching intellectual honesty devoted to respond the questions of Orientalist scholarship on Sirah literature and subsequent other corollaries. He had little time for Islam’s own accounts of its origins rather his interest revolved around “Qurʾān and Sirah” and its role in shaping the worldview of Muslims who are struggling to makes sense of their identity amid the challenges emerging from dominant discursive colonial Eurocentric episteme. Leaving the conventional hollow claims, without efforts to prove how and why so much sanctity is attached to Islam and its sources—Qurʾān and Sunnah/Sirah being the primary one, he reckoned, to fill the gap using contemporary sources and knowledge of Hadīth, from orientalist and now its pedigree of modernist claims. This task required both personal and intellectual bravery. As he knew the central beliefs of Islam, such as the way the Quran took shape, the place of Sirah, its underlying methodology, he was equally aware how outside scrutiny has tempered the flare, especially when the conclusions are expressed in a witty and sardonic style. His soft way of speaking, affectionate manner and hospitable nature made him a much-loved figure. Because of his erudition most people who came in contact with him thought of him as a teacher; many saw him as a spiritual mentor. With his humble appearance, it was easy to mistake him for a country bumpkin.

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    Born in India in 1944 in the Lakhimpur Kheri district of United Provinces of British India. He graduated in the traditional Dars-e-Nizami (pure religious textual studies of Islamic texts) studies from Nadwatul Ulama in 1959, and Master’s in literature from the University of Lucknow in 1960. He passed the intermediate exams from the Jamia Milia Islamia in 1962 and then acquired a B.A. in 1965 and B.Ed. in 1966 from the same University. In 1968, Siddiqui recieved a M.A. degree in History, M.Phil. in 1969, and Ph.D. in 1975 from the Aligarh Muslim University. Yasin Mazhar Siddiqui benefited from great teachers like Maulana Rabi Hasni Nadvi, Maulana Syed Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi, Maulana Ishaq Sandelvi K. A. Nizami, Abd al-Hafīz Balyāwi and Rabey Hasani. Anwar was welcomed as an independent member of various advisory committees and expressed pride in the research done in the field of Sirah.

    Professor Siddiqui wrote more than 40 books and 300 research articles in Urdu, Arabic and Persian. His publications and presentations have reverberated throughout the discipline of Islamic studies and social sciences, profoundly shaping the scholarship of a new generation of scholars as they develop a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical approach to Seerah and history. He was well known for the great quality and high calibre of his originality of research in Islamic studies and all related subjects. He was recognized as one of the compelling and intellectually grounded voice on Seerah studies.  As a scholar and teacher, he embodied and followed strong moral and political principles, and formulated new ways of understanding the subject of Seerah, history, religious freedom, and the rights of religious minorities. His writings on the Prophet and his teachings garnered wide acclaim. He wrote extensively in reputed literary journal, ‘Nuqoosh’ and got international ‘Nuqush Award’, ‘Seerat-e-Rasool Award’ and ‘Sirah Nigari Award’. Two of his most popular works are Muslim Conduct of State and Introduction to Islam. The first book was Ehd-e-Nabwi mai Tanzīm-e-Riyāsat-o-Hukūmat and the second book The Prophet Muhammad: A Role Model for Muslim Minorities has gained such wide acclaim—mainly for the reason that its contents are divided into chapters (which stand on their own as a monograph) which deal with related specific subject matter. It is easy to understand how his style of presentation has endeared the book not only to common folk, but also to the people who would like to gain a reasonable insight into the true spirit of the teachings of Islam.

    Almost every country outside the traditional Muslim “heartlands” asserts Siddiqui in his book ‘The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities is home to a Muslim minority population today. For such Muslim communities, the political perspectives reflected by the corpus of traditional fiqh are of little or no relevance, and can even be hugely problematic. Siddiqui therefore takes it upon himself to develop an understanding of Muslim jurisprudence that is particularly suited to their context, making a valuable contribution to the limited, but slowly expanding, corpus of writings on fiqh al-aqalliyat or fiqh for [Muslim] minorities. Siddiqui argues that the basis of fiqh for Muslim minorities must lie in the Makkan period of life of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his companions, a period of around thirteen years when the Muslims were a minority and did not enjoy political domination. In many senses, their position resembled that of Muslim minorities today. Muslim minorities need to see the role of the Prophet and the early Muslims in that period as a model for them to emulate, Siddiqui suggests:

    The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had close personal ties with several non-Muslims in Mecca, and Muslim minorities, Siddiqui advises, must emulate him in this regard and must have “excellent social relations with non-Muslims” (p. 194).

    As Siddiqui succinctly puts it:

    Muslims all over the world, especially Muslim minorities, have to prove that they are the best community, devoted to the cause of protecting mankind against suffering and blessing everyone with happiness, regardless of caste, colour or creed. Their position is of the best community and their duty is to serve mankind […] Their presence must guarantee help for everyone, especially of their non-Muslim country. However, this cannot be affirmed merely verbally or by recounting old stories. They have to prove it by their conduct. (p. 194)

    This monograph and his other works are a brilliant contribution to the on-going debates about fiqh for Muslim minorities. It provides valuable insights for developing new and more relevant understandings of Islamic jurisprudence in Muslim minority contexts, envisaging the possibility of reconciling Islamic commitment with Muslim minority-ness, an issue that has largely escaped the attention of Islamic scholars but one that has sometimes been, and continues to be, a troubling one for many Muslims living as minorities. Siddiqui’s diverse and intellectually engaging work that speaks eloquently to a wide spectrum of readers with different backgrounds and interests. To use terms such as “monumental”, “one-of-a-kind”, and “exceptional” to describe this work is not exaggeration. A committed Muslim, throughout his career Siddiqui maintained the principle of genuinely evidence-based research. Dapper and courteous, he was a highly effective communicator, quoted widely in the local context  as well as cited in academia.

    A direct criticism to his work also emerges from scholars who assert that in his Introduction of The Prophet Muhammad—A Role Model for Muslim minorities’ Siddiqi (p. 62) formally describes himself as a humble and error-prone human being. However, he then proceeds to negate the worth of all previous biographies of the Prophet, claiming that these ‘conventional’ authors used ‘outdated methodology and lines of argument’. Consequently, according to him, all previous studies of the Makkan period were ‘markedly inadequate’ and ‘the entire life history of the Prophet remains to be analysed’ since ‘no biographer of his has ever given thought to this obvious fact that the Makkan period of his life represents the phase of subjugation’. Therefore, Siddiqi considers the conventional treatment of the Makkan and Madinan periods of Islamic history as ‘downright pernicious’ (p. ix). One wonders indeed whether the author is aware of some of the most popular biographies of the Prophet—beyond the classical ones: Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham, and Ibn Kathir—including the works by Muhammad Hamidullah, Muhammad Haikal, Martin Lings, Karen Armstrong, and Tarik Jan, all contradicting his assertions.

    With quite a serious criticism on his assertions about various aspects of mis-reading the Seerah of the Prophet there still remains a lot to be talked about his contribution to diverse areas of Islamic Studies. And though he is no longer here to share his thoughts, he has done enough to enable us to think with him. Certain towering intellectuals become integral to the vey alphabet of our moral and religious imagination. They live in those who read and think them through-and thus they become indexical, proverbial, to our thinking. Siddiqui lived so fully, so consciously, so critically through the thick and thin of our times that he is definitive to our critical thinking, just like Mustafa Azami, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, or other Muslim luminaries are. He was – and remains – a brilliant intellectual, whose legacy of rethinking certain conventional assertions around Islam and efforts still reverberate today and will continue to do so.

    He cultivated with joyous attention her relationships with family and friends. He mentored, as one of his students mentioned once, with remarkable care and intensity, demanding their best work, listening, responding with a sharp generosity, coming alive in thought, and soliciting others to do the same. He immersed himself, in illness and heath, in reading the Quran post morning prayers and transformed himself and transmitted the values of thought and love, leaving now a vibrant legacy that will persist and flourish among all whose lives were touched by his life and work.

    May Allah Almighty bless him with the loftiest of abodes in the Gardens of Firdaus in the company of Allah’s beloved Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and grant all those who cherished him patience.

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    The Estranged Middle Way

    The following excerpt is part of the introduction of a longer article that I am writing. I felt it merited being a separate article as well in the hopes that it benefits readers in points of collective reflection and elevating our discourse in matters of disagreement. The mark of civilization is not that they reach uniformity but how people deal with disagreement.

    “Our entire system of life is truly as God Almighty defined, a middle among all people, never being confined to the different variations of thoughts of man, and encompassing and transcending all of them. God’s words cannot be limited by man.”

    Islām is rooted as being a faith that has a holistic way of life because it is an all-encompassing framework of guidance. Its framework divides into three integral, interlinked, and inseparable components: actions, beliefs and spirituality.

    Actions and practices encompass guidance of every facet of the private, public, and societal. Such a detailed framework in actions serves to ingrain the purpose and objectives of Islām through a practical faith that not only gives over-arching principles but carefully considers even the most minute of subtleties for individual context and scenario.

    Beliefs discuss essential faith and foundational theology. Belief, or īmān, are not to be confused with theology, or ‘āqīdah. Often times they may be used interchangeably while there are key elements of differentiating between what īmān is and what ‘is aqīdah. Belief or īmān is referred to primarily in two different contexts.

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    The first is the breakdown of what comprises faith.

    Belief (īmān) is comprised of actions (‘amal) and statements (qawl):
    1. Actions of the Heart, which are the root and catalyst of actions of the limbs: like reliance on God, sincerity, hope, fear, awe, seeking the pleasure of God, etc.
    2. Actions of the Limbs.
    3. Statements of the Heart: is theology, the study of the nature of God and all religious belief. It encompasses the tenets of faith a person believes in and has certainty.
    4. Statements of the Tongue.

    The second context of īmān or belief refers to the state of spirituality which increases with righteousness and decreases with sin.

    When we refer to beliefs, we are referring to  of these contexts, holistically. As you can see belief encompasses theology but does not solely define it. Among the functions of theology is building foundational understanding of the nature of God, the nature and function of man in light of the temporal world and the Hereafter, the reality of the Afterlife, the meaning of life, etc.

    Theology,  here, subsequently contemporizes and responds to any contentions from philosophies or ideologies opposing to the universal belief Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent to humanity. Beliefs also elucidate what is considered acceptable differences within orthodoxy and what is considered heterodoxy. The study of valid  (saigh) and invalid (ghair saigh) interpretation in theology include tolerance of differences within orthodoxy (murā’at al khilāf), highlighting what types of theological deviance are forgivable and what kinds are grounds for falling outside of acceptable faith, and what are unequivocal (qat’i) and equivocal (dhannī) aspects of theological belief.

    The last component of spirituality (tazkiyah/tasawwuf), is the ultimate guide in balancing mechanics and belief. But it also contains within it pitfalls for those that focus on it in absence of and balanced with practice and beliefs. Spirituality is at the heart of faith. It is led by actions, guided by the sea of belief to wonder in reflection and amazement at the grandeur of the Almighty in the macro and micro.

    Many have been drowned in and lost the objectives (maqāsid) of the holistic framework of Islām with dogmatic overt-focus of one aspect over another. They neglect one of the other of these components, in spite of the inseparable connection of the three. We witness a faulty approach on the practice and mechanics without considering spirituality. We see in certain groups a lack of focus on ethics, character, and delivery being as vital, if not more so, as the emphasis on correct action.

    The example of faulty approach to theology is also visible. Neglecting spirituality is as much of a problem as the other extreme of esoteric philosophies and mysticism which delved into symbolism to such an extent that it contradicted foundational principles in how the faith is interpreted and understood according to the practice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and his teachings relayed to his companions as well as heterodoxical beliefs or innovative practices all in the name of “the spirit of Islam.” In some of these groups, the sum of proving theology was more important than the tone of delivery and capturing hearts. After all, even the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was disciplined by the Lord with nothing more in the Quran than how he delivered the message. An empirical tasawwuf as well is central to the faith of Islām. A spirituality which ingrained in prophetic teachings, the best of worshipers of course knows the best path to connect the Creator. Esoteric tasawwuf was sought after in neglect of such empirical spirituality.

    In other cases, the practice of Islām becomes not only secondary but deemed irrelevant while ‘the bigger and most important matter is the heart in faith.’ A slogan which is outwardly true but misguided in application. While seeking the spirit of Islām, the integral component of spirituality is rooted and inseparable with practice and beliefs. The protective cloak of Islam, the shariah, is stripped, its logical framework and shield, the beliefs, usurped.

    In summary, two extremes mutate and fight at odds with each other while both exemplify inconsistency and a false practice of Islam: the claim to see the spirit of Islām was lost without practice, and the dogmatic indignation to correct beliefs lost audience with abhorrent manners and vile speech, while the claim to follow correct practice is deluded with no objectives.

    Actions are studied in fiqh, beliefs, in specifically theology in the study of ‘aqīdah, but beliefs (īmān) are ingrained in the studies of all Islamic sciences such as hadith and knowing the meanings of the teachings of the Prophet, his life, manners, and etiquette in sīrah, the meanings of the words of Allah in tafsīr, in understanding the intricacies of the eloquence in the arabic language etc. as well as the direct discussion of spirituality in the study of tasawwuf or tazkīyah.

    Having a teacher is vital as well to model all of this. And we have dedicated and entire article to the importance of such guidance in teachers and avoiding religious complexes in Muslim discourse.

    It is vital to enumerate the aforementioned issues in this introduction because often times the holistic approach of understanding faith is neglected in discussions regarding the sub components of Islām . There is an absence of awareness of such framework. The more compartmentalized discussions of theology, fiqh, or spirituality become the more distant they are from the essential interconnected relationship that our Islāmic paradigm functions in, the constructs in which we see the world through, and the principles on which we derive all matters from.

    With this in mind, I also have a disclaimer that I will share in the form of a story. While shopping in a bookstore in Madinah, I ran into a good friend who works there and we caught up. We studied together very closely under a teacher; even though we have differences in the madhab we study, as well as the Sunnī theological school we ascribe to. But our hearts are one in faith, and love is uniform in its essence. We studied spirituality with a teacher who imparted this and it was visibly applied in everything that he taught. He had students not only from all four madhabs of fiqh but also theological sunnī schools (Ash’arī, Māturīdī, and Atharī), alongside the different nationalities that we all came from (in hindsight, this is what Madinah has always represented: known as Ma’riz Al Īmān — the refuge of faith, where all come together and unified in their bond of Islam).

    After exchanging pleasantries, catching up as we were happy to see one another, my friend and I discussed a problem. We were both seeing those who ascribe themselves as scholars and students of Islam in their dogmatic discussions across theology, fiqh, and spirituality lack not only basic ethics, manners, genuineness, and sincerity but also lack a sense of just and amicable difference (insāf). He said something profound in our discussion:

    “You know, those in the middle will always be attacked the most. Look at what’s happening now, an Ash’arī attacks an Atharī, an Atharī attacks an Ash’arī … and the people in the middle are attacked by both! The people in the middle work twice as hard!”

    I chuckled in agreement and said,

    “Yes twice as hard to relay to both sides how much they agree on and regarding the minority of views they contend, how to disagree amicably with love and care for what bonds them while maintaining balance in approach!”

    He throws his arms in the air and says,

    “This is why it would be great if people stuck to ‘aqīdat al ‘ajaiz!”

    This phrase, “the belief of old women,” is a term used to refer to the essential and foundational faith of very devout, loving, and practicing older women who engaged in the dhikr (remembrance) of Allah, recitation of the Quran, du’ā (prayer) for all Muslims, and had no rancor or hatred in their heart for anyone because they were more engrossed in the love of God and His Prophet in yearning to be in companionship in the Everlasting Garden from engaging in highly-charged polemical theology. They were content with imān (faith) that’s the ultra-unifying variable for any dissent in Islām, and not in divisive kalām (theological discourse) which often times proved so theoretical that it lost tenability. Old ladies are blissfully ignorant of kind of theology.

    The disclaimer is: the middle group will always be attacked more. I recognize that.

    I ask the reader not to employ their rational abilities to find holes to criticize but to reflect on the message in light of this holistic aspect. If you have valid criticism and disagreement weigh it in light of the following: is your view valid? Is my view valid (saigh)? Are you criticizing my views in regard to invalidity or are you criticizing it based on what’s ideal? If you view what I’m saying as invalid provide evidence. If you feel what I’m saying isn’t ideal then don’t lose sight of the bond of fellowship our faith teaches us in kindness and disagreeing amicably. Reflect over the unifying unequivocal principles of our faith (muḥkamāt). You may disagree with an aspect, but do you disagree with the objective? If you disagree with the objective and approach, why? What are some critical reasons for why you differ? Do you perceive some harm, is it truly harmful, and to what level is this harm? Do you feel an aspect that you agree with generally but disagree on its application? State it. Do you believe it needs more specific elucidation? Can you clearly and succinctly state what you agree with prior to your disagreement by highlighting points of agreement before departures? Does this disagreement occur in something that is unequivocal (qat’ī) or equivocal (dhannī) and open to interpretation?

    If we only exercised noble disagreement in points of contention, we would realize what kind of disagreements are fundamental and which ones superficial and unnecessary.

    As a beloved teacher once said, when we look at who implements what we’ve mentioned above one will notice that everyone will claim that they follow the middle path. Everyone will agree with all that’s been mentioned in regard to temperament, amicable disagreement, and moderation, yet when it comes to the application, we all falter.

    How do we recognize this middle and moderate way?

    Shaykh Hatim Al-‘Awni says, “the middle and moderate path is the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم that Allah described as a marker of this faith,

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    “And so We have made you ˹believers˺ a wasat )middle, upright, just) community so that you may be witnesses over humanity and that the Messenger may be a witness over you…” Quran 2:143.”

    Wasat — middle is the marker of this nation. It’s a mark of its divinity. A revealed divine system of life from the Almighty can never be encompassed by human mechanism, understanding, thought, or ideology. Our beliefs in morality are neither completely moral universalism nor relativism. Our economics is neither capitalism nor socialism. Our politics isn’t based on absolute majority-rule neither is it autocracy with repression of voices, rights, and stifling opinion, criticism, and freedoms. Our entire system of life is truly as God Almighty defined, a middle among all people, never being confined to the different variations of thoughts of man, and encompassing and transcending all of them. God’s words cannot be limited by man.

    A Muslim should always seek such middle path of understanding in the exemplar of it and whose life is the application of it, the Beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). His life is the rubric of what is middle and what is right and wrong. Following that exemplar in the principles he set out is our objective while aiming to never estrange the middle path.

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    #Current Affairs

    Racism And The Plagues of Egypt – Coronavirus And Racism: America’s Two Pandemics

    Introduction

    The fight against anti-Blackness has once again hit the global stage, and American Muslims have a central role to play in the movement of racial justice. The spiritual history of America is a history of Black Muslim voices. Mansa Abubakari, a West African King, landed in South America almost 200 years before Columbus began the massacre of the indigenous population.[1] The biggest migration of Muslims to America was the slave ships where scholars fought to teach Islam to their enslaved communities. Modern Islamophobic attacks such as the Muslim Ban of 2016 are not just Islamophobic, but also deeply racist because it denies the humanity of the previous generations of Muslims. Black Muslims have carried the mantle of preserving Islam in America and have fought for racial justice for last four centuries. The immigrant Muslims who arrived during the last 50 years were a direct result of the civil rights movement that allowed immigration from Muslim majority countries. The fight for racial justice is a Muslim fight. We owe it to the generations of Muslims before us to continue their work.

    The 400 years of struggle for racial justice in America can be compared to the Children of Israel’s fight for emancipation from Pharaoh’s Egypt 3000 years ago during which the country was hit by a number of plagues. Sheikh Mendes and Imam Dawud Walid have recently referenced the story of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), whose demand to Pharaoh to, “Let my people go[2]” is well known in many religious circles fighting for racial equality in America. [3] The Quran discusses of the plagues of Egypt in the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in Surah Al-A’raf. “So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people.” [7;133] The plagues of Egypt are similar to the current coronavirus pandemic in that they made systemic oppression clear for all to see. The goal here is to explain the relationship between the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

    First, the name of the surah will be discussed. Then, the story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will be put into context with the story of the other prophets mentioned in the surah. The events leading up to the Plagues of Egypt are explained and compared to the current American pandemics. Finally, there are recommendations for how to make our community spaces antiracist. A few Black scholars have been quoted throughout as to elevate their voices, and to provide some much-needed groundwork for readers who might be unfamiliar with these great American Muslim scholars. For further reading, Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler compiled a far more exhaustive list of Black Muslim narratives in the BlackIslamSyllabus.

    Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

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    To put this verse into perspective we must first reflect on Surah A’raf as a whole, and I encourage everyone to read and contemplate the surah in depth. The A’raf, mentioned in ayah 46, are an elevated place on the Day of Judgement where people of no consequence get stuck. They watch as others are sorted towards Heaven or Hell. The people of the A’raf are not evil, but they also would not leave their comfort zones to actually commit to righteousness. Their comments to the people of Paradise and the people of the Fire are mentioned in the Surah, but do not earn a response because they are then, as they are now, people of no consequence.

    The surah begins by telling Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to not feel distressed by forcing people out of their comfort zones, and warns of previous peoples who were destroyed as they slept in their heedlessness. And how many cities have We destroyed, and Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon. [7;4] We cannot go back to the previous norm when Black people were suffering alone, while non-Black people could comfortably enjoy their lives whilst ignoring—and even benefiting from a system built on—the suffering of their Black brothers and sisters. A critical mass of people must refuse the continued oppression and the suffering of others for the current system to change. American Muslims should do more than give lip service to their Black brothers and sisters.

    Anti-Blackness in Human History

    The first prophet mentioned in the surah is our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), whose name indicates his dark black skin. And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”, so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. [7;11] [Allah] said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?” [Satan] said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from mud.” [7;12] Satan hated our father Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) for the form Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him, which included dark black skin. Anti-Blackness is as old as humanity itself. Dr. Bilal Ware has spoken extensively about the satanic nature of racism. Claims of superiority based on a birthright are rampant throughout human history. Egyptians claimed superiority over the Children of Israel based on where they were from centuries before. Jahili[1] Meccan society claimed superiority based on lineage. The American system claims superiority based on proximity to whiteness. These are characteristics determined at birth and are beyond any human being’s control. Such claims of superiority are counter to the Islamic ethos that sets the value of individuals based on their relationship with God alone. And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” [7:172] Many other prophets and their specific fights against the oppressive power structures are referenced in the surah, which illustrates the continuity of the struggle between the children of Adam and Satan.

    A series of prophets (peace be upon them] are briefly discussed with striking similarities in the messages they delivered to their people. All the prophets teach their people about the Oneness of God and called them to rectify the vices that were specific to their society. The mala’a, or the elites, in each of their societies were mentioned as those who fought the prophets. They did so to maintain their chokehold on power, not because of a theological difference. The elites in Meccan society did not fight Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) until he began publicly preaching. They did not care that he prayed differently from them. They feared that his message would make them equal to people they belittled and disparaged. Similarly, it was the elites in Pharaoh’s court who demanded he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. This was a direct result of the magicians publicly declaring their belief and turning public opinion against Pharaoh’s magic, one of the pillars of his power. Similarly in America, the institutional structures of racism need to be dismantled.

    Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)

    The story of Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) begins with the demand mentioned in the introduction, “so send with me the Children of Israel.” [7;105]. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) shows Pharaoh and his elites the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has sent him with. So Moses threw his staff, and suddenly it was a serpent, manifest. [7;107] And he drew out his hand; thereupon it was white [with radiance] for the observers. [7;108] They refuse his message and demand a public contest with magicians in hopes of spinning the narrative in their favor. They fail miserably when the magicians recognize the truth and publicly declare their belief in the Lord of Prophet Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) despite Pharaoh’s threats of torture. Pharaoh said, “You believed in him before I gave you permission. Indeed, this is a conspiracy which you conspired in the city to expel therefrom its people. But you are going to know.” [7:123]

    This now leads us to the discussion of the plagues, and how they came about. After that public humiliation, the elites around Pharaoh demanded that he increase the torment of the Children of Israel. [Pharaoh] said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them.” [7;127] Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book specifically addressing how the White supremacist system feared a successful Black presidency and responded with an increased level of racism. As a spiritual response to this heightened oppression, Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) preached patience during the struggle because he knew Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would deliver them.  The people of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) complained about the increased pain they were now experiencing as they had been suffering for years before a messenger was sent to them. Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) asked them to develop their spiritual strength and prepare themselves for a time when they would be empowered and would need spiritual discipline. Shaykha Ieasha Prime has recently called on the ummah to be increasing its spiritual strength as they organize against anti-Blackness.

    The Economic Downturn

    Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tested the people of Pharaoh with an economic downturn. “And We certainly seized the people of Pharaoh with years of famine and a deficiency in fruits that perhaps they would be reminded.” [7;130] These circumstances are very similar to the economic recession of 2008, and as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Whenever something good would happen, the people of Pharaoh would claim credit for it, and whenever something bad happened, they would blame Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his people. But when good came to them, they said, “This is ours [by right].” And if a bad [condition] struck them, they saw an evil omen in Moses and those with him. Unquestionably, their fortune is with Allah, but most of them do not know. [7;131] And they said, “No matter what sign you bring us with which to bewitch us, we will not be believers in you.” [7;132] This rhetoric is very similar to the wave of nationalism that took over the world in the last few years. It is used by nationalist political leaders, who blame marginalized groups for the economic recession. However, the oppression of those marginalized communities was a preexisting condition that was exacerbated and exploited by nationalist leaders.

    The Plagues

    Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) sent them the plagues, “the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood” [7;133]. These were such overwhelming tests for Pharaoh. He was a man that claimed to be a god, but the True God was now sending him something that destroyed the riches he had built and could not be blamed on someone else. It revealed all of his lies. The plagues sent to Pharaoh were specific to the land of the Nile that depended on the production of agriculture and built imposing monuments. It is difficult to look grand when your fields are flooded or consumed by locusts, your water turns to blood, and you and your monuments are covered in lice and frogs. Similarly, the coronavirus pandemic exposed the faults in our health care system, the shortcoming of our food supply, the fragility of the economy, and the deep racism that is embedded into the entire system. The people who were deemed essential to work were treated as sacrificial and were forced to choose between paying for food and rent or risking exposure. They were offered empty platitudes that did not include the protective equipment they needed, increased financial compensation, or health care if they were to fall ill.

    Coronavirus attacks the body’s ability to breathe, and it has been widely reported to have affected communities of color far harder than any other group. Black Americans are far more likely to have asthma due to highways going through their neighborhoods, and therefore more likely to die from Covid-19. This is a direct link to a racist system of redlining and highway construction that took away their ability to breathe. Black Americans are imprisoned at disproportionally high rates where social distancing is impossible. There are many false assumptions about the imprisoned population. The truth is that more than 90% of all cases never go to trial, and an accused person’s ability to defend themselves is almost impossible with exorbitant amounts of money. Many Muslims now claim affiliation to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), may Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) have mercy on him. Covid-19 could be killing the next Malcolm X in prison this very moment. All that without even discussing the economic impact of coronavirus on communities of color that if left unchecked will widen the racial wealth gap. The scarcity of food and resources that were created by the plagues undoubtedly affected the Children of Israel and not just their oppressors; however, the end result of plagues was justice for the oppressed.

    From Eric Garner to George Floyd, Black Americans have been fighting to breathe in America. The Arabic word nafs which is usually translated to a soul/self has the same root word as nafas, which means a breath. So, a more accurate translation of nafs is actually a breathing soul. Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a nafs (breathing soul) unless for a nafs or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he/she had slain humankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he/she had saved humankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. [Surah Al-Ma’idah; 32] American Muslims have tended towards the medical profession as a means of fulfilling the above verse in saving people. We should be focusing the same level of energy at saving populations by fighting both the coronavirus and racism epidemics.

    Naming the Oppression

    The coronavirus epidemic and the recent public murders of Black Americans created a tipping point that did not exist before. Former NBA player and prolific author, Kareem Abdul Jabbar said, “it feels like hunting season is open on blacks.” The murder of George Floyd was so egregious that groups dedicated to preventing police accountability called for Derek Chauvin to be held accountable. America was force to collectively acknowledge the murder of a Black man at the hands of a police officer. Corporations who peddled in racism were issuing apologies when they saw the tide of public opinion turn. The murder of George Floyd made America look the ugliness of racism in the eye. Of course, police brutality and racism did not begin with George Floyd nor did it end with him. Many more people lost their lives at the hands of the police during the protests. For every name we know, there are countless others we do not know. Police brutality is a leading cause of death for Black men in America. Even if we do not know their names, every victim leaves behind a family to mourn their loss while knowing that the murderer not only walks free, but wears a uniform that allows him to continue to kill without consequence. May the brave young woman who took the video receive Divine reward and healing for her bravery. May the burning in the heart of every mother who lost a child be granted Divine patience and healing.

    In Surah A’raf, the people of Pharaoh also acknowledged their oppression of the Children of Israel, and they vowed to stop oppressing them. And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord by what He has promised you. If you [can] remove the punishment from us, we will surely believe you, and we will send with you the Children of Israel.” [7;134] We know that the people of Pharaoh reneged after the plagues were lifted. But when We removed the punishment from them until a term which they were to reach, then at once they broke their word. [7;135] So We took retribution from them, and We drowned them in the sea because they denied Our signs and were heedless of them. [7;136] Pharaoh in his arrogance witnessed all of the signs Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) including the staff, his hand, and the plagues. He then witnessed the Red Sea split, and still he followed Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) into the sea until he was drowned. His hatred blinded him, and his racism killed him.

    America is now at the same moment of realization. Of course, Black Muslims have never been unaware of racism. It is a privilege for non-Black Muslims to learn about systemic racism rather than experience it firsthand. The ability to see right from wrong is not guaranteed for us. Arrogance can blind us as it has blinded Pharaoh and his army. I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them. [7;146] The ability to see the racism is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). May we be protected from spiritual blindness. No Muslim in America should be able to claim a lack of awareness of systemic racism any longer. No should they continue to favor their comfort zones over our love for our Black brothers and sisters and assume they will be forgiven. And they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’ [7;169]

    Fighting the Oppression

    Pharaoh claimed to be god, and White supremacy is the false god of our time. It is built into our psyches, our financial systems, and our power structures. Statues were erected to idolize those who upheld it. White supremacy is a system where lighter skin makes people smarter, more trustworthy, and more beautiful. We know this is a lie on its face, and yet it breads anti-blackness that is deeply engrained into everyday life. Fighting anti-blackness is a spiritual struggle, and we should make sincere intentions to fight it in all its forms. We must stand with the people of righteousness who fought for the abolition, civil rights, and an end to colonialist exploitation.

    White supremacy in America is in a housing system that segregates people and exposes them to pollutants in their air and their water. It is in an education system that funds or defunds schools based on that segregated housing, and uses the police as an extreme punishment for a child’s infractions. It is in a judicial system that criminalizes poverty and imprisons those who cannot afford bail. It is in a prison system that forces people to work without financial compensation and is protected by the Thirteenth Amendment. Plans to fight the coronavirus pandemic were halted because communities of color were more likely to be affected in yet another disturbing attack. White supremacy is so deeply engrained that it leads some to harm themselves by bleaching their skin and burning their hair in hopes of appearing more like their oppressors. It is everywhere including our spiritual spaces.

    Muslims often quote ayah 48:13 and the last sermon of Prophet Mohamed ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) with pride that the tradition stands firmly against racial injustice. While Islam itself does, Muslims often unfortunately do not. One of my community members recently shared a story about entering a masjid in hijab, and being asked if she was Muslim. What was even more egregious is that after a discussion, the family that asked concluded that because of her black skin, she was in fact NOT Muslim despite praying in a masjid. Many of the non-Black Muslims were shocked to hear this, but the truth is that I have never met a Black Muslim who did NOT have a racism in the masjid story. Ask the Black Muslims in your circle about their experiences, and the flood gates will open. You will also see the hurt and betrayal in their eyes for having to endure racism inside their places of worship. Apologize to them for not listening sooner and thank them for being willing to teach you and trust you to want to be better despite their trauma.

    Call to Action

    It is not enough for anyone to not be racist; we must be anti-racist. Acknowledge the anti-blackness you have internalized within yourself and have those difficult conversations with your family members. Ustadha Zaynab Ansari speaks about the pathological ideologies of how black bodies are viewed in America.  Join and support organizations like the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Muslim Alliance of North America. Embrace a Black Muslim ethos of viewing Islam as a theology of liberation. Support Black scholars and the Black masajid. Invite them to speak not just about anti-Blackness, but on their areas of expertise in Islam, history, community development, etc. Demand that the immigrant masajid be antiracist. Black Muslims should be on the Board of Directors and on the Zakah committee to ensure the equity of those spaces. Hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion expert to have a difficult conversation about race in your organization. If the Black Muslims do not share their experiences of racism in the masjid, it is not because they did but happen, but because they do not trust the community to care to change it. Build that trust and build coalitions of communal healing to end the segregation of masajid into Black and immigrant masajid in the first place. The way out of the pandemic is to take care of those who are most vulnerable. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “You are given rizq sustenance based on the most vulnerable among you.” Communities who have turned the tide have done exactly that. Learning to be anti-racist is one of many steps we can take to lift the difficulty our communities are facing. We need at least be as non-discriminatory as the virus that only sees a human body.

    Anyone who is not Black has benefited from the theft and subjugation of generations of Black Americans. We should not meet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) having sided with an oppressor. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) says, “Oppression is layers of darkness on the Day of Judgement.” We can choose to follow the prophetic path, or we can choose to let our racism destroy us. And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it]. [7;34] There will be an accounting for our society as a whole, and there will be an individual accounting. Those who follow Prophet Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will enter eternal gardens and those who follow Pharaoh will enter an eternal fire. And the people of no consequence, those who choose to do nothing, will sit on the A’raf.

    [1] This story is mentioned in West African oral histories

    [2] “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5-1: NIV)

    [3] The plagues of Egypt are discussed differently in the different Abrahamic faiths. “The Christian and Jewish traditions discuss the angel of death taking the life of the first-born son from every family in Egypt except those who left a marking on their doors so the angel of death could pass over them.”

    [4] Jahili is a Quranic descriptor for Pre-Islamic Arab society. It is derived from a root word meaning ignorance.

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