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

Dr Usaama al-Azami

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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. 899/1493) 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.

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.

30 Comments

30 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

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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#Islam

He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

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Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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#Life

So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.

The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.

Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.

Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.

Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:

Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after. 

Check financials:  You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.

Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.

Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.

“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.

So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.

Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.

Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?

In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?

Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.

Legal/Civil:  The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)

Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.

The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.

In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.

It’s preventative medicine.

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