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

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.

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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. 899/1493) and Abu Bakr al-Turtushi (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 Qadi 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 al-hafiz 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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Shaykh Usaama al-Azami is Departmental Lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford. He began pursuing Arabic studies formally in 2002. He subsequently enrolled at Oxford University, completing his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies in 2008. From 2005 onwards, he attended regular classes at Al-Salam Institute with Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, from whom he narrates numerous classical works including the Hidaya of al-Marghinani and the Sahih of al-Bukhari.Over the years Shaykh Usaama has been able to study with, and/or obtain ijazat from a number of scholars. They include Shaykhs Ahmad ‘Ali Lajpuri, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kattani, Yunus Jaunpuri, Muhammad Rabi’, ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Turayri, ‘Abd-Allah al-Judai’ (without ijaza), Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, Muhammad Al Rashid, Nizam Ya’qubi, Jihad Brown (without ijaza), and Ziyad al-Tukla. From 2010-2015, Usaama was based at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, where he completed an MA and later a PhD on contemporary Islamic political thought.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    September 15, 2019 at 7:12 PM

    Rebellion in the US is not like rebellion in UAE. Different types of bad governments require different types of responses. If there is no organized opposition ready for international backing in the UAE or Saudi Arabia, are you trying to talk about a unicorn that does not exist and using that unicorn to attack a Muslim scholar? Why is it that Western Muslims who are so eager to attack Sheikh Hamza and Sherman Jackson NEVER criticize Louis Farrakhan? Why are the voting-is-haram speakers never seen as oppressive?

    There are peaceful protests in the UAE? Sheikh Hamza is assisting the UAE Monarchy in oppressing its citizens? In the video you linked, he apologized for those that “misconstrued” his words and “regretted going in to that area.” Once again; a sort of Obama issue. Obama was the one who said Assad had to go. He then spent years seeking allies among the resistance and found none. I saw online videos of Syrian fighters who said that it was haram for them to take aid from non-Muslims. Assad obviously had no such limitations. The Russians and Iranians are pouring aid in to the Shia side. To stage a rebellion against an established state and not look for every inch of outside help possible has caused terrible suffering to the Syrian people.

    Sheikh Hamza has had nothing to do with the suffering of the Syrian people. Over and over I have listened to him and his speech has always been impeccable. He discourages rebellion and speaks, using Quran and Hadeeth, asking that Muslims strive for order. The extremists in Syria, who would not lower themselves to where the US could more fully engage the conflict, funny, I never hear them criticized, but the white American Western Muslim somehow is at fault for what has happened in Syria or wrong for daring to talk about it?

    Millions of suffering, mostly Muslim, women and children is being overlooked. Blaming a man who literally speaks from outside of the conflict reduces that suffering to nothing more than an opportunity to bash that Emam you happen not to like.

  2. Avatar

    Hassan

    September 16, 2019 at 3:05 AM

    Rendering unconditional obedience to tyrannical / unjust rulers is not only contradictory to Islamic history, but is also contradictory to the teaching of the Quran. For even the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) we were instructed to ONLY obey him in matters that are fair, just and right and in line with the book of Allah (the Quran), as evident by the following verse:

    “O Prophet! When believing women come to thee to take the oath of allegiance / pledge (Arabic: baya’a) to thee, that they will not associate in worship any other thing whatever with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit adultery (or fornication), that they will not kill their children, that they will not utter slander, intentionally forging falsehood, and THAT THEY WILL NOT DISOBEY YOU IN ANY JUST MATTER, (or what is right / good) (Arabic: ma’rufin), then accept their allegiance and pray to God for forgiveness for them: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”[ Quran 60:12.]

    Hence, as can be seen from the above verse: Obedience even to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has been restricted only to that which is ‘just, fair and good / right’ (ma’rufin); although the Prophet would not have order anyone to do any evil / unjust act.

    From this (the above verse) it automatically follows that no one in the world can be obeyed outside the bounds of Divine law. For when obedience to Allah’s Messenger is conditional upon ‘what is just, fair and good/right’, who else can have a position to demand unconditional obedience and require the people to obey and follow each of his commands laws, rules or customs, which may contradict the law(s) of Allah?

    Therefore, an allegiance / pledge to a leader is allowed ONLY up to the point that said leaders actions are fair, just and right and in line with the teachings from the Divine Book (Arabic: ma’rufin), as evident by the above verse.

    • Avatar

      AbdelRahman

      September 16, 2019 at 7:15 AM

      But Shaykh hamza Yusuf actually never said that. This article is very poorly written and is misleading.

      This article cites this video as evidence that Hamza Yusuf said “virtually absolute obedience to the ruler”: https://youtu.be/spQ_0-Bf7eY

      But if you watch the video he clearly says “obedience to the ruler in what does not violate the shari’ah”.

      How can you change that to “virtually absolute obedience to the ruler”.

      The person you should be criticizing is the author of this article.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      September 16, 2019 at 6:45 PM

      Your premise is a straw man. In Islam, the only unconditional obedience is to Allah and his messenger and no Muslim gets to decide if what Allah commands through his messenger is good or bad. sws, swt

      No one can be obeyed outside of the bounds of divine law?….(yawn)…so when the cop gets behind you and turns on his lights and you ain’t done nothing, your interpretation of Islam says you just keep right on driving? Income tax, is not written in the divine law, you pay it? Or do you tell your local state and federal tax collection authorities you only obey divine law? The only “law you are talking about not obeying is “man-made” is voting…but you sit here and pay taxes and support a secular Western government with money and sweat…because only a crazy person would leave America?

      The only secular law you refuse to obey in the West is voting (in reality precisely because there is no secular law that orders you to vote). Yet when the secular government threatens to jail you, only when that threat does not exist, do you reject divided government, created by mostly Christians through secular consultation? When we talk about Ma’ruf and Munkar, every possible modern behavior is not covered by those terms, which leave to many of us speculating. Reefer is not spelled out in the Quran or hadeeth. We have scholars who do analogy and tell us don’t do it.

      My point is, if you live in the West, you are subject to and OBEY man made laws every single day……please quit talking sideways about “voting is haram.” But paying for Tagut out of your own pocket, when Taghut uses your money to “oppress Muslims,” your sheikh tells you that’s halaal and you don’t have to move…because you live in the West and you have absolutely no intention of following the Quranic injunction (COMMAND) to move? They teach me that everything comes from Allah. Can you show me evidence, with the exact term addressed (VOTING), that Allah did not create voting?

  3. Avatar

    Abdelrahman Elsayed

    September 16, 2019 at 7:18 AM

    “Shaykh Hamza argues that “the Islamic tradition” demands that one render virtually absolute obedience to one’s rulers.”

    T’m sorry this is false. You cite this video as evidence to your claim: https://youtu.be/spQ_0-Bf7eY

    But in this video Shaykh Hamza Yusuf never said “virtually absolute obedience to the ruler”. He clearly said “obeditto the ruler in what does not violate the shari’ah”.

    Why can’t you show some more balance in the way you criticize our scholars ?

  4. Avatar

    Suleiman

    September 16, 2019 at 2:13 PM

    Why all this obsession with the UAE. I studied and worked in 6 different Arab countries and I can say without a doubt the happiest People in those 6 countries are the Emarati people. Is it because Sh. Hamza is close to the UAE and since some people hate him, not matter what he says and does, we hate the UAE too!!!
    I am sure these haters of Sh. Hamza don’t care about the well-being of the Emirati people just as they don’t care about the people of Yemen. Democracy, oppression, etc are nothing more than smoke screen to attack Sh. Hamza. How many of these armchair pundits put their hands in their pockets and sent something to the people of Yemen?

    • Avatar

      Khurram Shah

      September 17, 2019 at 12:30 AM

      The UAE is a beacon of tolerance and strives for peace in the Middle East.
      They have a Ministry of Happiness which works to make everyone happy

      You have to realize that those who hate them are supporters of Qatar and Muslim Brotherhood, the group which has inspired OBL and ISIS

      • Avatar

        Suleiman

        September 17, 2019 at 8:08 AM

        I agree. I lived in the UAE for 15 years.

  5. Avatar

    Michael Elwood

    September 16, 2019 at 8:01 PM

    I think the real scandal isn’t Hamza Yusuf’s full-throated support of tyrants and tyranny, it’s that what he says and does has considerable support in the Sunni intellectual tradition. However, as you can see from some of the comments here, most Sunni laypersons don’t know that this is what the Sunni intellectual tradition teaches. They believe that what Yusuf said is being misrepresented by his critics and that Sunnism is for the oppressed and against the oppressor. They point out that in the Youtube video Yusuf says obedience to the ruler is contingent on that rulers’ adherence to what the Sunnis consider “shari’ah”. But they ignore the fact that at 3:50 Yusuf quotes the fabricated Sunni saying that “No people will move towards government, even a handspan, to humiliate them except Allah will humiliate them.” At 4:20 Yusuf alludes to Al-Ghazali’s book “Nasihat al-Muluk,” but doesn’t quote from it. So let me quote the relevant passage:

    “The tyranny of the sultan for a hundred years causes less damage than one year’s tyranny exerted by the subjects against each other. When the subjects indulge in tyranny, God most High will appoint over them a forceful and violent sultan.”

    And at 10:18 he quotes what Ibn Hanbal says in his book “Al-Siyasah al-Shari’ah”:

    “Sixty years under a tyrant is better than one night of anarchy.”

    So, yes, Hamza Yusuf and the Sunni intellectual tradition does teach the “duty of Muslims to render virtually unconditional obedience to even the most tyrannical of rulers.” It explains Yusuf’s ridiculous comments about the Syrian Revolution and Black Lives Matter, and his support for the degenerate Trump and the degenerate UAE rulers, too. Yusuf is not alone in that belief. He’s just the most well known Sunni scholar in America who holds this belief. And, in fairness to Sunnis, some Shia scholars in America like Sheikh Mohamad Al Hajj Hassan also support Trump.

    Islam, however, teaches us the exact opposite. The Quran says:

    “Such was `Aad – they disregarded the revelations of their Lord, disobeyed His messengers, and followed the ways of every stubborn tyrant.”  [Quran 11:59]

    So, if Allah PUNISHED ‘Ad for supporting tyrants, how did countless Sunni and Shia scholars throughout the centuries come to believe that Allah will REWARD them for supporting tyrants? That’s a question for Hamza Yusuf and his blind followers to answer. As for me, I will always defer to what Allah and his Messenger says in the Quran alone over what some Sunni or Shia scholar says (past or present). Let me end this comment with some more verses from the Quran that I hope Hamza Yusuf’s blind followers will reflect on:

    “When they commit evil acts, they say, ‘We found our fathers doing such, and God ordered us to it.’ Say, ‘God does not order evil! Do you say about God what you do not know?'” [Quran 7:28]

    “When gross injustice befalls them, they stand up for their rights. Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by God. He does not love the unjust. Certainly, those who stand up for their rights, when injustice befalls them, are not committing any error. The wrong ones are those who treat the people unjustly, and resort to aggression without provocation. These have incurred a painful retribution. Resorting to patience and forgiveness reflects a true strength of character.”  [Quran 42:39-43]

    • Avatar

      Michael Elwood

      September 16, 2019 at 10:24 PM

      Oops, I got my Ibns mixed up. I meant Ibn Taymiyya’s book not Ibn Hanbal.

      • Avatar

        GregAbdul

        September 16, 2019 at 11:38 PM

        maybe you are not Muslim? Islam, most of Islam’s history is Ah lal Sunnah wal Jama’ah (not wahabis). Elwood, is white. You got the nerve with a long history of slavery colonization and persection, to come here and tell us about evil Muslim political teachings and history? Excuse me, I won’t delete but I will try to be nice. Our faith and its commands are subject to interpretation. We have a long history of religion tolerance and right to privacy. Can you say the same about Europe? After Muslims conquest, it was very common for our “Sultans” to give people freedom of worship hundreds of years before the First Amendment. Please quit the prejudice. This is a Muslim site and we argue over how much we should see people like you as irredeemable. When you come here trying to preach from on high with such horrid history from your people, you make liberal Muslims like me look bad. When we want you to teach us Islam, that we Muslims are so ignorant about that we need your European self to teach us….we will visit a white hate site.

        • Avatar

          GregAbdul

          September 16, 2019 at 11:41 PM

          or are you making a wasabi argument?

          • Avatar

            GregAbdul

            September 16, 2019 at 11:42 PM

            *wahabi”

        • Avatar

          Michael Elwood

          September 17, 2019 at 8:01 AM

          What are you rambling about now, Abdul? And what exactly are you an abdul to? You don’t know me and what little you do know about me you have apparently forgotten. Both of us used to occasionally comment on the Patheos website. If you could remember any of my comments from over there you would know that I’m not “white”. My family has been in America since colonial times. Some of my ancestors were “white” but most were “mulatto” or “black”. I’m a Muslim but I’m not a “Wahhabi”. Heck, I’m not even a Sunni! Hamza Yusuf and his handlers in the corrupt shaykhdoms of the Gulf always accuse their critics of being “Wahhabis” or “Muslim Brotherhood” or “liberal/leftists” because they can’t deal with the actual substance of the criticism.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      September 17, 2019 at 11:15 AM

      I am sorry. Your words were such a shock. As far as I can tell (I am a beneath you blind follower, so obviously I could be wrong) Salafis essentially are intolerant Hanbalis. I only wish you would seriously consider and ponder the best way to spread your anthropomorphic view of Allah and your literalist interpretation of Islam. Your bitterness and lies on fellow Muslims, maybe a quiet moment and cool thoughts might encourage you to use softer words and to be more honest?

      I can’t delete what I put here and I really wish I could. Such talk, the way you began, I could not even tell you are a Muslim. We will just have to see how things turn out. Allah knows our future and controls our fates. I love the Saudis. I know they fund intolerant Islam for not bright people and the people suffer and often their lives are reduced as a result of a false sense of superiority, but it is up to Allah to fix the heart. I only ask you use your reason.

      If you live in the West, intolerant hateful Islam is never going to work and all the Saudi Riyals in the world won’t spread hate that is built on intolerance in a free open society. Sheikh Hamza has founded a college and we love him. I am calling you Wahabi out of anger. Can I call you a Hanbali? I think it stains the Imam’s name, may Allah be pleased with him, but at least then we will know the root of this hate you are spewing at Muslims online. The joke here is, there are Saudi suck ups and immigrants in the West, stuck on back home who will never go back and just plain hateful people who bash the religion of anyone who does not sign off on their hate.

      You really think your bitterness is the way of our Prophet or that people cannot see your open display of hate? By the way, you are NOT alone, but I am pretty sure you guys are in the minority. What happened to following our leaders and what the community deems halaal and good and softens of heart and manner that is supposed to be in the heart of every believer?

      Please forgive me, having thought about it, I feel sorry for you.

  6. Avatar

    DI

    September 16, 2019 at 10:23 PM

    I can give excuses for HY. If ulema want to be revolutionaries, lets start by listing the countless fallen ulema revolutionaries in our history.

    Now, I’d like to see more hadith discussion of other HY political stances which arguably are just as, if not more, problematic. And more relevant to American Muslims than UAE..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otcP47kNhCc

    “And in Kanz al-Ummal, its a weak hadith, but he ﷺ said ‘Your companions are the Europeans (ar-Rum, by extension Americans) as long as there is good in life.’ If you are fighting them, it’s going to be a bad situation. We need to learn to live people, our ummah as a whole…”

    I don’t feel comfortable with the Americanization of Hadith. But even in Ibn Arabi’s time, people fabricated hadith about Andulusia. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a scholar using a hadith to tell Muslims to learn to live with America.

    di.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      September 16, 2019 at 11:45 PM

      Good thing you don’t live in the US or Europe?

  7. Avatar

    Fritz

    September 17, 2019 at 6:49 AM

    Bad article.

    There has never been a fully successful revolution in human history.

    Also, ponder this. There is no Quranic story of revolution and revolt.

    Think about it. SHY was just stating the bleeding obvious.

  8. Avatar

    Ahmed

    September 17, 2019 at 7:37 AM

    Can the author give one revolution in the Arab world that led to a democratic governance. There were countless revolutions in most of the Arab countries since independence from France and Britain. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen…. Every revolution was worse than the one it toppled. What are you talking about? Worse yet, you are twisting the great religion of Islam to conform to what your small mind breeds.

  9. Avatar

    BioIslam

    September 17, 2019 at 9:56 AM

    Does anyone know whether Shk. Hamza Yusuf accepts as Sahih the Hadith of righting wrongs with the hand, if not the tongue, or if not at least the heart? In the Youtube linked to in the article above, he does not cite it, although he cites others.

    If he accepts it as Sahih, is HY wise to not use his “tongue” to “put it right”, as the Hadith expressly prescribes? Imho, it depends on his niyya. That is the key first principle, in the interpretation of Islam I follow (BioIslam.org). If HY’s niyya is to support the interests of certain rulers, then clearly he is violating the “heart” portion of the Hadith. But if his niyya is to avoid the use of the “tongue” to put it right, since it might trigger others to use their “hand” to put it right, then he is wise to hold his tongue. As Michael Cook says (p. 82), “Ghazzali excludes the use of violence by individual subjects when the wrongdoer is the ruler, since it leads to disorder and to consequences worse than the original wrong.” Until HY clarifies his position on his acceptance of that Hadith, and his niyya, we should not rush to judge him.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      September 17, 2019 at 11:22 AM

      It is not our job to examine his heart or his niyyah. our job is to ASSUME he seeks good until there is clear evidence he does not. SHY in his arguments consistently cites sacred texts and quotes them verbatim. He is an American Muslim scholar. Sadly it seems that for some people identity politics comes in from of loving our brothers and sisters in Islam.

      • Avatar

        BioIslam

        September 18, 2019 at 12:07 AM

        The question remains, what is HY’s position on this particular important Hadith (from Sahih Muslim), which he noticeably evades. According to a leading academic on this topic, it was broadly accepted by the ulema, both Sunni and Shi’ite (Cook, p. 12)? If you are close to the HY ecosystem, it would be helpful to request a HY student to share that knowledge with us.

        I applaud your passionate defense of HY. There is much that I appreciate about HY, but I am not comfortable with his political stances, at least not yet. Also, I am not specifically questioning HY’s UAE connection, since I once lived in the Middle East, and am aware of the many positives of that country, mindful that no country is perfect. But when a major scholar takes a political stance, and given the damage done to the ummah in Islamic history by the ruler-scholar nexus, which I have discussed on my blog, the question is why is he taking that particular stance, and how does that relate to the content of an important prior Hadith? If it was a minor Hadith, I would not press the point.

        So, brother GregAbdul, the purpose of questioning his niyya is not to question his love for the ummah, or of his overall sincerity, on both of which there is no doubt, or as you correctly say, we should ASSUME…

        … but the question is what is his intellectual intention of bypassing an important Hadith, knowing that he believes in the Hadith system overall, since he often cites lesser known Hadiths. If he was a Quranist, it would make sense, but he is not. I just don’t understand how a major scholar can take a strong position on a topic, without citing his position on a major Hadith. If he does not believe that particular Hadith is valid, or that the historical consensus of ulema on this Hadith is invalid (as is often the case, as I have previously written about extensively), then it would be helpful to know that.

        J.A.K.

        • Avatar

          GregAbdul

          September 18, 2019 at 11:50 AM

          as salaam alaikum, You are evading fundamentals here, not the Emam. I don’t get you guys. This Muslim has founded a Muslim university in America and is an internationally recognized thinker in our Ummah. . Yet you in a sort of pompous way, think it is your job to judge him. Judgement belongs to Allah Alone. I am not a scholar. I can generally tell you that Sharia is, you assume good motivations until you see CLEAR EVIDENCE of wrong doing. All this talk about intentions and niyyah….Only Allah, looks in to the heart. Your view and argument are upsides down. Do you have CLEAR EVIDENCE, that the Emam rejects the Hadeeth you cite???

          If you do not., why are you pretending to be an authority that someone has to give you proof that they follow one arbitrary hadeeth? That you want to apply only to say Muslims should fight with to the US government? All these failed revolutions and all this human suffering, but your focus is that you are the one to judge what is inside our scholars hearts?

          Should Muslims fight every government in the world until Yaw Mul Qiyyamah? Do you know of a perfect nation where Muslims should never try to change one bit of it? Then your “fix with the hand hadeeth either mean’s world chaos, or your interpretation and application of said hadeeth is lacking in this context.

          I am not his student. I end up studying his words because over and over he is attacked and I look and I see the attacks are not legitimate. He cites Quran and Hadeeth and explains them, ever single time I look at his lectures and videos. He strives to never speak from his nafs. He is not collaborating with Trump to persecute Muslims. So there is no nexus for you to examine.

          I am a layman so you straighten me out: Doesn’t the Quran command you, that if you are in a place where you can not freely practice Islam, you have to move to where you can? If the Quran teaches this, I keep saying….and your tax money is used to persecute and kill innocent Muslims, certainly you are not so hypocritical as to be writing as you live in a Western land are you? That is a Quranic injunction by the way, NOT a hadeeth.

    • Avatar

      Zara

      October 24, 2019 at 6:36 AM

      I believe that the answer lies in on of his older talks called either “the purification of the heart” or “make firm my Heart”. If you can’t change it with the hand, nor the tongue, then at least hate it in your heart than nothing at all – (I remember this, so as to not have deadened your heart fully).

      • Avatar

        Zara

        October 24, 2019 at 6:50 AM

        https://youtu.be/zKKJQefgVYs
        (make firm my Heart)

        https://youtu.be/UbKZo7WvYgw
        (curing the heart I believe it is, but I thought it was purification of the heart or education of the heart as it has also been entitled)

        • Avatar

          Zara

          October 24, 2019 at 7:36 AM

          Apologies – this is the talk entitled here the human heart but back in the day was called purification of the heart.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h65jJlzPVZg

          Interesting to see how many talks there are about the heart. I really do recommend listening to all of them.
          Time is experienced as linear, but there are really multiple dimensions to our existence, and what any of you say now, will affect you in the future.

        • Avatar

          Zara

          October 24, 2019 at 7:49 AM

          Or it could have been in this Family night talk –
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZOzbsrSpO8

          Please don’t doubt his intentions.
          Doubting his knowledge, heart and intention is poor form.

  10. Avatar

    Khurram Shah

    September 20, 2019 at 6:31 PM

    The UAE is an amazing country. Criticism of it is definitely coming from Qatar, which is preaching intolerance. The 4 Arab countries, Saudia, Egypt Bahrain and UAE on the other hand are preaching peace. Don’t take my word for it, ask any Saudi or Egyptian scholar, and he will tell you the same

  11. Avatar

    KG

    September 23, 2019 at 9:44 AM

    While your post was informative, you construct a bit of a strawman when it comes to Hamza Yusuf. You really misrepresented his position and one only needs to listen to his apology video and more of his lectures or talks to see that.

  12. Avatar

    Khurram Shah

    October 4, 2019 at 3:48 AM

    The first astronaut from UAE, Hazza Al Mansoori has returned to earth. The UAE has achieved in 50 years what took other countries hundreds of years, to send a man to space. They have shown technological growth by sending a man to space

    The UAE stands for happiness and technology
    And let us contrast that with how Qatar and Turkey are using their time and energy in spreading violence and terrorism

  13. Avatar

    Sam

    May 6, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    We see what occurred in Syria. The people rose against a tyrant and more havoc, destruction and much deaths especially of the majority sunnis was seen in Syria.

    Even the great scholar Shayk Ramadan Bouti shared that the people must not rebel against the Alawite government as they will be worse off.
    We saw that.
    Asad is still in power and thousands of lives lost and millions displaced.
    We must use wisdom and intellect to change a dictorship, through peaceful means.
    The Syrians brought on their own destruction.

    May we change governments through dialogue and peaceful means.

    We don’t see this in the west.

    Time for the middle eastern countries to dialogue, discuss and promote peaceful change.

    Afterall Islam is a religion of peace

  14. Avatar

    Mansour

    June 2, 2020 at 7:34 PM

    I have no issue with a sheikh preaching absolute obedience to tyrants, there are thousands of those, and we love and respect them all. The issue with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf is he claims to preach an “American Islam.” America, of course, being founded on armed rebellion against tyranny. If we define American Muslims are Muslims who share American values (as opposed to just papers or geography of birth) then the two positions are mutually exclusive. One cannot be a proud American Muslim and a royalist. Whatever that is, it is not “American Islam.”

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#Culture

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas | Book Review

In the second decade of the 21st century in America, Muslims consider themselves “as American as apple pie,” don American-flag hijabs, and consider their presence and participation in American politics as a crowning achievement. There is little to no resemblance between the majority of the American Muslim population today, and the very first Muslims who landed in America – not as privileged individuals, but as enslaved people at the hands of vicious white colonizers who had already decimated the Indigenous population and who had no qualms about destroying the lives of their slaves. Dr Sylviane A. Diouf’s book “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” tracks the journeys and experiences of African Muslims who found themselves shipped aboard slave-trafficking vessels and taken to the other side of their known world. From their induction into the Transatlantic slave trade, to their determination to uphold the five pillars of Islam – regardless of their circumstances – to the structure of the enslaved Muslim community, their prized (and dangerous) literacy, and their never-ending resistance against slavery, Diouf illustrates in incredible detail the powerful and painful experiences of enslaved African Muslims, and the legacy that they left behind in the Americas.

This review of “Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas” will focus on the unique qualities and formidable faith of the very first Muslims in the Americas, and the legacy that they left for Muslims in the Americas today.

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In Chapter One, Diouf begins by answering the very first question that arises when considering the path of enslaved African Muslims: how did they end up enslaved in the first place? Slavery already existed as an institution in Africa, though vastly different from the horrifying standards of the European slavers. Between the existing slave trade, military conflicts that created prisoners-of-wars who were then sold as slaves, and the European propensity for kidnapping innocent people, many Muslims found themselves swept into the Transatlantic slave trade. These same Muslims were the ones who provided us with much of the knowledge that we have today regarding the American slave experience. Most African Muslims were literate, due to the religious and cultural importance of education; of those enslaved, many were religious scholars or students of knowledge. They described how they were captured, the torturous journey of the slave caravans across the continent, and the even more horrific experience of the slave ships themselves. These men also documented their lives as slaves, and indirectly, provided deep insight into their own inner nature. 

Despite the intense pressure and demands on African enslaved people to renounce their ‘heathen faith’ and be inducted as Christians, African Muslims demonstrated a commitment to Islam that should cause modern Muslims today to feel deeply ashamed in comparison. The very first words that Job ben Solomon (Ayuba Suleyman Diallo) uttered, after running away and then being discovered in Pennsylvania, were the shahaadah; Omar ibn Sa’id wrote numerous Arabic manuscripts, in which the shahaadah was always found (Diouf, 2013, p. 72-73). When Catholic priests tried hard to educate slaves about Christianity as part of the conversion process, the African Muslims were both resistant and unimpressed; they were already familiar with many Biblical stories, thanks to their Qur’anic education. Of those who seemed to have accepted Christianity, many did so only outwardly, while confirming their belief in Allah and His Messenger in every aspect of their lives. Indeed, in Brazil and other areas where there were large concentrations of Muslim slaves, the Muslims established underground madaaris to maintain and pass on their Islamic knowledge and education. Muhammad Kaba Saghanughu was a man whom the missionaries had thought was successfully converted when he provided all the right answers to their pre-baptismal questions – eleven years later, in a Baptist Missionary Society notebook, he wrote a 50-page fiqh manual in Arabic that encompassed the rulings of salaah, marriage, and other topics. 

Slavery did not stop the African Muslims from maintaining their salaah in whatever manner they could manage, considering their circumstances. Some did so in secret, while others insisted on upholding their salaah in public, to the extent that these incidents were recorded by the descendants of slaves and slaveholders alike. In Brazil, the African Muslim community – both enslaved and freed – held together so strongly that they were able to secretly establish Salatul Jumu’ah and attend gatherings of dhikr, even in the face of intense scrutiny (Diouf, 2013, p. 88-89). 

Perhaps one of the most greatly moving examples of enslaved African Muslims’ dedication to their Islam was that even in the midst of the utter poverty of slavery, they found a way to uphold zakaah, sawm, and Hajj. In Brazil, it was recorded that the Muslims would end Ramadan with the exchanging of gifts, no matter how simple they were; in truth, these gifts were zakaatul fitr and zakaatul maal.

In other areas, the descendants of Muslim slaves recalled that their parents and grandparents would make rice cakes called saraka at least once a year – saraka was a corruption of the Arabic word sadaqah, and the rice cakes were a Jumu’ah tradition in West Africa. (Diouf, 2013, p. 92-94) In Ramadan, many Muslims sought to fast; indeed, despite the incredible hardship and lack of nutritious food that the slaves already endured, there were those who fasted voluntarily outside of Ramadan as well, often by pretending to be ill. They knew that their situation meant that fasting – in Ramadan and outside of it – was not obligatory on them, and yet, to them, no circumstance was bad enough to warrant not even attempting to observe Ramadan. Hajj was another pillar of Islam that was both impossible and no longer obligatory on the enslaved Muslims; yet in Brazil, in a house that was used as a masjid, there were illustrated depictions of the Ka’bah – demonstrating the emotional bond that the African Muslims had with the Sacred House. 

Throughout Diouf’s book, the overwhelming theme that arises is the fierce commitment that enslaved African Muslims had to Islam. It was not superficial, shallow, or easily shrugged away in the face of difficulty. Instead, the African Muslims held onto their belief in Allah and their daily, lived practise of Islam, even when they had every excuse to relax their obligations. They upheld their Islamic and cultural dress code, not just at its minimum standard of modesty, but in a way that clearly demonstrated their religious identity (Diouf, 2013, p. 101-110). They found ways to make prayer mats and dhikr beads; they gave their children Muslim names in secret, when they were expected to present themselves as Christians; they even strove to observe whatever they could of the Islamic dietary code, by refusing to drink alcohol or eat pork – Ayuba Diallo went so far as to only eat dhabiha meat that he himself slaughtered (Diouf, 2013, p. 119-122). The enslaved African Muslims valued their Islamic identity above all. Even in slavery, they knew that their ‘izzah came from their Deen – and so did those around them, who noted their unique bearing in the face of the horrors of slavery. 

The story of the African Muslims who were enslaved and brought to the Americas is not merely a history lesson, or a token homage in honour of Black History Month. It is a story that echoes the persecution of the earliest Muslims in Makkah, and applicable to Muslims today. Muslim minorities in the West are often all too eager to complain of our difficulties and to seek religious exemptions for our minor inconveniences. Yet who are we in comparison to the earliest African-American Muslims, who endurable the unspeakable? Who are we, with our privileges, with our very freedom, in comparison to those Muslims who were stripped of everything and everyone they knew and loved, and who still held ever tighter to the Rope of Allah? One may say that it is unfair to compare us and them; that to recognize their struggles should not mean invalidating the challenges we face today. Certainly, we face numerous different fitan that are very different from what they experienced, but the truth is that we should compare our attitudes with those of our predecessors. We should be ashamed of our own weaknesses in times of privilege compared to their strength in times of oppression. More importantly, we must learn from them what it means to have such a relationship with our Creator and our Deen that we are capable of surviving and thriving in even the worst of circumstances. 

May Allah have mercy on the enslaved African Muslims who endured one of this Ummah’s historic tragedies, and may He make us of those who demonstrate their strength of love for Him through every tragedy of our own.

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#Islam

Remembering Mufti Naeem (Jamia Binoria)

Guest post from Areeba Baig

Sometimes you are so busy with life you don’t think much of where it all started, how you became who you are, the journeys you took and the people who helped you along them. And then something happens which forces you to pause. Only then you remember there were people who played a major role in shaping you to the person you are today, in turning your dreams which you thought would remain dreams forever into a reality.

I’m remembering now.

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I was just one of his thousands of students. Not one of the best, not even close to accomplished. I’ll admit I wasn’t even someone who was considerate enough to keep much contact, keep him updated, despite how much he had advised us to. As the years went by, the relationship, even memories, faded away.

And yet I haven’t been able to focus on anything else all week long. Not surprising, of course, considering the influence he had and the role he played in enabling me to study. It’s surprising, rather, how I took his presence granted for all of these years.

I wasn’t sure whether I’d share this initially. I was writing this to sort my own mind and thoughts. Then I remembered he would tell us that he hoped we’d remember him with goodness all our lives, and share his words when we teach in the future, the same way he’d always quote his own teachers and mention them by name when he taught. A legacy through ‘ilm. Sadaqah jariyah. That is all he ever worked for.

Apart from the final year Bukhari class, I didn’t have much direct encounter with him, but my entire stay in Pakistan was due to him and under his care. It was his invitation and his hospitality that brought me ther,e so everything about my stay in Pakistan is intrinsically linked to him and his family.

When I went to Pakistan to study back in 2006, there were few, if any, quality Alimiyyah programs in America for girls. I chose Pakistan because I had family there. But, really, I chose it because of his school. There are many seminaries in Pakistan, but it was only his that really accommodated foreigners.

He would go out of his way to encourage and allow foreign students in and accommodated every request or need along the way. Although he had many other responsibilities, foreign students were his personal guests. He understood that traveling so far and studying in a land where everything was different was a big adjustment and sacrifice, so he did his best to make it easier. He also understood the stakes here; if these students could successfully study and go back to their lands, the benefit they could have in their communities was critical.

This treatment wasn’t just for western students. This is how he treated every student who came from afar. Students from Thailand and Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Tajikistan, Russia and Fiji; students from remote villages in Sindh and Baluchistan and other parts of Pakistan all called his madrasa their home. And that’s one of the biggest things that sets him apart.

As Mufti Rafi said, “His service to foreign students can never be forgotten. There is no similar example in any other madrasa.”

When I last visited Pakistan two years ago, a classmate of mine and now a teacher at the madrasa for the past decade asked me “We don’t get many students from America anymore the way we used to before. Why? You guys aren’t encouraging kids to study anymore?”

It dawned upon me then that his dream to spread this knowledge worldwide had already begun to be realized. I told her there were now so many programs and schools and teachers in America that students didn’t need to go abroad the way they did before.

Thousands of his students, male and female, are teaching across the world. He’d proudly tell us of his students starting madrasas in remote villages in Baluchistan and Sindh. “These girls are educating their entire villages and communities, people didn’t even know how to say the Kalima before. People come from miles away to learn from our students.”

It is this that really gave him joy and fulfillment.

At a time when the political climate in Pakistan made it difficult for foreign students, he took responsibility for all of them. He promised them he would take care of them. He fought for their right to study. He built relationships with ambassadors of other countries. He opened his doors to both foreigners and anyone else who wanted to see what a madrasa is like. He invited the media to come and see a madrasa from the inside, to show them that far from being places of extremism and violence, they were places of learning and teaching sacred knowledge. He so earnestly believed that madrasas could and should exist in the modern world, and he knew it wouldn’t be possible without building links with the outside world, something that many madrasas were hesitant to do then.

His efforts and attitude enabled so many to come and study the words of Allah and the Prophet ﷺ. Even those who didn’t attend his institute benefited from his presence, knowing that he was there to stand up for them if anything was to happen. He didn’t discriminate when it came to helping others. Any foreign student of any institute was welcome at his place.

There are so many stories of entire families traveling to Pakistan to study at his seminary. And many more of them entrusting their children to him completely. He fulfilled that trust.

There was a girl in my class from Tanzania. When she was about 9 her uncle came to Pakistan for Tabligh, and upon visiting the seminary he was impressed with the opportunities here for girls. Mufti Naeem invited him to send his children, and he went back and brought four of his daughters and nieces to study. The girls grew up there. They first memorized the Qur’an, then started the alim course. He came back eight years later at the graduation ceremony of the oldest girl and decided to take all the girls back because the separation had been too long. He brought home with him four hafizas of the Qur’an, one who had completed the alima course, and another who had nearly completed it. Her uncle’s plan was that the oldest girls would tutor the rest in their studies and then they’d all teach together in their city in Tanzania. We had laughed then at the idea of her and her cousin teaching the younger cousins books like Mishkat, but we missed the bigger point, that this was how knowledge is shared and spread.

There was another girl in my class from Sri Lanka. Her entire family moved to Pakistan and both parents and all three siblings enrolled. They first memorized the Qur’an, and then completed the course before returning to Sri Lanka.

These are just some of the hundreds of stories of people studying at his seminary, who otherwise wouldn’t have that chance, and then going back to benefit others. This was his constant emphasis. Study and teach those who don’t have access. Always be involved in teaching, he told us in one of our final lessons. Even if you have no formal teaching opportunity, just invite people to your home to learn.

His concern for girls’ Islamic education in particular is especially noteworthy. Of course, there are many seminaries and institutes of Islamic knowledge for girls in Pakistan, and many people who support them. But he was one of the influential people who was an outspoken proponent from the beginning and truly believed in the potential. He was also one of the few who accommodated female foreign students, especially those who were there without family.

Before I went to Pakistan to study, my father consulted other scholars. Some discouraged him. Doing an Alima course isn’t that important they said, especially with all the difficulties and risks of going far from home. It’s not fard to study the deen at that level. Karachi was going through a very unstable period back then so they did have a point. We also inquired with other girls madrasas in Karachi, that were closer to where my extended family lived (Jamia Binoria was in the outskirts of Karachi). But they all said they don’t allow girls over the age of 13 and they don’t encourage Americans to attend.

Mufti Naeem, rahimahullah, was the only one who really encouraged it. He’s the one who understood the value and need, who was willing to take responsibility for it all, despite the risks. He’s the one who kept inviting my father, and reassured him everything will be taken care of, that there would be nothing to worry about. He accommodated all our requests and needs, to the point of welcoming my grandmother into the madrasa community and allowing her to spend her day there whenever she liked. He assured us that my only worry should be to study. Everything else will be taken care of.

While many other girls madrasas in Pakistan suffice with the standardized curriculum for girls, which back then (it has since changed a bit) was an abridged version of the regular curriculum and especially subpar when it came to subjects like Arabic. Jamia Binoria had its own curriculum, which included a very strong Arabic curriculum. Many other teachers including my late teacher, the principal of the girls division, Maulana Masood Baig rahimahullah, had a role in this but it was also something Mufti Naeem would take pride in and mention. It’s something I took for granted initially and only much later did I learn that most madrasas in Pakistan, and perhaps even worldwide do not have a strong Arabic program for girls, which makes it very difficult for them to pursue independent research and further studies after graduation.

Jamia Binoria was also one of the few madrasas in Pakistan then that had an ifta (mufti) course for women. In my final year, at least once a week he’d encourage us to enroll in it the next year. He’d tell us how important doing takhassus fil ifta was, how if he was to have it his way he would make ifta a requirement for all students. He would emphasize how much there is a need for female mufti(a)s, how there are already thousands of male Muftis, but they can never replace the role a female one can have.

He’d talk about how proud he was of all the female ifta students, how every time he looks at their work he’s so impressed. “They’re better than our male students,” he’d say. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t become a mufti. If a woman can become a surgeon or engineer why can’t she become a mufti?”

As a teacher he was always encouraging, appreciative of the smallest of achievements, and ready to praise and make du’a for his students. The term “mushfiq” is what everyone is using to describe him, because that is what he was. Loving, caring, encouraging.

In Pakistan, teachers don’t really praise students; the tendency (both in schools/colleges and madrasas) is to put students down. And yes, too much praise can be dangerous, but a little bit of encouragement and upliftment is needed. He wouldn’t withhold this.

There was a curtain in our classroom, separating the male teachers from the students. This was the standard system of all girls madrasas in Pakistan, preserving religious guidance and cultural sensitivities regarding modesty and hijab while still enabling students to communicate with and build a positive relationship with male teachers. Hadith classes usually involve a student reading the Arabic text, with the teacher interrupting every now and then to explain. He would make it a point to ask the name of the person who read and praise them and make du’a for them.

It’s these little things that would encourage us all to work harder to succeed. He would often call my father and keep him updated and congratulate him on mine and my sister’s progress. Knowing that despite being in charge of 5000+ students and a host of other responsibilities, he was personally invested in our success always helped drive us to work hard.

He taught Bukhari with passion, you could sense the love for the Prophet ﷺ in his words. The Bukhari class was more than just facts and technical explanation. There was always a practical lesson. He strongly emphasized that knowledge must lead to action and he always made his classes reflect that. He would say, my goal is to teach you in a way you’ll never forget, that you still hear my voice when you read these hadiths the way that I hear my teacher’s voice when I read them, and that you carry these lessons with you lifelong the way my teachers enabled me to.

Now I hear his voice, not just in those hadiths but in every hadith or ayah I read. Everything has a connection with him for it is in his madrasa that I studied everything. It is in his madrasa, and through him, that Allah allowed the doors of knowledge to be opened for me, and for that I am forever indebted.

Hospitality is another word that defines him. Anyone that has visited him can testify to his boundless hospitality. This is something he practiced with both words and actions. It’s something he strived to build in his students and family too. I remember him going off on a tangent once in Bukhari. In a hadith in Kitab al-Nikah, the topic of guests came. He talked about how guests are a blessing, how we should always honor guests, how we should never complain about guests. “Many people complain about the work involved in hosting. They complain when they have family that constantly visits. Guests are a blessing from Allah. When you go to your homes remember this. Don’t ever complain about guests.”

I’ve always remembered this when someone is coming over.

My friend tells me that after his passing, as people crowded his house for ta’ziyah for his family, something that of course was more challenging and complicated with covid-19, his wife mentioned, “He would always tell us to honor guests. So what can I possibly do now?”

Thankfully others intervened and told people that it is best to show sympathy by genuinely doing what’s best for grieving family, which in these circumstances means not visiting so as not to afflict them with more worries and difficulties.

His hospitality meant that the doors of madrasa were always open to those who needed help. Beyond hospitality, he took care of those around him. Orphans, widows, converts to Islam. The madrasa was a shelter for so many who didn’t have a shelter. There would always be some girls sheltering there. He’d take care of their expenses and education and even get them married when they were ready if needed.

Once, he was hosting the wedding of a convert girl. This girl had spent quite some time at madrasa so everyone was excited. Obviously it wasn’t logistically possible to invite all of the students to the wedding but my classmates decided to try to get an invite anyway. When he came in to teach Bukhari the day before the wedding, they broached the subject of the upcoming event, knowing he would be excited to talk about it. He took the bait and started talking about the wedding plans and arrangements. “But we aren’t invited,” they said.

“You aren’t? Why didn’t anyone invite you? I am inviting you all. You all can come as my special guests.” He replied.

His wife wasn’t too pleased with us, “You have no shame in asking for an invitation, in taking advantage of the softheartedness of your teacher like that?”

But that’s how he was. Always rushing to take care of everyone around him. Solving problems, fixing things.

No problem was too small for him to address personally. He told us once about a former student who lives abroad who called him and asked if he could add photos of the girls’ campus to the website. The website had photos of the boys campus but not the girls. She missed the madrasa and wanted to see it again. He had photos taken and put up right away.

That’s the type of person he was. People would go to him for anything big or small and he’d oblige.

I remember when his own father passed away, he came a day later to teach his class. We asked about his father and he broke into tears. He shared the story of his father, the last moments, highlighting how his father was continuously reciting Qur’an until the end.

It is people like him who bring barakah to institutions, he said. Madrasas run through spirituality, not through money. Make dua this institution continues to run. He was worried about fulfilling his responsibilities after his father passed. He cited that with the passing of each scholar, degeneration follows.

Now we’ve lost another link to the previous generation.

He was a simple man. Whatever he did he did for the institution, for all madaris, for the deen. No personal benefit or enjoyment. No fun vacations. No days off. Just working for the people.

He didn’t care what people thought. It wasn’t glamorous work. Being under the spotlight meant there would always be people out there to criticize. But that didn’t bother him. He just went out of his way to serve the people, to do things that nobody else was doing, that many didn’t even see the point of doing.

Mentioning him won’t be complete without also mentioning his family, especially his wife. If he was the father figure of all students, his wife was/is the mother, especially of the girls. They were a team. She’d be with him on many of his travels. She was also the head in charge of the girls school, his representative at madrasa. Always looking out for the girls affairs, always ready to address issues that needed care, always extending hospitality. She took care of the girls as if they were her own daughters, especially those who had no family nearby. Because of her active involvement with the madrasa, he also was always an integral part of it, always accessible, always concerned about the girls. The madrasa was a family effort, and his entire family served it day in and day out.

May Allah always protect her and allow her to continue.

Although one the most defining thing about him is his service to others, which he spent his life doing, it never came in the way of worshipping Allah. He was a man who was always reciting the Qur’an, following the footsteps of his own father. A man who never left tahajjud. A man who always finished a recitation of the Qur’an in taraweeh independently every year. A man who always prayed in congregation. Even on his last day, though he was feeling unwell the whole day, he prayed at the masjid. He came home from Maghrib, rested for a while, felt more unwell. They took him to the hospital and he passed away on the way, before Isha.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon.

It is examples of my teachers like him and others which have given me the energy to carry on teaching even when life is busy, and balancing everything is difficult. Remembering their advices and their constant urging that teaching is a right that knowledge upon us, has always reminded me that it is not optional, that it is not a favor we do upon anyone, but rather an honor and trust Allah has given us.

What I feel now is a renewed purpose to continue this work and to internalize all the lessons from his own life.

I learned from him that the road less traveled may be difficult to take, but it is a necessary road to take to cause lasting good, and that sometimes the most benefit is in doing things that others are not doing.

I learned from him what it means to be the people about whom Allah says, “La yakhafun fillahi lawmata laim.” They do not fear the blame of the blamers. I learn that it is only Allah who we should work to please, because it is to Allah we will return, and as long as we are sincere and on the right path, there is no need to worry about what others say.

I learned from him to think beyond my own benefit and to think of the benefit of those around me. To think beyond the needs of the present, and consider the needs of the future generations as well.

I learned from him that while you should dream big and work hard, small efforts should never be underestimated. It is small efforts that grow into the big things that help fulfill those big dreams. No dream is too big if Allah’s help is with us and no action too small for Allah’s reward.

I learned from him what it means to be a hafidh of the Qur’an. That more than just memorizing the words, it means to fill one’s life with the Qur’an, and to regularly and always recite it, and to understand and implement it.

I learned from him that no matter how busy a person may be, it is always possible to have time for the Qur’an if a person wills it. The ability to recite the Qur’an is an issue of devotion and priorities, not an issue of the availability of time.

I learned from him that our character and our dealings with people speak much louder than any other words, that a student is more likely to remember and feel inspired by a kind word than a long lecture.

I learned from him what it means to be hospitable and generous with one’s time, and that this is the first step of dawah and teaching. I learned what it means to serve others for the sake of Allah. By lowering ourselves in front of others for the sake of Allah, we are only raised in rank by Allah.

But most of all, I learned that knowledge increases and multiplies as it is shared. I learned that the benefit of knowledge is not limited to the teacher and student, but rather it flows to the entire community. I see from his example how just one person of knowledge can have the ability to change the lives of hundreds of thousands, if Allah so wills it. And I learned that the legacy of sacred knowledge is the most valuable legacy to leave.

May Allah accept his efforts, overlook his shortcomings, raise him to the highest levels of Jannah, and increase his sadaqah jariyah.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 15: Fruit Out of Season

Now that we have learnt about making our intentions big, let’s now talk about fruit out of season.

Who can tell me who Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) is

Yes, she was the mother of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and also the best woman to ever live. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an that He chose her over all the women in the world.

Question: Do you know that she was also the niece to a Prophet? Does anyone know her uncle’s name? 

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His name is Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), good job! Do you know that Prophet Zakariya  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  was actually inspired by something he saw in Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room? It’s unusual for adults to admit that they learn from younger people, but we actually do, all the time! 

One day, Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) went inside Maryam’s raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) room and he saw fruit that was out of season. 

Question: Can anyone tell me what fruit would be out of season in the spring, but we love to eat it in the summertime? Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?

Well, Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) would get fruit that was supposed to only grow in the summer during the wintertime too! This was a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) would give her. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was so amazed by this! He asked Maryam raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) how she came upon the fruit and she replied:

 هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

“It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without measure.” [Surat Ali ‘Imran; 37] 

Now, by this time, Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was very old. And when you get to be very old, it is very unusual to have any more children. Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his wife never had any children at all. But, he was so inspired by what his niece said that he raised his hands in dua’ and asked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a child. Even though having a child seemed  impossible because it was “out of season” for Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) he asks anyway knowing that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) can grant us anything- even if it is not “in season!”

Question: Can we get that same fruit in the wintertime?Did Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) answer Prophet Zakariya’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) dua’? 

Yes! Prophet Zakariya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was blessed with Yahya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), who too became a Prophet and was the cousin of Prophet ‘Isa  'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)!

This shows us that it’s never too late or too early to ask for what our heart desires. Maybe Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will grant you something that is out of season too!

 

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