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Sherman Jackson, CVE, UAE and some questions




question mark, Sherman Jackson

For Muslims in the United States, it is easy to fall for the fallacy of “American Muslim exceptionalism.” Some Muslims view Muslim-majority countries as dark, corrupt, and authoritarian places while we in the United States are the light. As we have written about in various contexts, including Zakat abuse and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the Muslim community’s leaders are capable of corruption and other abuses. There is no reason to believe  Muslims in the United States are any better than Muslims anywhere else.

A few years ago, the federal government started to offer ways for Muslims to profit from the global war on terrorism. It started a race among the unscrupulous to show national security-focused agencies and even foreign governments, how they are best qualified to tame Muslims and Islam. In CVE, Muslims were singled out as a problem religion and a problem community, though they did not start out being explicit about this.  There was strong opposition to CVE from Muslim communities and others and those who organized and worked hard to oppose it found success.

One group of Muslims that for the most part, we did not see participate in CVE were our students of knowledge, our Islamic teachers. Many cared about the dignity of their community and their religion. We can be grateful for this. Unfortunately, there were exceptions.  As a community, it is vital we hold our leaders accountable and correct things when they are wrong. Ali Al-Arian recently called attention to the CVE work of Dr. Sherman Jackson which was uniquely troubling among various CVE ventures for reasons I will discuss below. Jackson’s response was inadequate, and he needs to do better.

Sherman Jackson in the CVE racket

Dr. Sherman Jackson has been a player in CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) for several years. Unlike other CVE proponents in the Muslim community, Jackson did not speak in American Muslim spaces on the subject as best as I am aware.  CVE is the now widely discredited, (yet somehow still very much alive in various forms) project to move the war on terrorism to Muslim spaces, in schools, and in mental health.  Jackson was a commissioner in the Council of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) CVE Commission in November 2016.  You can read their CVE report online.  

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta co-chaired this CVE Commission.   The report represents a consensus view of all commissioners.  Jackson was only one of two known Islamic scholars who lent their name to this project.  

This “comprehensive new strategy” was meant to be for the benefit of the next President of the United States, assumed to be Clinton. The person who ended up as President seemed uninterested in the advice provided mainly by supporters of his opponent.  

Ali Al-Arian and Sherman Jackson 

Al-Arian’s description of Jackson’s CVE efforts and UAE collaboration is sparse.   Most of his article is not really about Jackson’s CVE work and UAE connections and outside my scope. Though it clearly made a big impact on Jackson.

Dr. Sherman Jackson corrects a few of Al-Arian’s minor mistakes and offers an emotional rebuttal.  He was not an “advisor” to the commission, but a commissioner himself. The product of the commission is Jackson’s product, however. Putting his name on it was his choice.  CSIS is not a “right-wing” organization. They are worse than that, something I will get to below.

Other claims by Jackson were speculative at best (Tony Blair would not have wanted him on the commission) or require clarification.  I hope Sherman Jackson will be able to clarify these from the questions below.

White Supremacy

I am not interested in engaging on Dr. Sherman Jackson’s racial politics and views on immigrants or Al-Arian’s preferred framing in the context of global empire and white supremacy as a system. Instead, it is more useful to look at white supremacy in the context of CVE.  In the national media, CVE has come back into vogue as a way to address mass-shootings by white-nationalists. It has come up recently after the El Paso shooting, for example.    

Those who want to look to CVE as a way to prevent ideological violence in the name of white supremacy will find no help from the CVE Commissioners. The only CVE Dr. Sherman Jackson co-signed is interested in is targeting Muslims. The CVE Commission Report helpfully tells us what a “violent extremist” is. On page 2 of the report, the commissioners (including Dr. Jackson) tell us:

Throughout this report, we use the general term “violent extremism” to refer to the subset of violent extremist organizations that claim the religion of Islam as their motivating source and to justify their nefarious goals, and the term “extremist” to describe the ideologies and narratives deployed by these groups. 

Quite simply, for purposes of US Government policy, the CVE Commission was advocating that Muslims and Muslims alone can be capable of violent extremism. Nobody from any other religion or anyone with a secular ideology could be a violent extremist.  

A stylistic departure for CVE

For the CVE Commission, this was a stylistic departure from the Obama Administration CVE policy, which claimed to address other forms of extremism. However, it was always clear that while there was no real intention to address white supremacy. The war on terror involved spying on Muslim students going rafting but the government did not even know who the armed white supremacist groups were. CVE was always meant to single out the Muslim community, like the rest of the war on terror.  

The CVE Commission would have done away with any Obama-era window dressing. Leaving CVE as the preferred term to not offend partners, who may not sign up for a program called “Countering Islamic Extremism” (a term Republicans would prefer). In a sense, it was more honest than the Obama Administration policy. Another bout of honesty from the CVE Commission is that CVE is not an alternative to the war on terror. It is part of the war.  

Dylann Roof was not a violent extremist because he was not Muslim

In 2015, the year the work of the CVE Commission started, Dylann Roof walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine worshipers.  Violence by white supremacists had a long history in the United States before 2015, a fact Dr. Jackson had known. White nationalist violence has continued since.   

Dr. Jackson, who has proclaimed himself to be the most “explicit” and “eloquent” on white supremacy, somehow managed to co-sign a report that failed to include the murder of black people in a church by a white supremacist in the definition of “violent extremism.” Indeed the document with his name on it failed to mention white supremacy even once while claiming to be a “comprehensive new strategy.”  It appears Dr. Jackson was unable to be either “explicit” or “eloquent” on white supremacy when it may have mattered.  

The co-chairs dismissed “extremism” by non-Muslims as something we should worry about by stating that “we must be clear-eyed about the nature of the enemy.” That makes sense, CVE is an extension of the war on terrorism.  

 The Value Proposition 

The CVE Commission report, other than to commit exclusively to the perceived Muslim problem, something Republicans already did in the CVE Grants Act in 2015, was not groundbreaking.  The document recycled tropes and jargon from prior CVE documents.  The commissioners failed to offer any solutions other than providing more funding to programs that are “proven.”   Objectively, there have never been any proven CVE programs. The report included “enlisting” technology, religious and other sector leaders, getting the White House to lead, and other meaningless gobbledygook. None of this was actionable as policy, except the funding part.  

How do governments fight ideologies they don’t like without getting into thought policing? Is there a way to know if someone is about to become a terrorist in the future? How do we prevent CVE from merely becoming code for political repression? You won’t find answers to any of this in the CVE Commission report.  

CVE was never able to live up to its promise of being a solution to anything. According to an FBI study, for example, there is no way to tell by looking at someone’s ideology that they are more likely to commit violence.  CVE was always a corrupt and fraudulent enterprise. It was junk science attempting to convince policymakers and the public that soothsaying can be actual public policy.  

It seemed clear that for CSIS, the CVE Commission was mainly a fundraising play. The donors were getting something though: a narrative that reflects their values, and loyalty. The UAE, for example, engages in thought policing and political repression. In the UAE, peaceful protest of government policies falls under the terrorism law and can lead to the death penalty. If the UAE or other seriously sick regimes fund you, it makes sense to sidestep difficult issues and discuss the things they want to hear. 

The CVE Commission report was emphatically not scholarship. It was political hackery for money. Dr. Jackson stated he consulted with “Washington insiders” before accepting. The end product seems to reflect the quality of the counsel he sought. It was garbage in, garbage out.  

Why Credibility with the UAE matters

It is impossible to separate Sherman Jackson’s work on the CVE Commission from his UAE affiliation. To CSIS’s credit, they disclose the United Arab Emirates is one of their largest government donors. Though CSIS credits funding for the report itself to Mark Penn, a Clinton pollster who has since become a pro-Trump pundit on TV, and Fred  Khosravi, a businessman who reportedly once told his cellmate he was a “freelance consultant for the FBI.” Both of these individuals were also commissioners alongside Jackson.  Defense contractors and oil companies are also prominent funders for CSIS. That guy from your local masjid who generously donates every Ramadan is likely not on CSIS’s fundraising mailers.  

If you are going to fundraise for a commission report, you want to name commissioners the donors like and trust. Tony Blair is best known for lying his country into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, nearly all of them Muslim. For the funders, he had the requisite credibility and moral authority to co-lead his fellow commissioners. This seems especially true when it comes to the UAE.  

Islamic Scholars “clean and…vetted”

In 2015, we learned the UAE donated $1,000,000 to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division through a foundation three years earlier. This agency had an aggressive anti-Muslim surveillance operation. In 2014, the UAE, through a cabinet-level decision, absurdly designated the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), “terrorist” organizations. Both are entirely American organizations that have nothing to do with the UAE.  

In the years since, the UAE has prosecuted an aggressive and unflinchingly violent foreign policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. In Yemen, the UAE reportedly operates a network of dozens of sites dedicated to engaging in systematic rape and torture. Moreover, it has been a champion of domestic political repression and oppression of the Uighurs and Kashmiris. Indeed, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the butcher of Gujarat and currently in the midst of shocking actions in Kashmir, was just given the UAE’s highest honor. India’s fascist government and the UAE’s rulers deserve each other. More troubling is that some prominent American Muslim scholars, including Sherman Jackson, appear to have no problem with the honor of being considered “clean and…vetted” by the UAE so that their actions are consistent with UAE’s overall foreign policy goals.  

A Question of Values 

When Muslim scholars find reasons to affiliate with such a foreign government so dedicated to oppression, it deserves some communal self-evaluation.

US Muslim scholars, including Dr. Sherman Jackson, continue to attend a conference hosted by the UAE’s government on, and this is seriously the name, “Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.” Getting American Muslim scholars in the UAE’s corner to grant themselves religious legitimacy is part of UAE foreign policy. That all of this seems cartoonishly absurd mockery of their religion does not stop Muslim scholars from collaborating with the UAE’s government. Worse though, Muslim scholars in the United States who have nothing to do with the UAE have not done anything to self-police this servile and propagandistic sham.

It is not at all surprising someone like Tony Blair aligns perfectly with CSIS donor UAE’s values. But do Islamic scholars in the United States have values similar to the UAE’s shaykhdom?  Do American Muslims? 

I don’t agree with everything the mafia does

Dr. Jackson notes he spoke twice about the problem of religious violence as well as “the problem of government repression, mass imprisonment, and torture.” Neither the CVE Commission or the MCE has any project to address these things. Reciting platitudes about human rights is not synonymous with moral courage. The UAE itself publicly and repeatedly proclaims itself as a champion of human rights. That does not make it one.      

In his post, Dr. Jackson notes that just because he works with a UAE sponsored entity, it does not mean he agrees with everything the UAE does. Dr. Jackson wants the Muslim community to hold him to a meaningless ethical standard. Nobody agrees with everything anyone does. 

If a scholar joined a Mafia-sponsored effort to give itself religious legitimacy, “I don’t agree with everything the mafia does” won’t work as a moral defense.  It should not work when collaborating with the UAE government either. Dr. Sherman Jackson gets to decide who he associates his name with. That is a moral choice.  

Benefit and Harm

What we need to do is evaluate the benefit to be gained by the community versus the harm Dr. Jackson may be causing. 

There is significant harm from scholars to providing religious legitimacy to regimes that have foreign policies dedicated to oppression and murder in multiple countries.    There is further harm because the UAE stages it’s religious scholars as props in a way that makes a mockery of religion and religious authority. It is undignified and far below the station of any scholar of Islam to play in such farces, yet,  there they are.

The CVE Commission in the United States was merely an extension of this game.  Use religious leaders to give cover to policies meant to harm people who follow that religion. Dr. Jackson’s participation in the CVE Commission shows there is virtually no bottom to what you can get a prominent Islamic scholar to co-sign. Islamic Scholars willing to collaborate with war criminals to make Muslims less violent are little more than dancing bears for the national security state. The dignity of the religion of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) deserves better.      

Benefits of this display to the Muslim community are not clear, at least not to me.  I hope Dr. Jackson can explain why the immense cost of his participation is worth it. 

If I act wrongly, correct me

An Islamic Scholar is someone who holds a position of a sacred public trust.  That requires public integrity. According to a hadith of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), ulema (not all religious leaders qualify here) are heirs of the Prophets.  However, that does not mean they are infallible and somehow incapable of making serious mistakes.  

Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), in his inaugural speech as Khalifah, reportedly said:

“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.”

Those who honor our tradition should not merely be deferential to scholars and leaders when they start doing things that make no sense or are objectively harmful.  They should correct them and not be afraid of asking difficult questions.  

Some Muslims, including some leaders and scholars, seem to think of Dr. Sherman Jackson as the Muslim ummah’s grandmaster chess player (something he alluded to in his post). We may not understand what he is doing, but that is only because he must be several moves ahead of what our brains can process. I do hope those Muslims can stop thinking this way. Sometimes, even people whose work you admire can make severe errors in judgment.   

Nobody likes to have their integrity questioned. Sherman Jackson would plainly prefer the Muslim community see him as above reproach. But if a scholar collaborates with human rights abusers and mass-murderers to make the world a more peaceful place, a few Muslims may start raising their hands to ask a few questions.  

Some Questions

I have a few questions for Dr. Sherman Jackson, but if readers have their own,  leave them in the comments:

  1. Do you agree with any portion of the CVE Commission Report?  If so, please share with the Muslim community what parts you agree with and why. If you repudiate this report in full, please tell us. 
  2. I understand you signed on to the CVE Commission to prevent a product with undue bias. However, why did you agree to include your name on the final product that excluded Dylann Roof from the definition of “violent extremist”? 
  3. Do you believe CVE is not fraudulent and actually works? If so, do you have any evidence of this?  
  4. You mentioned in your post you told scholars that people who disagree with CVE should protest outside. Did you ever inform them or anyone about where and when the largely secret meetings were so that they can organize protests?
  5. Have there been any concrete benefits to oppressed Muslims anywhere because of your affiliation with the UAE-based MCE?  
  6. What benefits have you personally enjoyed as a result of your affiliation with the CVE Commission and the UAE? 
  7. Do you believe Tony Blair should be charged, and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Iraq? 
  8. Do you believe the senior leadership of the United Arab Emirates should be charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity?  
  9. What value do you believe you are offering the government of the UAE’s rulers by serving on the MCE?   

Ahmed Shaikh is a Southern California Attorney. He writes about inheritance, nonprofits and other legal issues affecting Muslims in the United States. His Islamic Inheritance website is



  1. Avatar


    August 29, 2019 at 5:35 PM

    Great job brother Ahmed! This is a detailed speech by Tony Blair at CSIS and their focus on the ‘Islam problem’ and how it is to be dealt with

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      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:42 AM

      Thank you, Paula! So are you saying you don’t think Muslim leaders should find any solutions from the Ummah from Tony Blair?

  2. Avatar

    shakeel syed

    August 29, 2019 at 5:38 PM

    JZKK Br. Ahmed … joining you to hear from Dr. Jackson.

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    Salim Choudhury

    August 29, 2019 at 9:41 PM

    This is quite an incomprehensible piece of crap. If the writer (and I use the term loosely) of this lengthy piece had any ability to think rationally, he would not have made the dozens of logical fallacies throughout this bilious rant masquerading as a piece of journalistic commentary. And the gall to ask a series of questions to Dr. Jackson! Do you think he owes you, or any of your lefty comrades, an explanation of his actions? Seriously, please crawl back into the slimy hole of self-glorification you came from. You neither possess the ability to think clearly, nor the ability to conduct research before you open your big mouth.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:50 AM

      Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Avatar


      August 31, 2019 at 1:34 AM

      @Salim Choudhury, would you care to explain what any of these logical fallacies are? Why should Dr. Jackson not be questioned? Using ad-hominems is usually indicative of the inability formulate a coherent rebuttal to an argument. Rather than using insulting and degrading speech, perhaps try to articulate any point you may have, if in fact you have.

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      September 12, 2019 at 1:03 PM

      Open name calling, in our faith, is slander. If you want this brother to soften or change his opinion about another Muslim, Is this the way Islam teaches us to fix one another? Do you think using big words in your name calling makes it okay?

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    August 30, 2019 at 1:23 AM

    What an unintelligible piece of drab. These arguments are so fickle that it was actually embarrassing to read. Can someone please find an actual intellectual to write these “articles?” Not because we believe in the half baked accusations, but because it’s just embarrassing that this is our current level of academic discourse.

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      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:48 AM

      Thank you for coming to Muslim Matters for Academic discourse.

      • Avatar


        August 30, 2019 at 7:14 AM

        My pleasure. You sound fun.

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          August 31, 2019 at 1:43 AM

          Mr. Mustafa, why are you angry brother? Sometimes the truth can be hard to digest. The first step of grief is denial, so your reaction is completely understandable. I would suggest re-reading the evidences provided a few times over, thus allowing to skip the additional 3 stages right into acceptance.

          • Avatar


            September 1, 2019 at 2:27 AM

            Dear Mort,
            Ooh, you sound fun too. Thank you for the online diagnosis. Do you offer private counseling as well?

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    Abdul Malik

    August 30, 2019 at 2:09 AM

    You’re either at the table or on the menu. Lots of Muslims it seems prefer to be on the menu.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:38 AM

      Sounds like the cannibals’ code. Eat or be eaten. Sound advice somewhere I am sure.

  6. Avatar


    August 30, 2019 at 4:19 AM

    Is this supposed to be journalism?

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    August 30, 2019 at 4:42 AM

    “What we need to do is evaluate the benefit to be gained by the community versus the harm Dr. Jackson may be causing “ Wow, stunned by your audacity. To even attempt to summarize a fraction of what Dr. Jackson has contributed to the Muslim Ummah would be impossible. God is just and he will defend His people.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 11:43 AM

      Wow. A summary of a fraction, like any fraction (1/1000) of his contributions to the Muslim ummah is impossible? That is amazing! Thank you for pointing this out.

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    August 30, 2019 at 8:19 AM

    Wow, the Dr Jackson cultists are out in full force. As their cult leader has done, they have nothing to offer but emotional diatribes and personal insults. Great work as usual Ahmed.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 12:05 PM

      Thanks, Abdullah. I am glad a few people find the contribution valuable.

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    August 30, 2019 at 9:34 AM

    Groupies and masturbators to all things Sherman Jackson are spamming these comments rather than deal with substance of anything that has been written.

    This goes to the larger problem of the tasawwuf/nafs crowd. They elevate their celebrity sheikhs to a status of idol and worship them instead of demanding evidence from Quran & Sunnah, much less political accountability.

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    August 30, 2019 at 9:50 AM

    Jazakum Allahu khairan for one of the most relevant and informed articles ever posted on Muslim Matters. I am so heartened that these questions are being asked. I have two questions off the bat:

    1) Is UAE payment to Dr. Jackson funneled through a Swiss or offshore account?

    2) When and how are Muslims going to hold the government of Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, responsible for heinous crimes against humanity?

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    August 30, 2019 at 11:30 AM

    This piece was very well done. As someone who respects Dr Jackson and has read his works and heard his lectures, I cringed through parts of it, but nevertheless it was important to get this information out there. I am optimistic about one thing – I think this dialogue from the last few weeks will force American Muslim leaders and organizations to consider/ reconsider/ be cautious of their alliances and partnerships.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:04 PM

      Thank you for your comments. I know many Muslims have great respect for Dr. Jackson and would like for him to use his talents, knowledge, and platform for good and beneficial purposes. I do hope you are right in that there will be far more critical writing within the Muslim community about alliances and partnerships Muslim leaders have and that this will help us all become a better ummah.

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    August 30, 2019 at 8:05 PM

    As one who was privileged to study under Dr Jackson, I am disappointed to hear about his poor judgement. I hope this controversy does not undermine his great contribution to Islamic thought, which happens to be his least popular book, Islam & the Problem of Black Suffering. His most promoted book on the Third Resurrection is overrated, IMHO.

    Despite my admiration for that one specific work of his, I now can’t help but wonder … How much money did he make from CVE and similar endeavors?

    And … now my mind is unfortunately going to a place where I tried hard to not let it go in the past…

    … on multiple occasions, including the classroom, I noticed with surprise his regular taste for high end stuff, for example his Tod shoes, a nice big Merc, etc. Not judging, but I ask — is that not a violation of both Islamic guidance (do not wear silk, and by extension fancy clothes), and the restrained clothing choice of NOI (which he rightly admires as signifying a BASP ethic, and I am certainly not implying there is anything more to his NOI stance).

    Do CVE-like dollars fund his ostentation? Lets not rush to judgement, since the $ could have come from many halal sources, including gifts or ol’ fashioned hard work, since we know he does a lot of the latter. But when news shocks, the mind goes to places where it perhaps should not.

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      August 31, 2019 at 1:57 PM

      Since the respected wife of Dr. Jackson, Dr. Heather Laird, has flagged my earlier comment as racist in a lengthy public post on her FB, it invites a response. An accusation of racism is serious, and must not be made lightly, and must not be evaded once made. Clearly, much of our world is still very racist, and every good human can contribute to alleviating that disgusting disease. But hurriedly hurling accusations of racism will not help. Does Dr. Laird know my race? If I am not black, would my original commentary be more valuable if I was? Might I have made the same comment if Dr. Jackson were white? If I were to observe that by painting my comment as racist, she has deftly deflected the key questions raised, is that being racist? Is it healthy for Islamic scholars with a big public profile to be ostentatious? Should public Islamic scholars (as opposed to secular Professors) be held to a higher standard than the laity on matters other than intellectual output? If ostentation is un-Islamic, which is what I have been taught, should we overlook the ostentation of Islamic scholars from oppressed communities, but not of majoritarian communities? Is any respectful critique of a scholar from a disadvantaged community racist? In addition, the main article poses nine excellent questions. As a student, I humbly seek answers.

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    August 30, 2019 at 9:05 PM

    Excellent work, and kudos to the author (as well as MuslimMatters) for publishing it. JazakuhAllahu khairan

    This assessment is sorely needed. Critique here is made not on speculation, but clear cut evidence of troubling CVE work. It can’t simply be shooed away on the basis of our respect for an individual’s past work.

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    Gibran Mahmud

    August 31, 2019 at 8:08 PM

    I admire Mr. Jackson and think this article is good-he’s not somehow free from being questioned and I think nobody should get into any political business without first considering that they can and will be questioned in this life and the next. It’s senseless to refrain from questioning and criticism or tamp down on it because he’s contributed to the Ummah-and? This makes him infallible? Many men contribute good and bad, many mix right with evil, many take a dark turn after having been on the path.

    And some contribute a lot of good and make serious errors they will eventually repent for. We wish the best for every Muslim and it’s as much our responsibility to appreciate each other as it is to hold each other accountable. We are the only allies we have-the rest of the world is against us and we have munafiqoon from among us-if we do not strengthen each other and hold each other to account we are vulnerable to the enemy outside and the enemy within.

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    Safiya O

    September 1, 2019 at 9:08 PM

    Salaam Alaikum,

    If Dr Sherman Jackson has been the only prominent Muslim to engage in CVE work, then the underlying point (if not the tone) of this article would be fair critique. Likewise if he were the only prominent Islamic figure/organisation without financial transparency.

    However, as brother Haqiqatjou has pointed out here many, many scholars and leaders have engaged in CVE work.

    So therefore, why solely criticise Dr Sherman Jackson? It is notable that in Al Arian’s article, the three figures singled out for critique were converts, two of whom are African American. Yet, as brother Haqiqatjou lists, many Arab and Asian Muslims have taken part in CVE, so why no pieces dedicated to them?

    Brother Shaikh, you brush away talk of being at the table vs being on the menu as “cannibal politics”, but the issue of political representation for Muslims is not one that will go away.

    For myself, I would rather have someone who bases their actions in the Qur’an and Sunnah representing me. The deep concern with the so-called activist Muslims is that not only do they not o this, but they have actually considered themselves to have transcended the need for revealed texts.

    This is extremely concerning, particularly when you consider that Sh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir and Dr Jackson are all in their early 60s now. Who are the next generation of leaders who will replace them and how will they balance representing a community nationally and globally?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 3, 2019 at 2:46 AM

      The article was about Sherman Jackson. I have written several articles on CVE. You should read them. Yes, Muslims should engage in politics. However, people in politics should be comfortable with their work being subject to scrutiny. While you may be committed to unconditional adoration and deference, and accuse those who do not subscribe to this philosophy as racist without bothering to read another article by the author you are addressing, not everyone is going to be like that.

  16. Avatar

    Ayatullah Muhammad

    September 3, 2019 at 3:33 AM

    Jazakallahu Khayran at your attempt at being balanced. I personally prefer your article on the “Lords of CVE” than this one despite a few questionable points I’d encourage you to work on to make your critique stronger. The few points of assault I was expecting to see had very poor reference standard which were almost on par with Ali’s. To be frank, besides the *direct* questions, everything else sounded like a history note even though I guess as someone alludes, its an attempt not to impugn on character. The article could have been shorter by demanding, Dr Sherman should simply clarify his CVE stances and the wisdom of the UAE framework which he is yet to serve his followers

    1. Article refers to the “Lord of Muslims” article, which has little to NO mention of how long Dr Jackson has been on board that. If he decides to bounce back that he was there for “2 hours”, you would have just made the same mistake Ali make, which should be besides the point of the whole inquiry. Yet it garners attention of the preying social media eyes which leads to impugning Character.

    2. “Vetted and…” section claims to have UAE describe him as such in the letter. Two references are not clear. Does such exist in those references(which points at Wedaddy)? otherwise the source you referred to irrespectively doesn’t define him as such but rather assigns him as a CSIS/Tony Blair scholar. There is a world of a difference to that. Already, Sherman has not problem with the blair one because he doesn’t feel its worth the assault. Am sure he’d have a problem with the “Clean and vetted” one even if light which ascribes him to be “anti-Ikhwan”, something he has apologized for in the face of Sisi handshake allegations.

    “More troubling is that some prominent American Muslim scholars, including Sherman Jackson, appear to have no problem with the honor of being considered “clean and…vetted” by the UAE so that their actions are consistent with UAE’s overall foreign policy goals. ”

    THe reference to the best of my reading needs better clarity than what you have provided. Otherwise it can be closer to impugning his character despite your attempt at sticking to the topic.

    Otherwise, may God reward you for shinning the torch and demanding for accountability as necessary. JAK

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 3, 2019 at 12:19 PM

      Thank you for your comment. A few comments:

      1. Ali can speak for himself. You seem to imagine what Dr.Jackson would say (like being there for two hours) and offer that as a potential mistake I may have made. You can read the report itself about the work that went into it. Dr. Jackson had many opportunities to denounce it, distance himself from it, minimize his participation. I have also had the opportunity to speak to various people involved with this process over the years so I know this was a significant investment in time for him. You should keep in mind, several items in this article are a few years old now.

      2. There is the term clean and vetted that I link to. Dr. Jackson is someone with a strong relationship with the UAE, he is, as I point to elsewhere in the article, a member of the Council of Muslim Elders. This is an auxiliary of the UAE government. The only two American Islamic Scholar commissioners on the CVE Commission are known to have strong ties to the UAE, which is a major donor of CSIS.

      Again, thank you for your comment and I appreciate you engaging with the article and considering the issues addressed.

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    September 3, 2019 at 10:51 PM

    Dear Ahmad Shaikh

    it is a fair criticism, and I think in general all Muslim American scholars who interact formally with western or arab governments should recognize that these public relationships will be scrutinized and should be scrutinized. The main response I hear from scholars as to why they do engage is that if they didn’t, someone worse than them would end up advising these governments. But it belies the fact that governments could really care less what religious scholars tell them. I don’t think a lesson in Quranic exegesis would convince the UAE to stop bombing children in Yemen.

    At the same time, the core point of Jackson’s rebuttal is that politics and the demands of social justice are not the main concern facing Muslims in America. On this issue I would agree. Modern liberal culture is aggressive and relentless in its attack on the core tenets of belief or faith in religion in general. If we assume this to be true, then it is possible that Muslim scholars would end up with strange bedfellows when considering the trajectory of conservative views in America.

    The American left if a spiritual wasteland when you consider how it elevates and sanctifies the desires of the individual above all else. While it may defend the rights of Muslims to live in America, it acts as an aggressive cancer to the core beliefs of any Muslim who chooses to do so.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 5, 2019 at 3:16 AM

      Thank you for your comment Aziz. I understand that there will be political differences among Muslims. Those political difference are subject to debate and discussion. Those differences should be subject to analysis based on who the actions benefit and who they harm. I don’t know that any flavor of politics in the United States or much of anywhere is a spiritual pursuit. It’s sausage-making I personally hope religious leaders stay out of. I would have no problem with religious leaders providing their perspective and opinion to anyone, but what I describe is several steps away from that as you know. I don’t know that I would say the “core point” of Jackson’s rebuttal (of Al-Arian’s article, he did not write one for my article yet) was as you describe. I don’t think anything Jackson was doing has anything to do with the American left. Al-Arian’s article was perhaps framed with language common in racial theories popular today. However, some of the issues it brought out, most notably the troubling work of Dr. Jackson with CVE and the UAE, was valid.

  18. Avatar

    Khurram Shah

    September 5, 2019 at 5:11 PM

    I do not get the vilification of the UAE. How many commenting here have actually lived there for a few years? It is a modern Muslim state with next to zero crime, the leadership is loved by citizens as well as expats. Go to any UAE newspaper, and you will find Indians, Pakistanis, westerners all praising the country. They are marking this year as a year of tolerance and all religions are respected. There is also a ministry of happiness looking at making people happy. As we speak, they are planning to send an astronaut to space in the coming days, a phenomenal achievement for such a new country.
    I would say a lot of the negative sentiments are inspired because of fake news from certain countries

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 5, 2019 at 7:14 PM

      Thank you for your contribution. Muslim Matters really should host an awards program for best commenters. I wonder if the Ministry of Happiness can help.

      Also, I did not realize they are sending someone to space. I suppose I need to rethink my entire world view now.

      • Avatar

        Khurram Shah

        September 7, 2019 at 3:24 AM

        I doubt sarcasm makes anyone’s point stronger. At the end of the day, the rulers of Dubai are loved by their people, citizens and expats alike. Even western expats are full of praise for the ruler’s vision and tolerance, as well as Muslim expats from all over the world.

        • Avatar

          Ahmed Shaikh

          September 9, 2019 at 4:02 PM

          Khurram, you seem to think public displays of fawning over their rulers is definitive proof of how wonderful rulers are. Also, space. You know, Stalin had an awesome space program and he had no shortage of people fawning over him publicly. Maybe he was not such a bad guy after all?

      • Avatar

        Khurram Shah

        September 7, 2019 at 6:52 AM

        This is how humble the ruler of Dubai is, he sits with common people in a seminar. And you can judge by the reaction of the audience they love him, the smiles are all natural, and they look on with admiration. Of course if someone has never visited the UAE and they learn about UAE from “neutral” sources like Qatar they will get a negative view.

  19. Avatar


    September 12, 2019 at 12:52 AM

    as salaam alaikum, my interest is Muslim unity. Takfeer is a serious thing that we should avoid except when it serves a vital purpose. Louis Farrakhan is not a Muslim. That Ahmadiyyas are not Muslims. Farrakhan exploits black young people so saying this protects black children from an injustice that comes to them. Sorry…Dr. Jackson working with the federal government to counter the bad apples in the American Muslim community is vital work that needs to be done. We do have bad apples. I will not go down the list here, but I just finished trying to lower my blood pressure over some of us who are stuck on Imam Luqman Abdullah, who was killed 10 years ago in an FBI raid. Some of us are stuck on cult figures. A Muslim convict from 10 years ago engaged in criminal activity and some of us think it’s Islam to fight for a dead convict while in the meantime you live in a place where most people and especially black people do not even know what Islam is? Now if you can show me where innocent Muslims are being harmed as a result of Dr. Jackson’s actions, then I am totally with you,. Such actions would call his Islam into question. It all boils down to Obama. Some of us are so into making him the enemy. Now the day we have a Pakistani American Muslim president, do you think anyone will for one second question his Islam? Yet this black Christin guy, who did extensive Muslim outreach is supposed to be the enemy? Some of us, who go to mosque and know a lot of Arabic have some very bad ideas. If you hate America or think this is a kafir evil place, that kafir government will gladly give you a passport and you can go to where you can freely practice your religion…as the Quran commands.

  20. Avatar

    Jason Salahuddin Hammer

    September 13, 2019 at 9:50 PM

    I have no idea who you are or what contribution you’ve made to Islam in America. I know who Dr. Jackson is and what he’s about. His value to is cannot be overstated. Get your weight up before you even think about coming at him with your weak accusations. That fact that you will actually misguide weak and confused folks makes me angry. Dr. Jackson is a scholar and intellectual giant; you, my friend are a clown. May God protect people from your venom.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 14, 2019 at 1:50 AM

      It may seem to you that my value is dependent on what random Sherman Jackson cultists on the internet think of me, and that’s fine just go with that if it makes you feel good. Yes, people whose iman was dependent on Sherman Jackson not being on the CVE Commission and not being on a UAE affiliated council may have an identity crisis or something. I suppose it’s a brave new world and you will just have to deal with it.

      Given so many of his acolytes to lash out in incoherent ramblings in defense of their hero, maybe being a barnacle to another “intellectual giant” will help you develop better critical thinking skills and more thoughtful prose. Or maybe you would just be a phrenetic disciple of someone else and nobody would be able to help that.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment.

  21. Avatar


    September 13, 2019 at 10:17 PM

    I ended a bit badly, so I want to clear up my “love it or leave it” ending.
    Starting crudely, As Muslims we are not allowed to buy haram things (like pig). The Muslims-should-not-vote crowd is wrong for this very reason. Voting is only a citizen stating the way he or she wants government funds spent. Everyone who lives in America pays taxes. If you don’t pay taxes, you live in America illegally and I don’t know of any scholar that says ducking taxes is halaal for Muslims living in the West. So, if you live in America and pay taxes, you are funding your local, state and the federal government. To live in America and file taxes every year means you fund the military and the FBI.
    So if you believe these people are evil kabals, intent in killing Muslims, you are paying for the unjust killing of Muslims through your voluntary act of paying federal taxes. I don’t mean to tell you to get out of America. I am asking about the sincerity of these claims of the evil US government. Pay them your money to fund their government and then spend all your time telling the world how the government, police and military you pay for is very evil and hates Muslims….
    Isn’t that way worse than buying pork?

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Shaykh Hamza Yusuf And The Question of Rebellion In The Islamic Tradition

Dr Usaama al-Azami



Sepoy rebellion, Shaykh Hamza

In recent years, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a notable Islamic scholar from North America, has gained global prominence by supporting efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to deal with the fallout of the Arab revolutions. The UAE is a Middle Eastern autocracy that has been the chief strategist behind quelling the Arab revolutionary aspiration for accountable government in the region. Shaykh Hamza views himself as helping prevent the region from falling into chaos by supporting one of its influential autocratic states. However, more recently, he has become embroiled in another controversy because of comments he made regarding the Syrian revolution in 2016 that surfaced online earlier this week and for which he has since apologised. I will not discuss these comments directly in this article, but the present piece does have a bearing on the issue of revolution as it addresses the question of how Islamic scholars have traditionally responded to tyranny. Thus, in what follows, I somewhat narrowly focus on another recent recording of Shaykh Hamza that has been published by a third party in the past couple of weeks entitled: “Hamza Yusuf’s response to the criticism for working with Trump administration”. While it was published online at the end of August 2019, the short clip may, in fact, predate the Trump controversy, as it only addresses the more general charge that Shaykh Hamza is supportive of tyrannical governments.

Thus, despite its title, the primary focus of the recording is what the Islamic tradition purportedly says about the duty of Muslims to render virtually unconditional obedience to even the most tyrannical of rulers. In what follows, I argue that Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule—a contention that he has been repeating for many years—is inaccurate. Indeed, it is so demonstrably inaccurate that one wonders how a scholar as learned as Shaykh Hamza can portray it as the mainstream interpretation of the Islamic tradition rather than as representing a particularly selective reading of fourteen hundred years of scholarship. Rather than rest on this claim, I will attempt to demonstrate this in what follows. (Note: this article was sent to Shaykh Hamza for comment at the beginning of this month, but he has not replied in time for publication.)

Opposing all government vs opposing a government

Shaykh Hamza argues that “the Islamic tradition” demands that one render virtually absolute obedience to one’s rulers. He bases this assertion on a number of grounds, each of which I will address in turn. Firstly, he argues that Islam requires government, because the opposite of having a government would be a state of chaos. This is, however, to mischaracterise the arguments of the majority of mainstream scholars in Islamic history down to the present who, following explicit Qur’anic and Prophetic teachings, opposed supporting tyrannical rulers. None of these scholars ever advocated the removal of government altogether. They only opposed tyranny. For some reason that is difficult to account for, Shaykh Hamza does not, in addressing the arguments of his interlocutors, make the straightforward distinction between opposing tyranny, and opposing the existence of any government at all.

A complex tradition

Rather than support these tyrannical governments, the Islamic tradition provides a variety of responses to how one should oppose such governments, ranging from the more quietist—opposing them only in one’s heart—to the more activist—opposing them through armed rebellion. The majority of later scholars, including masters such as al-Ghazzali (d. 505/1111), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795/1393), and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449) appear to have fallen somewhere between these two poles, advocating rebellion only in limited circumstances, and mostly advising a vocally critical posture towards tyranny. Of course, some early scholars, such as the sanctified member of the Prophetic Household, Sayyiduna Husayn (d. 61/680) had engaged in armed opposition to the tyranny of the Umayyads resulting in his martyrdom. Similarly, the Companion ‘Abdullah b. Zubayr (d. 73/692), grandson of Abu Bakr (d. 13/634), and son of al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwam (d. 36/656), two of the Ten Companions Promised Paradise, had established a Caliphate based in Makkah that militarily tried to unseat the Umayyad Caliphal counter-claimant.

However, the model of outright military rebellion adopted by these illustrious scholars was generally relinquished in later centuries in favour of other forms of resisting tyranny. This notwithstanding, I will try to show that the principle of vocally resisting tyranny has always remained at the heart of the Islamic tradition contrary to the contentions of Shaykh Hamza. Indeed, I argue that the suggestion that Shaykh Hamza’s work with the UAE, an especially oppressive regime in the Arab world, is somehow backed by the Islamic tradition can only be read as a mischaracterisation of this tradition. He only explicitly cites two scholars from Islamic history to support his contention, namely Shaykhs Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899/1442) and Abu Bakr al-Tartushi (d. 520/1126), both of whom were notable Maliki scholars from the Islamic West. Two scholars of the same legal school, from roughly the same relatively peripheral geographic region, living roughly four hundred years apart, cannot fairly be used to represent the swathe of Islamic views to be found over fourteen hundred years in lands as far-flung as India to the east, Russia to the north, and southern Africa to the south.

What does the tradition actually say?

Let me briefly illustrate the diversity of opinion on this issue within the Islamic tradition by citing several more prominent and more influential figures from the same tradition alongside their very different stances on the issue of how one ought to respond to tyrannical rulers. Most of the Four Imams are in fact reported to have supported rebellion (khuruj) which is, by definition, armed. A good summary of their positions is found in the excellent study in Arabic by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Dumayji, who is himself opposed to rebellion, but who notes that outright rebellion against tyrannical rule was in fact encouraged by Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik (d. 179/795), and is narrated as one of the legal positions adopted by al-Shafi‘i (d. 204/820) and Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855). As these scholars’ legal ideas developed and matured into schools of thought, many later adherents also maintained similar positions to those attributed to the founders of these schools. To avoid suggesting that armed rebellion against tyrants was the dominant position of the later Islamic tradition, let me preface this section with a note from Holberg Prize-winning Islamic historian, Michael Cook, who notes in his magisterial study of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong that “in the face of the delinquency of the ruler, there is a clear mainstream position [in the Islamic tradition]: rebuke is endorsed while [armed] rebellion is rejected.”

But there were also clearly plenty of outliers, or more qualified endorsements of rebellion against tyrants, as well as the frequent disavowal of the obligation to render them any obedience. Thus for the Malikis, one can find Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi (d. 543/1148) who asserts that advocating rebellion against tyrants is the main position of the madhhab; similarly among later Hanafis, one finds  Abu Bakr Al Jassas (d. 370/981); for the Hanbalis, one may cite the positions of the prolific scholars Imam Ibn ‘Aqil (d. 513/1119), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201), and in a more qualified sense, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. Among later Shafi‘is, I have found less explicit discussions of rebellion in my limited search, but a prominent Shafi‘i like the influential exegete and theologian al-Fakhr al-Razi (d. 606/1210) makes explicit, contrary to Shaykh Hamza’s claims, that not only is obeying rulers not an obligation, in fact “most of the time it is prohibited, since they command to nothing but tyranny.” This is similar in ways to the stance of other great Shafi‘is such as Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani who notes concerning tyrannical rulers (umara’ al-jawr) that the ulama state that “if it is possible to depose them without fitna and oppression, it is an obligation to do so. Otherwise, it is obligatory to be patient.” It is worth noting that the normative influence of such a statement cited by Ibn Hajar transcends the Shafi‘i school given that it is made in his influential commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. Once again, contrary to the assertions of Shaykh Hamza, there is nothing to suggest that any of the illustrious scholars who supported rebellion against tyrannical rulers was advocating the anarchist removal of all government. Rather they were explicitly advocating the replacement of a tyrant with a just ruler where this was possible.

Al-Ghazzali on confronting tyrants

A final example may be taken from the writing of Imam al-Ghazzali, an exceptionally influential scholar in the Islamic tradition who Shaykh Hamza particularly admires. On al-Ghazzali, who is generally opposed to rebellion but not other forms of opposition to tyranny, I would like to once again cite the historian Michael Cook. In his previously cited work, after an extensive discussion of al-Ghazzali’s articulation of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong, Cook concludes (p. 456):

As we have seen, his views on this subject are marked by a certain flirtation with radicalism. In this Ghazzālī may have owed something to his teacher Juwaynī, and he may also have been reacting to the Ḥanafī chauvinism of the Seljūq rulers of his day. The duty, of course, extends to everyone, not just rulers and scholars. More remarkably, he is prepared to allow individual subjects to have recourse to weapons where necessary, and even to sanction the formation of armed bands to implement the duty without the permission of the ruler. And while there is no question of countenancing rebellion, Ghazzālī is no accommodationist: he displays great enthusiasm for men who take their lives in their hands and rebuke unjust rulers in harsh and uncompromising language.

Most of the material Cook bases his discussion upon is taken from al-Ghazzali’s magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Such works once again demonstrate that the Islamic tradition, or great Sufi masters and their masterworks, cannot be the basis for the supportive attitude towards tyrannical rule on the part of a minority of modern scholars.

Modern discontinuities and their high stakes

But modern times give rise to certain changes that also merit our attention. In modern times, new technologies of governance, such as democracy, have gone some way to dealing with challenges such as the management of the transition of power without social breakdown and the loss of life, as well as other forms of accountability that are not possible in absolute autocracies. For their part, absolute autocracies have had their tyrannical dimensions amplified with Orwellian technologies that invade private spaces and facilitate barbaric forms of torture and inhumane degradation on a scale that was likely unimaginable to premodern scholars. The stakes of a scholar’s decision of whether to support autocracy or democracy could not be higher.

Modern scholars like Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1345/1926), someone who Shaykh Hamza’s own mentor, Shaykh Abdullah b. Bayyah (b. 1353f./1935) considered a teacher until fairly recently, has advocated for an Islamic conception of democracy as a possible means to deal with the problem of tyranny that plagues much of the Muslim world. He is hardly the only scholar to do so. And in contrast with some of the scholars of the past who advocated armed rebellion in response to tyranny, most contemporary scholars supporting the Arab revolutions have argued for peaceful political change wherever possible. They have advocated for peaceful protest in opposition to tyranny. Where this devolved into violence in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, this was generally because of the disproportionately violent responses of regimes to peaceful protests.

Shaykh Hamza on the nature of government

For Shaykh Hamza, the fault here appears to lie with the peaceful protestors for provoking these governments to crush them. Such a conception of the dynamics of protest appears to assume that the autocratic governmental response to this is a natural law akin to cause and effect. The logic would seem to be: if one peacefully calls for reform and one is murdered in cold blood by a tyrannical government, then one has only oneself to blame. Governments, according to this viewpoint, have no choice but to be murderous and tyrannical. But in an age in which nearly half of the world’s governments are democracies, however flawed at times, why not aspire to greater accountability and less violent forms of governance than outright military dictatorship?

Rather than ask this question, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf appears to be willing to defend autocracy no matter what they do on the grounds that government, in principle, is what is at stake. Indeed, in defending government as necessary and a blessing, he rhetorically challenges his critics to “ask the people of Libya whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Yemen whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Syria whether government is a blessing?” The tragic irony of such statements is that these countries have, in part, been destroyed because of the interventions of a government, one for which Shaykh Hamza serves as an official, namely the UAE. This government has one of the most aggressive foreign policies in the region and has been instrumental in the failure of representative governments and the survival of tyrannical regimes throughout the Middle East.

Where do we go from here?

In summary, Shaykh Hamza’s critics are not concerned that he is “supporting governments,” rather they are concerned that for the last few years, he has found himself supporting bad government and effectively opposing the potential for good government in a region that is desperately in need of it. And while he may view himself as, in fact, supporting stability in the region by supporting the UAE, such a view is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the evidence. Given his working relationship with the UAE government, perhaps Shaykh Hamza could use his position to remind the UAE of the blessing of government in an effort to stop them from destroying the governments in the region through proxy wars that result in death on an epic scale. If he is unable to do this, then the most honourable thing to do under such circumstances would be to withdraw from such political affiliations and use all of his influence and abilities to call for genuine accountability in the region in the same way that he is currently using his influence and abilities to provide cover, even if unwittingly, for the UAE’s oppression.

And Allah knows best.

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Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D



children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Advice To Students Starting A New School Year

Ammar Al Shukry




I remember driving to college orientation over the summer with my father, may Allah have mercy on him. I was going to be going to school out of state, and at the age of eighteen, this was the first time that I would be living away from home. 

We talked about a lot of things, and nothing in particular but one of the stories he shared stayed with me. There was an Imam who had a close circle of students and one of them became absent for an extended period. Upon that student’s return, the Imam asked him where he had been, to which the student replied, 

“Egypt!” The imam said to him, “well how was Egypt!” 

The student replied, “Egypt is where knowledge resides.” 

The Imam responded, “You’ve spoken the truth.” 

Sometime later, the imam had another student who also was absent and upon his return, the Imam asked him where he had gone to which the student replied, “Egypt!” The imam said to him, “Well, how was Egypt?”

The student said, “Egypt is nothing but amusement and play!” 

The Imam responded, ‘You’ve spoken the truth!” 

There were students who had witnessed both conversations and asked the Imam later why he had borne witness to the truth of two antithetical statements to which the imam replied,

“They both found what they were looking for.” 

I got the message. University could be a place of incredible learning, engagement with ideas, and can push you and challenge you in the best of ways. It can also be a non-stop party. A blur of heedlessness and hedonism that will bring about remorse and regret for that individual in the Dunya and Akhira. 

I think back to that car ride fondly, and I appreciate the predicament of parting advice. A person who will be bidding farewell to someone so dear to them and wanting to give them something powerful that they can hold onto or wisdom that will guide them. Many students in the past weeks have been receiving similar parting advice from their families, and so in this article I wanted to share one of the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that he gave to a companion that he loved so much. 

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ جُنْدَبِ بْنِ جُنَادَةَ، وَأَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ مُعَاذِ بْنِ جَبَلٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم قَالَ: “اتَّقِ اللَّهَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْت، وَأَتْبِعْ السَّيِّئَةَ الْحَسَنَةَ تَمْحُهَا، وَخَالِقْ النَّاسَ بِخُلُقٍ حَسَنٍ”

رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:1987] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ، وَفِي بَعْضِ النُّسَخِ: حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. 

On the authority of Abu Dharr Jundub ibn Junadah, and Abu Abdur-Rahman Muadh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said

“Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are, and follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it, and treat people with good character.” (Tirmidhi)

The advice is comprised of three components

  1. Fear Allah wherever you are 
  2. Follow a bad deed with a good deed it will erase it 
  3. Treat people with good character 

Have Taqwa of Allah wherever you are 

Taqwa is the crown of the believer. And it is the best thing that a person can carry with them on the journey of this life, and the journey to meet their Lord. Allah says, 

“And take provision, and the best provision is Taqwa.” 

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ سُئِلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَنْ أَكْثَرِ مَا يُدْخِلُ النَّاسَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ تَقْوَى اللَّهِ وَحُسْنُ الْخُلُقِ ‏”‏ ‏

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was asked as to what admits people into Paradise the most and he said, “Taqwa and good character.” (Tirmidhi) 

And so what is Taqwa?

Talq ibn Habeeb gave a beautiful definition and description of Taqwa when he said, 

“Taqwa is to act in obedience to Allah, upon a light from Allah, seeking the reward of Allah. And it is to avoid the disobedience of Allah, upon a light from Allah, fearing the punishment of Allah.” 

And so he describes taqwa as having three components; the action, the source for that action, and the motivation for that action.”

To act in the obedience of Allah..

To do the things that Allah commands you to do and to stay away from what Allah prohibits you from doing 

Upon a light from Allah..

The source for the action or inaction must come from revelation, a light from Allah. And this should stir us to seek knowledge so that our actions are onem guided by a light from Allah. You’ve made it to University, you are bright, gifted, intelligent and committed to education.  Do not let be the one thing that you remain uneducated about be your religion. 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, 

يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِراً مِّنَ ٱلْحَيَاةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ ٱلآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ

They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware. (Al-Room v. 7)  

The prophet (S) said, “Allah hates every expert in the Dunya who is ignorant of the hereafter.” (Saheeh Al-Jaami’)

Make sure that you carve out time to attend halaqas on campus, seek out teachers and mentors who will guide you in learning about your religion even as you are pursuing your secular studies..

Seeking the reward of Allah..

The third component of Taqwa is the motivation:  that these actions that are being performed and that are sourced authentically in revelation must be performed for the sake of Allah, seeking His reward, and not for any other audience. That they not be done for shares, or likes or retweets. That a person does what they do of worship, that they abstain from what they abstain from of sin, seeking the reward of Allah and fearing His punishment. 

Fear Allah wherever you are..

Meaning in public and in private, online or offline, and when in the company of the righteous as well as when in the company of the wicked, in all circumstances a person must be mindful of the presence of Allah..

 عَنْ ثَوْبَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ قَالَ : ( لأَعْلَمَنَّ أَقْوَامًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِحَسَنَاتٍ أَمْثَالِ جِبَالِ تِهَامَةَ بِيضًا فَيَجْعَلُهَا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ هَبَاءً مَنْثُورًا ) قَالَ ثَوْبَانُ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صِفْهُمْ لَنَا ، جَلِّهِمْ لَنَا أَنْ لاَ نَكُونَ مِنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لاَ نَعْلَمُ ، قَالَ : ( أَمَا إِنَّهُمْ إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَمِنْ جِلْدَتِكُمْ وَيَأْخُذُونَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ كَمَا تَأْخُذُونَ وَلَكِنَّهُمْ أَقْوَامٌ إِذَا خَلَوْا بِمَحَارِمِ اللَّهِ انْتَهَكُوهَا

It was narrated from Thawban that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“I certainly know people of my nation who will come on the Day of Resurrection with good deeds like the mountains of Tihaamah, but Allah will make them like scattered dust.” Thawban said: “O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us and tell us more, so that we will not become of them unknowingly.” He said: “They are your brothers and from your race, worshipping at night as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone with what Allah has prohibited, they violate it.” 

This hadeeth is a warning for the person who is quick, eager and ready to violate the limits of Allah as soon as the door is locked, or the curtains or drawn, or as soon as they have arrived in a new place where no one knows them. We will sin, but let our sins be sins of weakness or lapses of taqwa and not sins of predetermination and design. There is a big difference between someone who sins in a moment’s temptation and the one who is planning to sin for hours, days or weeks! 

And follow a good deed with a bad deed it will erase it..

When we fall, as we must inevitably due to our being human, the prophet (S) instructed us to follow a sin with a good deed to erase it. 

Commit a sin, give charity. 

Commit a sin, perform wudhu as beautifully as you can and pray two rak’ahs. 

Commit a sin, seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent…

Our sins should not suffocate us from doing good deeds, they should fuel us to doing good deeds. 

Allah says,

وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ ٱلنَّهَارِ وَزُلَفاً مِّنَ ٱلَّيْلِ إِنَّ ٱلْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ ٱلسَّـيِّئَاتِ ذٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Surat Hood v. 114) 

A man from the Ansar was alone with a woman and he did everything with her short of fornication. In remorse, he went to the prophet (S) and confessed to him. Umar said to the man, “Allah had concealed your sins, why didn’t you conceal it yourself!” The prophet (S) however was silent.

The man eventually left and the prophet (S) had a messenger go to him to recite the aforementioned verse.  A man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah is it for him alone?”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “No for all people.” 

And so for all people, sin plus good deed equals the sin is erased. That is a formula to be inscribed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Al-Hassan Al-Basri, the master preacher of the Tabi’een was asked,

“Should one of us not be ashamed of our Lord, we seek forgiveness from our Lord and then return to sin, and then seek forgiveness and then return!” 

He said,

“Shaytan would love to conquer you with that (notion), do not grow tired of seeking forgiveness”

But know that these sins that are erased by good deeds are the minor sins, as for the major sins they require repentance for the many verses in which Allah threatens punishment for those who commit major sins if they do not repent, and so repentance is a condition for the erasing of the effect of major sins. 

And treat people with good character 

And if Taqwa is the crown of the believer, then good character is the crown of Taqwa, for many people think that taqwa is to fulfill the rights of Allah without fulfilling the rights of His creation! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in many hadith highlights the lofty stations that a believer attains with good character, for example: 

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، رَحِمَهَا اللَّهُ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ لَيُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَةَ الصَّائِمِ الْقَائِمِ

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: By his good character a believer will attain the degree of one who prays during the night and fasts during the day. (Tirmidhi)

عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلاَةِ 

Abu Ad-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)said:

“Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character. Indeed the person with good character will have attained the rank of the person of fasting and prayer.” (Tirmidhi)

Let no one beat you to the taqwa of Allah and let no one beat you to beautiful character. 

You’ve come of age at a time in which the majority of our interactions are online, and in that world harshness and cruelty are low hanging fruit seemingly devoid of consequences. 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever lives in the deserts becomes harsh.” (Abu Dawood) 

And social media is a desert, it is an experience where we are all alone, together. 

So choose gentleness over harshness, choose forgiveness over vindictiveness, choose truth over falsehood and protect people from your harm. 

For the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “I am a guarantor of a house in the highest part of Jannah for whoever makes their character good.” 

May Allah make us from them. 

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