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Closing Mosques – Islamic Justifications for Coronavirus Lockdowns

Shaykh Sajid Umar

Published

This piece is cross-posted with permission from islam21c.com.

We are living in an unprecedented time. Superpowers have become overwhelmed by the tiny virus particle Covid-19, turning bustling metropolises into ghost towns, grounding planes and closing airports, with hundreds dying daily and some of the most advanced healthcare systems in the world grinding to a halt.

This unprecedented situation has led to the unprecedented move of the world’s mosques being closed to the public for the first time—en masse—since Bilāl (Allāh be pleased with him) first raised the call to prayer over 1400 years ago. It is indeed a sign of Īmān for this to hurt us, as the believers are connected to the Houses of Allāh, and their closure has stirred many emotions.

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It is important in times like these not to let these emotions get hijacked by Shaytān, who has tried to use the Coronavirus pandemic to sow seeds of discord among the Muslims. One of the most insidious traps of Iblīs is to cause us to lose respect and love for each other, particularly for the scholars and leaders of our communities, thereby blocking the mercy of Allāh from reaching us.

The closing of a masjid is a matter of local jurisdiction. My personal opinion, one way or another, is not relevant in a matter that is up to responsible, knowledgeable scholarship in respective regions to decide based on their own scenarios. I could in fact be sinful for commenting on a specific decision taken by the leaders of a specific congregation, and even more sinful if my comments create unnecessary drama between congregations and their leaders.

However, I have been inundated with questions and arguments about the situation, from people for and against the closure of mosques, and I believe it would be beneficial for all of us to understand the matter at hand, to foster understanding of the reasoning behind the closure of mosques taken by scholars across many countries, and to highlight the fact that the scholars who hold different views are in fact in agreement on the major principles involved.

Furthermore it is important to appreciate that the decision to close mosques was a decision WITHIN the Islamic legal field, not due to the false dichotomy some have spread of the ‘medical’ vs ‘Islamic’ considerations. People with a particular interest or expertise are naturally inclined to giving that disproportionate weight. However, as we will see, the Islamic jurist in fact has to take into account ALL relevant angles—which is partly why there is more scope for disagreements—including the medical, economic, mental health, spiritual, political and hereafter angles.This is thus a delicate ijtihādi matter juggling various competing considerations, which should attract from us the highest level of adab (manners).

There is more agreement than disagreement

Both those who opined for and against full closure of mosques agree that an objective of the Sharia is the preservation of life. They both agree on the principle that prevention of harm takes precedence over gaining benefit. They both agree that out of two necessary harmful choices, one has to choose the lesser of two harms to avert the greater one.

They both agree that Allāh has gifted this ummah the unique gift of the entire earth being pure and a place of prayer in general, with certain places attracting more reward than others. They both agree that closing the masjid is no small matter, but a massive, catastrophic one.

They both agree that if you follow scholarly opinions of trusted scholars and scholarly bodies, you will not be sinful. And they both agree that if you are prevented from your usual ‘ibādah such as praying in the mosques, you will still be rewarded for them.

It is important to remember this, because we naturally ignore the majority area of agreement and focus on relatively small matters of disagreement. But why do those disagreements occur?

Differences occur in the micro-matters; of juggling the various ethical considerations (masālih), their respective implementation in real life, and the analysis and weighing of various harms—whether ‘major’ or ‘minor’, for example. Scholars differ due to their personal reasoning and understanding, since Allāh has created us all with different personalities and dispositions, so we naturally interpret a situation in different ways.

This is partly why large-scale decisions should be made by numbers of jurists coming together, mitigating each other’s variations, the pinnacle of which is Ijmā’ (unanimous consensus), which is a binding proof of what Allāh intended to be said on His behalf on any given matter. In any case, broadly speaking, where there is no unanimous consensus, we should not be overly dogmatic or rigid when it comes to accepting legitimate disagreements.

 

Arguments for closing mosques

The following are some of the Islamic justifications of the decision to close mosques en masse by scholarly bodies in several Muslim-majority countries.
Hadiths of avoiding spread of disease

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said:

“If you hear of a disease outbreak in a land, do not go there, and if you are there during an outbreak, then do not flee from it.”[1]

“The afflicted should not be mixed with the healthy.”[2]

“Flee from leprosy like you would flee from a lion.”[3]

When it comes to prophetic instructions, one of the first things the jurist does is try to ascertain whether it is: (i) intended literally as an act of obedience (ta’abbudi), such as maghrib being prayed three rak’āt or circumambulation of the ka’ba being anti-clockwise; or (ii) intended as a fathomable means to an end (ma’qūl al-ma’nā), such as the prohibition of wine being due to its capacity for intoxication.

When it came to narrations like the above, the scholars understood them to be of the second category, that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is in fact giving those as examples of means to an underlying end—or causative effect (‘illah)—which is to isolate infectious diseases and limit their harms.
As such, if the World Health Organisation were to send people into an infectious disease outbreak zone whilst taking precautions to limit its spread, the jurist would not say this is impermissible due to the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Even though they may be going against the literal instruction of the Prophet (“do not go there”), they are taking steps to prevent the intended meaning behind the hadith—i.e. to limit the spread of the disease.

This is why in the books of fiqh we find many examples of scholars giving rulings that on the face of it go against a particular hadith of the Prophet, but upon closer inspection they are actually being faithful to the intended meaning behind the Prophet’s instruction. An example is found in child custody cases. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared that in cases of a divorce, a small child should remain with the mother, and if she remarries then custody goes to the child’s father.

Despite the wording of the hadith, some scholars understood that this is based on an underlying ‘illah (effective cause), which is to prevent the child being neglected by a step-father or a mother busied with looking after another family. As a result, in cases where the father of the child is more likely to neglect him or her, and the step-father permits the child’s mother to nurture her child, scholars opined that the mother retains custody after remarrying, in spite of the wording of the prophetic hadith whilst being faithful to the underlying meaning transmitted by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

Therefore, the jurists agree that the intended meaning behind the narrations above is to prevent or limit the harm caused by a disease, because the Sharia intends to preserve and protect life—including health. Since the coronavirus not only infects a large number of those who come into contact with it, but leads to death and secondary and tertiary disasters such as the overwhelming and destruction of public health service capacity, the Shariah thus instructs us to do what is possible in order to prevent it and limit its harms.

Conflicting Sharia objectives: Life vs Dīn (Faith)

A problem however occurs when this objective to preserve life, conflicts with another objective of the Sharia—namely to preserve the Dīn of Islām.
Medical experts have expressed the fact that the distance between you and the coronavirus is a simple handshake. Extreme Social distancing mechanisms have been implemented across many countries, and the deadly cost of delaying these measures has been seen in countries that adopted these measures after the disease started to spread more rapidly, such as Iran and Italy.

On one hand we have the call for social distancing, but on the other, the masjid wants us together; feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder. Will praying our five daily prayers and the Friday prayer in congregation lead to the virus spreading death and destruction of the public health services? The medical and epidemiology experts give us an overwhelming ‘yes’ to this question.

According to those scholars who opined to close masājid, the testimony of those experts reaches the threshold of ghalabat al-dhann—a warranted confidence in some information that the jurist will be held accountable for knowing, and thus anticipating. The medical experts have thus advised with a degree of confidence that we are responsible for anticipating, that things like Umrah and congregational prayer will indeed lead to the spreading of the virus.

But is that enough to close mosques?

Knowing that something is a potential threat to life is not automatically enough to trump any other consideration. The Sharia has, after all, legislated Jihād, which can and does lead to the loss of life. The key to understanding this is the following.

The Sharia has overall objectives that have been extracted by the scholars of Islamic law, from a holistic, inductive reading of all rulings (istiqrā’). There are various formulations, but they include the preservation of the Dīn, life, lineage, mind, wealth, and reputation.

Not just due to the fact that the Sharia has commanded things like Jihād, the scholars have understood that as an abstract objective or value, the preservation of the Dīn takes precedence over the preservation of life. However, before this can be implemented in the process of law and deriving rulings, it has to be resolved across a second dimension.

Each objective of the Sharia is broken up according to how necessary any given thing is to that objective.

A Darūra is something that is absolutely necessary to preserve that objective, its absence causing a detrimental impact on that objective. An example of this is not praying the Salāh at all, which is a Darūra for preservation of one’s Dīn.

The next level down is a Hājah, which is something you need to fulfil an objective, its absence causing hardship, but not necessarily detriment. It may lead to detriment down the line, but not immediately. An example of this is having a roof over your head, to preserve life. Not having it will be very difficult, but not an imminent threat to your life.

The third level the jurists mention is a Mukammil, which is something under normal circumstances neither necessary nor needed, but something that will assist you in achieving one of the objectives, sometimes translated as “embellishment”.

Scholars who gave the fatwa to close mosques cited that the congregational prayer falls into this third category, it is a Mukammil matter, not a Darūra nor a Hājah (under normal circumstances).

Performing the prayer in congregation assists a person in carrying out the prayer, therefore fulfilling the objective of preservation of the Dīn. If a person does not pray in congregation but still prays, he is able to preserve his Dīn. It will not be immediately detrimental to his Dīn and its preservation.

The faqīh therefore does not simply look at one dimension—Dīn vs life—but rather he looks at them combined with the second dimension, of necessity. Whilst the Darūra actions of preserving the Dīn trump the Darūra of preserving life (such as in warfare), the Darūra actions of preserving life (such as social distancing) trump the Mukammil actions of preserving Dįn (such as Ādhān and congregational prayer).

It is important to note that this is from within the Islamic legal paradigm. It is not an ‘Islām vs medicine’ or ‘dunyā vs ākhira’ binary—these are false dichotomies. From within Islām’s own legal framework, it is a religious obligation to carry out certain actions to preserve life and wealth, for example. If the mu’adhin feels (with ghalabat al-dhann) that going up a hill to give the call to prayer will lead to him getting robbed, for example, then he is told by the Islamic jurist to make the call from a safe place, even if no one will hear it. There is no guilt on him, in fact he may be rewarded for following this Islamic ruling.

What about Jumu’ah?

With regards to the Friday prayer, these scholars likewise opined that stopping it will not lead to the erosion of Dīn because the Sharia has given a replacement for it, in the form of the Dhuhr prayer, where it is not possible to observe the Friday prayer. It does not constitute an imminent threat to the preservation of the Dīn because Allāh has given a replacement (badal) for it, and there is a maxim in Islamic law that “When the default is excused, the replacement is moved to.”

Other general evidences

In addition to the above, those who opined to close mosques on account of the coronavirus outbreak refer to other supporting evidences. Among them are the statements of Allāh:

“And Allāh wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.”[4]

“And strive for Allāh with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.”[5]

“And do not throw yourselves into destruction with your own hands…”[6]

Among them is the legal principle “Harm must be removed,” which is taken from the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “There should be no harm nor the reciprocation of harm.”[7]

Those who were against the closure of mosques

It is important to remember that despite the dominant discourse in the public mind being a false dichotomy between absolute lockdown on one hand, and business as usual on the other, those scholars who opined that mosques should not be closed en masse did NOT argue for simply doing nothing, as some have misunderstood.

It is true that some people without knowledge have taken a condemnable course of action of being negligent with regards to their responsibilities to limit the harms of this virus—which is as we have explained an Islamic obligation. What is more condemnable is using the great Islamic value of Tawakkul (reliance on and trust in Allāh) as an excuse for negligence. Instead of tawakkul those who are negligent of their duties are in fact carrying out Tawākul, which is a misregard for taking necessary means to achieve a goal.

However, the scholars of Islām are far removed from this tiny minority and their actions. The scholars who argued against wholesale mosque closures called upon an axiomatic truth that if something gravely important can be reduced instead of eliminated, then opportunities for reduction should be exhausted before elimination. All scholars encouraged the taking of all reasonable medical precautions, however differed simply on what the most effective way to balance all the competing considerations is.

For example, even the scientific experts advising the UK government were in “heated debates” regarding the correct time and extent to implement social distancing.[8] Doing it too late could mean the disease would spread too quickly, doing it too early could mean a burden on people leading them to slack and risking a more dangerous ‘second peak’.

Likewise, scholars and mosque leaders contemplate other measures to reduce the numbers of people gathering, such as making a bare minimum congregation of two or three local individuals, whilst remaining effectively ‘closed’ to the public. This is partly why this is a jurisdictional matter. Different cities have different disease rates, infrastructures and social norms, which mean different strategies to combat the spread of the virus.

On top of that, the scholars remind us of an important theological point, that there are unseen, divine causes for the removal of calamities, and Salāh is one of them. So as a result of their ijtihād on this issue they might have used some form of prayer in mosques (with medical precautions) as a means to receive divine help and mercy as part of a comprehensive strategy for protection and cure. Not to mention considering the future political ramifications of setting a precedent of closing mosques down en masse.

As mentioned earlier, the jurist has to consider multiple angles at once. In any case, the scholars of Islām should not be accused of lacking the necessary jurisprudence insights when studying this matter, and condoning a “business as usual” approach.

Conclusion

Difference of opinion is a mercy for the Ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). But at the same time, being united despite differences is also a mercy, and being disunited is a punishment.[9] That which the scholars of this ummah agree on vastly outweighs that which they disagree over.
We are in unprecedented times so it is understandable to have unprecedented fatwas and unprecedented levels of confusion among the masses. However, do not let Shaytān make you depressed or focus on relatively trivial matters compared to the greater goal of glorifying Allāh and relying on Him first and foremost, whilst working together to make your communities and societies as safe as possible.

Use this opportunity to go back to Allāh, to flee to Him, and beg him for forgiveness, since He gave us a taste of something beloved to us and Him being taken away from us—the congregational prayers—no doubt to test us. Make the most of this time of social distancing and implement the guidance of the scholars who have told us how to pray in our homes during this trial, and make our homes into masājid glorifying Allāh.[10]


Notes:

[1] Bukhari & Muslim

[2] Muslim

[3] Bukhari

[4] Al-Qur’ān 4:28

[5] Al-Qur’ān 22:78

[6] Al-Qur’ān 2:195

[7] Ibn Mājah

[8] https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/10-days-that-changed-britains-coronavirus-approach

[9] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The community is a mercy, whilst disunity is a punishment.” [Ahmed]

[10] https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-law/sh-haitham-how-to-pray-during-a-coronavirus-lockdown/

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Shaykh Sajid Umar, FD.IT, MED,LL.B (Shariah), MJS (Qadha'), LL.D is a qualified Mufti and Judge, as well as an educator, author, researcher. He is a lecturer at Knowledge International University; is the Director of Islamic Development for Mercy Mission World; and lecturer and head of the board of directors of AlKauthar Institute.

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  1. Avatar

    Faraz

    April 16, 2020 at 3:21 AM

    Jazak Allah khair!
    :)

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#Society

Politics In Islam: On Muslims Partaking In Political Engagement In Non-Muslim Countries

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

Published

Some Muslims are convinced that participation in the elections is forbidden. Some even worry that engaging in politics might cause someone to become a kāfir, because it is a matter of walāʾ. Their argument is that participation necessitates approval of and allegiance to unbelief, and thus this makes participants unbelievers. The main verse cited to reach such a position is that Allah, the Exalted, says: “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as awliyāʾ against other believers.” The claim that this verse prohibits Muslims from partaking in political engagement in non-Muslim countries is immensely consequential to our communities, and so we should take care to understand this ayah in detail.

We must first consider the meaning of the word ‘awliyāʾ. It is the plural of the Arabic word waliy. Many English translations of the Qur’an translate this word as “friend,” causing us to understand the ayah above as prohibiting us from taking the disbelievers as friends. But this meaning would directly contradict multiple verses of the Quran and the well-established practice of our noble Messenger .

Clearly we need to examine this verse more carefully. Most dictionaries variously translate the Arabic word waliy to mean custodian, protector, helper, or authority. Typically a waliy is someone who has responsibility, allegiance, or authority over somebody else. For example, in Islamic law, a father is titled the waliy of his children. The word wāli, which is a derivative of the same root, is also used as an administrative title such as governor or magistrate of a place or region.

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My preferred English word for the Arabic word waliy is “ally.” The word is used in English to describe two separate individuals or parties who participate in favor of each other. This word best fits the Quranic context for the word waliy.

According to the Quran, Allah is the waliy of the believers, and the believers are the waliy of Allah. Allah being the waliy of the believers is consistent with the meanings of “custodian,” “protector,” “helper,” or “authority.” Because clearly Allah is all these things to the believers. But these meanings are not consistent with us, the believers, in our relationship with Allah, the Exalted and Mighty.

But the word “ally” can apply to both the superior party and the inferior. Consider two countries who are allies in defense and military matters. While one might be stronger, more powerful, and even dictate its demands to the other, they are still allies with one another. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is far greater than any such comparison.

So when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) describes Himself as the waliy of the believers, it means that we seek His continual guidance, help, and protection. Our role and responsibility in this alliance is not the same, as nothing we do can ever benefit or harm Allah. Allah makes it clear that He is not in need of our protection or assistance, as He is All-Powerful and free from any weakness. We express our allegiance to him through our worship, obedience, reverence, and love. The awliyāʿ of Allah are those who dedicate themselves to perfecting these duties.

Clearly the alliance the believers have with Allah is completely unequal since there is no similarity between the Creator and the creation. While we take Allah as our ally out of our incompetence and dependence, He chooses us as allies purely out of mercy and kindness. And we desperately beg Allah to remain our ally, and to permit us to be allies of Him.

With this understanding of the word waliy, we can now better analyze the verse in question. Notice how the verse’s prohibition against taking unbelievers as allies is not unqualified; it specifies that we must not do so against other believers. We understand from this that it is permitted to make a treaty with unbelievers as long as it does not harm our fellow believers. Our beloved Messenger himself did this when he entered Madinah and made a treaty with the two major tribes of Aws and Khazraj, and with more than a dozen minor tribes pagan and Jewish tribes. The Muslims were expecting major attacks from the idolaters of Quraysh, and so their alliance with neighboring tribes was in the interest of the Muslim community as a whole.

This immediately forces us to question the validity of the military alliance between Israel and Egypt that deprives the people of Gaza of basic necessities. It is this sort of arrangement that the verse seems to warn so starkly against. Let those who partook take heed, as the verse ends with a stark threat: “And Allah warns you of Himself.”

Muslims can be friends with non-Muslims. Muslims can ally with non-Muslims. But a Muslim may never harm another Muslim. “It is enough of an evil for a person to belittle his Muslim brother. The entirety of one Muslim is sacred to another—his blood, his wealth, and his honor.”

And to Allah belongs all good.

Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

 


Quran 3:28ْ وَِريَنأَكافُِْمْؤِمنُوَنالِْخِذالَنتَتَّقُواِمْنُهْمتُقََّاليَتََّّالأَِسِمَنََّّللاِفِيَشْيٍءإْيِلَكفَلَْٰلذَُمْؤِمنِيَنَۖوَمنيَفْعََْمِليَاِصيُرَءِمندُوِنالْلَىََّّللاِالَِوإَسهُُِۗرُكُمََّّللاُنَفَْويَُحذاةًۗ

Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever does that has nothing withAllah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the destination.

Quran 2: 25  7ِماِتإُُّظلْخِرُجُهمِمَنالَمنُوايُِذيَنآَُّّيالََّّللاُئَِكَوِلٰولََُماِتۗأُُّظللَىالُِهمِمَنالنُّوِرإْخِرُجونََّطاُغوُتيُْوِليَاُؤُهُمالَُرواأِذيَنَكفَََّهلاَىالنُّوِرَۖوالِرُۖهْمِفيْصَحاُبالنَّاَأَخاِلدُوَنAllah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into thelight. And those who disbelieve-their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.10Quran 10:62-64َوَالُهْمَيْحَزنُوَنِهْمْيَالَخْوٌفَعلََءََّّللاِْوِليَاََّنأَِالإأ-وَنََوَكانُوايَتَّقَُمنُواِذيَنآْوُزَّال-فَِْلَكُهَوالَٰماِتََّّللاِۚذَْْلِخَرةَِۚالتَْبِديَلِلَكِلَوفِياَحيَاةِالدُّْنيَاْبُْشَرٰىفِيالُْهُماللَُمعَِظيال-ْ

Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. Those who believed and were fearing Allah. For them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah. That is what is the great attainment

Quran 17:111ٌّيِمَوِلهَُُّكنلْميَِكَولَُْملْهَُشِريٌكفِيالَُّكنلْميََولََولَدًاِخذْْميَتَِّذيلََِّالَحْمدُِلِلَِّْلالَوقُِيًراِْرهُتَْكبلَِۖوَكبَنالذُّAnd say, “Praise to Allah, who hasnot taken a son and has had no partner in [His] dominion and has no [needof a] protector out of weakness; and glorify Him with [great] glorification.”12Forty Hadith, Imam al-Nawawi, #35َ،ُكُمْسِلمَْخاهُالََرأْنيَْحِقََِحْسِباْمِرٍئِمْنالَّشِرأٌمبِمَحَراُمْسِلِْمَعلَىالُمْسِلَْوِعْرُضُّلال:

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#Current Affairs

Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

Published

The pursuit of justice is a core Islamic value. One of the important roles Allah, the Exalted, assigned to His messengers is the task of establishing justice among the people. Allah, the Almighty, emphasized the importance of justice when He prohibited Himself from oppression and declared it forbidden among us humans. Allah is the Lord of all justice and fairness. In His fairness, He commands us to not allow our anger or hatred towards any group lead us to injustice against them. “Be just,” He commands, “it is closer to righteousness.”

Allah, the Most High, commands us to be witnesses for justice, even against ourselves. The concept of “even against ourselves,” is an open call to all people of faith to rise to the occasion, especially where we see systemic or structural oppression. In most such cases, the oppression is carried out in our name, usually by our elected government.

Allah’s emphasis on justice leads many Muslims to worry that if they vote for a president who transgresses against another country, the fault falls on everyone who voted for him. This fear paralyzes Muslim engagement in the American political system. Let us examine the circumstances of responsibility in such cases.

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To be clear, the present governments of almost all countries on Earth, including the so-called Muslim countries operate with corruption and oppression. Taking Egypt as an example, the government’s domestic policies have led to the unjust death and imprisonment of thousands of Egyptian citizens, and their foreign policy enables the perpetuation of Gaza’s destruction. This, however, does not require the average Egyptian Muslim citizen to reject all relationship to the nation of Egypt. The question then arises: how responsible is the Muslim for the actions of his government? Likewise, when the American government acts with injustice at home and abroad, how responsible is the American Muslim for the actions of his government? When the average citizen is not consulted before the execution of military operations, to what degree are we held responsible?

Allah’s Messenger provided for us a balanced approach to engaging with the injustice around us. Abu Saʿīd al-Khudri narrates that he heard the Prophet say,

“Whoever sees evil should change it with his hand; and if he is unable to do so, then he should change it with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then he should hate it with his heart—that is the least of faith.”

Let us take a practical example:

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. To justify his action, he invented a series of lies that Iraq possessed nuclear capabilities. It took him more than a year to align the power brokers in America and Europe to enable this evil action to occur. Neither the opinions nor the interests of the American population were taken into consideration.

Before the invasion, the public had two concerns: that the justification presented for the war was speculative and unfounded, and the war would result in countless unnecessary deaths. These worries quickly materialized into realities as time proved them to be true. However before the war, various politicians, pundits and opinion makers helped sell this unjust action to the people in order to gain their consent. They are undoubtedly guilty of murder and should be remembered as peddlers of death.

But what was the duty of an average American Muslim? The hadith mentioned above lists three levels of engagement:

Level One:

Someone who was part of the military or legislative authority had a duty in front of Allah to attempt to stop the invasion with action. If he was a congressman, he had a moral duty to vote against the war. If he was a member of the military, any intelligence agency, or government policy group, he had a moral duty to challenge the claims of the war’s proponent’s and provide information to the public so that they can know the truth. This duty applied to the person despite the likelihood that such a course of action would have probably jeopardized their career or their life.

Level Two:

Most Americans were not in the position described in level one. In their case, their duty was to speak out against this act of injustice. They could have written letters to their legislators, participated in protest rallies, held events in congress, and even spoken to their neighbors, classmates and colleagues about how wrong this action was. Any American Muslim who was not under threat of arrest for speaking out, but chose to remain silent still, failed to fulfill his duty to protest the evil.

Level Three:

There is little likelihood that the approach of silence would be justified for most American Muslims. There are countries (such as Saudi Arabia), where people can be arrested, tortured, even murdered if they speak out against the government. A Muslim living in one of these societies has a duty to at least engage with the injustices around them on an internal level, detesting the action from the core of their heart. As for the Muslim who does not detest that millions of innocent people are killed, they should check their heart; they would be missing what the Allah’s Messenger described as, “the least of faith.”

What faith is left in the heart of the Muslim who is not bothered by the death of more than a million Muslims?! Even if his mind is polluted with patriotism, tribalism, nationalism, or an inclination towards military culture, there is no excuse for the lack of humanity that is required for this level of apathy.

Considering the hadith above, our minimum duty is to stand and speak against the use of our tax dollars for such acts of injustice. There were indeed many Muslim and non-Muslim voices of dissent that protested the American invasion of Iraq. In addition to the spiritual duty of speaking out against injustice, it was clear to many what was later proven to be true: the invasion was not good for America. The financial and human loss incurred by this war has not made neither America, nor the world safer.

Many propose that Muslims should react to the injustices in their countries by leaving them. But this evasive approach fails to actually address the injustice. There is a greater, though more challenging, expectation of addressing the injustices from within, especially in a country like America where criticisms are tolerated and protest can lead to policy that is felt around the world. A large amount of the pain, and suffering that is happening to the Muslims today can be stopped from inside America. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan are hoping that we will do something from our positions that will alleviate their suffering. They need our help.

Exonerating ourselves because our government acts without our consent may appease our consciences, but is of no benefit to our global Muslim community.

Such an approach is contradictory to the teaching of the Prophet as made clear by the hadith above. We have the opportunity and ability to speak out against evil, so passive dissent is not an option.

Allah tells us the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and al-Khadir 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  in Surah al-Kahf (peace be upon them both). When they boarded a ship of some men who agreed to give them a ride to their destination, Khadir pierced the boat’s basin, damaging their source of livelihood. Confused, Musa criticized this action, as it seemed like an injustice towards people who readily did a favor for them. What Musa didn’t know was that the men would encounter a tyrant king who had sent his men to seize all boats that were sound and intact. And as these men had helped Musa and al-Khadir, he wished to help them evade this king’s oppressive policy; the minor damage saved them from losing their boat!

The king was an oppressive tyrant. Musa and al-Khadir (peace be upon both of them) did not possess the power to remove the king or prevent the king from his evil action, and so they took action according to their ability. They knew that though they could not save everyone from the injustice, it was still their duty to act within their capacity to reduce the king’s injustice.

The Story of The Secret Believer

Allah also tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). We know he had a fairly high status in the government because he was part of their most confidential meetings. This secret believer did not exit the government after he saw the many evil deeds of the Pharaoh’s government. During the discussion in the Pharaoh’s cabinet where they decided that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was to be killed, this believer rose up and voiced his objections to the injustice, citing historical, logical, and emotional appeals. The meeting, however, concluded with the decision to execute Musa. Having been unable to stop this royal decree, he still made the effort to warn Musa so as to give him the chance to flee.

Allah tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa Click To Tweet

Instead of condemning him for participating in a government founded upon unbelief, Allah exalts his mention in His glorious book. He is our example of speaking truth to power, and the reason for Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)safety from Pharaoh’s plot. This man used his position to obstruct oppression, not perpetuate it.

As Muslim Americans, we live in a non-Muslim country. The decisions and actions of our government impacts all of us living in this country. Disengagement will allow selfish people to make decisions that will result in harm to our communities.

Participation will allow us to follow the examples of proactive engagement so as to prevent harm and ultimately change corrupt systems from within. An all-or-nothing approach will almost always lead to nothing.

Allah, the Exalted, provides these examples so that we can understand the practical role of Muslim in an overwhelmingly hostile society. Even though our environments have not reached that degree, we can still relate to the feelings of being oppressed and ostracized for our faith. Allah’s lesson to us in these stories is that our faith shouldn’t prevent us from trying to change these circumstances.

And to Allah is the end of all matters.

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#Current Affairs

Podcast: Muslims and The Fenty Fitnah | With Omar Usman and Khaled Nurhssein

Zeba Khan

Published

American Pop Star Rihanna, who owns luxury fashion line Fenty, featured a song with the voice of Mishary Rashid Al Afasi reciting a hadith from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about the end of times at recent lingerie fashion show.

Many are offended, but what’s the best way to respond to the situation?

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Join Zeba Khan as she discusses this with Omar Usman, executive director of MuslimMatters, and Khaled Nurhssein, a community organizer, a local khateeb, and an intermittent student of knowledge.

Many Muslims are offended by pop-star Rihanna's use of a hadith in the music for a lingerie fashion show. What is the right way to respond?Click To Tweet

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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