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The Elephant In the room Part III
Expounding on the Discontent of Umar Lee with Islam, Muslims and the Current Condition of Islamic Communities By Shadeed Muhammad

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“He was a prisoner of his own personality—of that given set of traits that predisposed him to see the world in a certain way, to make certain moves, certain choices” ~ William H. Hallahan

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All Praise is for Allah. We praise Him, seek His assistance and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls and the evil of our deeds. Whomever Allah guides there is none to misguide him, and whomsoever He misguides, there is none to guide him. I bear witness that none deserves to be worshiped except Allah alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and final messenger.

‫يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا اهلل حق تقاته وال متوتن إال وأنتم مسلمون‬
“O you who believe fear Allah as He deserves to be feared and do not die except in a state of total submission to Him (i.e. as Muslims)” (3:102)

‫يأيها الناس اتقوا ربكم الذي خلقكم من نفس واحدة وخلق منها زوجها وبث منهما رجاال كثريا ونساءا واتقوا اهلل الذي تساءلون به‬ ‫واألرحام إن اهلل كان عليكم رقيبا‬
“O mankind, fear your Lord who created you from a single soul and then created from him his mate, and from them both, spread many men and women. Fear Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights, and do not cut off relations with the wombs that bore you, indeed Allah is surely an ever All-Watcher over you.” (4:1)

.‫ يصلح لكم أعمالكم ويغفر لكم ذنوبكم ومن يطع اهلل ورسوله فقد فاز فوزا عظيما‬,‫يأيها الذين ءامنوا اتقوا اهلل وقولوا قوال سديدا‬
“O you who believe, fear Allah and always speak the truth. He will direct you to do righteous deeds and will forgive you of your sins. Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed achieved a tremendous achievement.” (33:70-71) The most truthful speech is the Book of Allah, and the finest guidance is the guidance of Muhammad . The most evil of affairs are newly invented matters in the religion. Every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation will lead one astray, and everything leading one astray will eventually take him to the hell fire.

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Guidance comes from Allah and is something we should always be grateful for, especially
when we consider that most of us were not deserving of it to begin with. There is nothing so extraordinary about our lives by which Allah is compensating us for by guiding us to the religion of Islam. Guidance is conferred upon an individual purely out of the grace and mercy of Allah and as test of his gratitude, as Prophet Salih so eloquently put it: “This is the bounty of my Lord in order to test me to see if I will be grateful or ungrateful…” (27:40). However, we naturally fail at showing gratitude to Allah, as human beings, evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of mankind are disbelievers (i.e. kufar)—the origin of which is an ingrate. Allah says: “And most of mankind will not believe even if it is your ardent desire to see them guided…” (12:103) Guidance is an invaluable blessing that many of us take for granted today, amongst the many other innumerable and immeasurable blessings that we find the luxury to enjoy, but in the midst of our preoccupation with them; we forget to praise Allah, as He deserves to be praised. To stress this inadequacy, one of the Salaf (i.e. pious predecessors) said: “If one of you were to stay in sujood (i.e. prostration) from the time you were born until your demise, you wouldn’t have repaid Allah even for the blessing of eyesight.” In an attempt to reinvent ourselves after converting to Islam, many of us forget where we come from and in turn fail to see just how great the blessing of guidance really is. And the further we move away from where we came, without a conscious estimate of where we are going and why, the more insignificant guidance appears in our journey to nowhere. Umar Ibn Al Khattab said: “The religion of Islam (in its purest form) will continue to fade away so as long as their remains a people therein who have no acquaintance with Jahiliyah (i.e. pre-Islamic era of ignorance).” It is important that we are clear about the overall objective upon embracing Islam so that we avoid the type of disappointment that may impact our initial decision to become Muslim. The overall objective of embracing Islam is not to reinvent ourselves so that we forget the essence of who we are, but instead, to adjust the qualities about ourselves that are inconsistent with the moral code of character that the religion of Islam emphasizes. The Prophet mentioned in a very profound narration called hadeeth ul qudsi (i.e. sacred hadeeth), that Allah said: “O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those whom I have guided, so seek guidance from Me and I shall guide you…” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] A prisoner is someone held in custody or captivity. A person confined by any type of various restraints. A person captured and kept confined by an enemy, opponent or criminal. A person who is or feels confined or trapped by a situation or set of circumstances. Perception is the state

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of being or process of becoming aware of something in such a way. A way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something; a mental impression. The human being, despite his perceived sovereignty and strength, can find himself temporarily or indefinitely imprisoned to many things in life. At times he finds himself a prisoner of his own whims and desires and at others a prisoner of his own consciousness. At times he finds himself a prisoner of war, and at others, a prisoner of his own perception, the reality of which, he is completely oblivious. A Prisoner of Perception is someone who estimates the sum of his own worth, and that of the world around him, by the contents of his mind, which becomes his reality. This is the way he navigates through life, constantly objectifying everyone and everything he comes in contact with, literally reducing them to mere victims of what he perceives. He is an individual who is intoxicated by his own reality, and the only way for him to break out of this prison is by trying to see things in as many different ways as he is capable. There were many Muslims overwhelmed with sadness due to Umar Lee’s unfortunate decision to revert back to Christianity. The first thought that came to my mind, as I tried to make sense out of what was happening when I listened to his monologue, was that expectations are dangerous because, by nature, they breed disappointment. Edgar Allan Poe said: “I have no faith in human perfectibility…” And although brevity is the sole of wit, I reluctantly found myself compelled to verbosely address some of the apparent grievances mentioned in Mr. Lee’s monologue, which I interpreted as a very uncanny appeal for attention, among other things. The obligation of preserving the honor and distinction of Islam dictated that I address some of these grievances, some of which were terribly valid. It appears that Mr. Lee was grappling with these issues for some time, but never quite processed or tackled them in a healthy manner, by which, he could maintain his faith in Allah, and still function as a practicing Muslim in an imperfect world amongst imperfect people. In essence, this is a struggle for many Muslims, especially those who converted to Islam with strong religious backgrounds in Christianity, and not necessarily exclusive to Mr. Lee. Many who’ve converted to Islam from Christianity were exposed to another degree of congregational, moral and spiritual dysfunction that is more ubiquitous amongst the African American Islamic communities than any other ethnic population. Examples of this are found in the many elements of pre-Islamic ignorance—many who converted to Islam were running way from—which they found prevalent amongst the communities they embraced the religion amongst. Elements such as: no systematic approach to helping new converts acclimate themselves to the religion—other than the mundane ‘new shahadah classes’. Marriage is forced on many of the new converts in a vain and absolutely absurd attempt to ‘help’ them become more spiritually acclimated to the religion. While the frequent marriages and divorces in the community resemble more of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship than it ever resembles a life-long commitment
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reflective of marriage in Islam. We can’t forget about the lack of a religious camaraderie reflective of true brotherhood/sisterhood in Islam, which was, by far, the most vital component that attracted many to religion in the first place. Then there is the criminal element (e.g. selling drugs, domestic violence, etc.) that is conveniently ignored and swept under the rug, for obvious reasons, while heavy emphasis is placed on warning against the people of innovation etc. Although, I would be remised if I didn’t say that the Church has seen, and continues to see, its share of dysfunction on many levels, but none like the degree of which we’ve witnessed within the past ten years amongst the African American Islamic communities. This is not another ‘airing out our dirty laundry’ session, but simply an objective outlook and approach to the dilemmas cited by Mr. Lee in his monologue. In Islam, there is no double standard in relation to truth (i.e. haqq). So, as Muslims, we have an overwhelming love for the truth, whether it is for us or against us. However, there are times where truth is used to blatantly justify falsehood, as we learned in American culture ‘the end justifies the means’—no matter how absurd the ‘end’ is or how false the ‘means’ used to get there. And when this happens, people who love the truth make it their duty to make life for those who build it on falsehood very uncomfortable. I would have been unreservedly content with the decision of Mr. Lee to revert back to Christianity if his grievances were predicated on the mundane life problems that tend to consume those of weak faith or some newfound knowledge or insight he gained about Christianity that he didn’t have before. In that case Allah says: “There is no compulsion in religion, the truth stands out clearly from falsehood.” (2:256) However, when Mr. Lee cynically alluded to the fact that his grievances were predicated on the dysfunction of the religion of Islam and what would appear to be the dysfunction of all Muslim communities, it became a religious duty on me, at that very moment, to address these issues with a tongue of impartiality— the like of which was not extended by Mr. Lee to the religion of Islam nor the Islamic communities that have spiritually sheltered him since his conversion. The danger in not being able to process the brand and multitude of issues Mr. Lee highlighted is that they completely consume the individual mentally and spiritually until he becomes extremely contemptuous in his outlook on the religion and Muslims altogether, thus becoming a prisoner— as well as a victim—of his own perception. This is the same mentality that gave birth to groups like the modern day Ikhwan ul Muslimeen (i.e. Muslim Brotherhood) and the Khawarij of old, from whom the Muslim Brotherhood derive many of their religious and political ideologies. The Khawarij, as a political group, emerged during the caliphate of Uthman Ibn Affan, but as an ideology/ philosophy, they actually emerged during the lifetime of the Prophet . This ideology was initially packaged in brazen disrespect for the Prophet and outright disregard for his moral integrity as a leader and spiraled into a world wind of anarchy, turmoil and rebellion,

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which ultimately lead to the murders of Uthman, Ali and countless numbers of companions during the pubescent stages of their activism. A man by the name of Thu Khuwaisarah, who, much like Mr. Lee, was not able to process what he saw in a healthy manner— using the tools given to us in the religion such as: giving the benefit of the doubt, making excuses etc. — irreverently criticized the Messenger of Allah for being disingenuous and unfair in his distribution of the war booty amongst his companions. He failed to fathom the possibility of wisdom in the way the Prophet gave some of them more than he gave others. His distribution was not based entirely upon equality in a sense, because the needs of the companions varied at that time from person to person and dictated that each be given according to his/her condition, especially those who migrated from Makkah to Medinah, as well as those who migrated from kufr (i.e. disbelief) to Islam. Thul Khuwaisarah stood up in front of a crowd of the Prophet’s companions and said: “Fear Allah Muhammad! And be fair with your distribution of the war booty!” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] Thus, he was a prisoner of his own perception while making the Prophet a casualty of his disappointment. Another example of this is the Khawarij’s disparaging criticism and condemnation of Ali Ibn Abi Talib for something they perceived to be a clear religious violation worthy of being deemed a disbeliever (i.e. Takfeer). When Ibn Abbas went to debate with the Khawarij about the issues they had with Ali Ibn Abi Talib, their criticism(s) of him were centered around three core issues, I will restrict myself to one in particular. They said that Ali Ibn Abi Talib erased the title ‘Leader of the Believers’ from his name. And if he is not the leader of the believers, then he is obviously the leader of the disbelievers!” Their cynicism was beyond oppressive, similar to that of Mr. Lee in his outlook on Islam and Muslim communities, which he judged by the actions and behaviors of human beings (i.e. the Muslims). So Ibn Abbas said to them with all candor, “Why do you fault Ali for this, when someone greater than Ali did the exact same thing, with a title that was far more superior than the one you criticize him for.” During the treaty of Hudaibiyah the Prophet was asked to remove the title ‘Messenger of Allah’ from his name because their contention was, “If we (i.e. Quraysh) thought for one moment that you were the messenger of Allah we wouldn’t fight against you nor would we prevent you from making Tawwaf (i.e. circumambulation) around the Ka’bah!” So the Prophet turned to Ali Ibn Abi Talib and instructed him to erase the Messenger of Allah and put Muhammad, the son of Abdullah. [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] So the Prophet removed the title ‘Messenger of Allah’ from his name, even against the appeal of the Muslims not to do so, simply because a title does not validate or give credence to the work that an indivual does for the sake of Allah.

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I mentioned all of this to drive home the point that we observe things sometimes and because we are not able to either fathom or process the motives behind what we see, we tend to become overly critical until completely overwhelmed and consumed with cynicism. Consequently, we become prisoners of our own perception while making victims out of all who fail to meet our expectations. This is why Ibn Taymiyah said to his student and close companion, Ibn ul Qayyim: “During the times of fitnah (i.e. trials and tribulations) make your heart like a mirror not like a sponge.” And what he meant by this profound statement is that during times of obscurity don’t absorb what you see and hear from the people. The sponge absorbs everything around it and when it is squeezed, the only thing that comes out of it is what was in it. This becomes mentally challenging to the individual, compelling him to do what most human beings do during traumatic times and/or situations; fight or flight. And it would appear that Mr. Lee opted for the latter instead of the former, while creating a world of confusion that could impact many Muslims, their children and communities. My goal here is not to refute or dispute Mr. Lee’s resolution to revert to Christianity, although his reason(s) seemed a bit dubious and somewhat of a predisposed nature predicated on his lack of faith and inability to process universal problems on life’s terms. The problems Mr. Lee cited, which continue to plague many Islamic communities, are universal problems that every faith based community suffers from. Problems ranging from high divorce rates to predatory Imams (i.e. religious leaders) etc., I’m sure are not exclusive to Islam and Muslims, and I’m even more convinced that many churches suffer from problems similar in nature, if not more decadent and immoral. Issues of child molestation, misappropriation of funds and ignorant leaders who make ‘false promises’ and continue to hold communities hostage due to the fact that they are totally oblivious to their own irrelevance etc. are problems that are more prevalent in the church than he will ever find in Islam. And this is without being overly contemptuous of the church, but to emphasize the fact that these are systemic problems that every faith based community suffers from. But to single out the religion of Islam, as if these issues are exclusive to Muslims, is unfair, absurd and totally misrepresenting of a belief that Mr. Lee once held and championed himself. Allah says, “Indeed those who disbelieve after their profession of belief and then afterward grow violent in their disbelief…” (3:90) Nonetheless, this article seeks to address a fundamental dilemma that Mr. Lee highlighted—and eventually became a victim of— that has unfortunately beleaguered many Muslims in recent times. These issues create an atmosphere of doubts and reservations about the religion of Islam, mainly amongst the new convert population, as well as those unstable souls—such as Mr. Lee— who view every perceived inadequacy as an indication of the fallacy in Islam. This is similar to the illogical questions that many of the disbelievers of Quraysh would ask in order to affirm and

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confirm their predisposed nature to skepticism and disbelief, which they never wanted to abandon. The reality of people like this is that they will never truly believe in anything simply because the degree and nature of the disbelief they hold on to is so appealing and endearing to them that they will literally dismiss just about every clear indication of its absurdity and illogicality. Allah says in the Qur’an: “If they were to see every sign they would still not believe.” (7:146) The Qur’an proposes many measure to counter doubt which seems to increase under the eye of disingenuous scrutiny, considering that many people embrace the religion of Islam with various levels of faith—some having absolutely no foundation or concept of faith at all. Allah challenged us to find one contradiction or inconsistency in the Qur’an such as His statement, “Don’t they ponder over the Qur’an. If it was from anyone other than Allah, they would have found in it much contradiction.” (4:82) Allah also cited the destruction of nations in the past and challenged us to examine the authenticity and reality of these accounts. The Qur’an encourages us to study the futility of our previous beliefs and to compare them to the immaculate and distinguished beliefs of Islam. A beautiful example of this is the statement of Prophet Yusuf to his fellow inmates in prison, “O my companions of the prison, are many gods easier to worship or Allah, the One the Irresistible.” (12:29) Another measure found in the Qur’an to rid the believer of doubt is by identifying Shaytan (i.e. Satan)—the chief deceiver— as a clear enemy to mankind, who spares no path in rousing this doubt until it manifests into actual disbelief. Allah says, “Like Shaytan when he says to the human being disbelieve. And when he disbelieves the Shaytan says indeed I am free from you, indeed I fear Allah, Lord of mankind.” (59:16) The Prophet gave a clear depiction of the measures Shaytan uses in order to foster these reservation in the believer when he said, “Indeed Shaytan comes to one of you and says, “Who created this? and “Who created that?” until he says “Who created Allah?”…” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] They say that a drunk mind speaks a sober heart, and I wholeheartedly believe that Mr. Lee’s decision to revert to Christianity is a clear example of someone whose troubled faith in Allah was never truly nurtured to the capacity that would have resulted in concrete belief, despite the human inadequacies that surrounded him. I will restrict myself to a few points in an earnest attempt to counter the trail of doubts that Mr. Lee left behind. I hope to accomplish by this endeavor that any Muslim teetering on the same boarders of doubt and uncertainly will disregard his personal sentiment and further investigate the distinguished belief system of Islam with a more objective outlook in order to make better sense of the people and the world that envelops him.

Firstly: I want us to understand the difference between the ‘perfect world’ that we envision
when we think about Islam/Muslims, in contrast to the reality in which we live currently. Many Muslims live in a perfect picture book version of Islam. Caught in the balance between the way it
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should be and the unfortunate way that it is. When we observe a Muslim engaging in behavior(s) that are ‘unislamic’ we tend to exclaim internally “This is haram!” or “How can he/she do this when it is against the religion?” failing to see, in our religious intoxication, the human frailty of the individual instead of ignorantly interpreting it as a spiritual inadequacy somehow inherent in the religion of Islam. This sentiment gives birth to comments like, “That’s why I don’t go to the Masjid anymore!” or “This is why I don’t hang around Muslims!” etc. which shifts the blame from themselves to the religion in an attempt to escape responsibility for their own negligence and deficiencies. Although the religion of Islam is perfect, in every sense of the word, it did not, in fact, come to make the human being perfect, in a sense that he without human frailty and sin. The human being by nature is a deficient sinner, and thus the religion came to make him the best of those who sin, simply because perfection is beyond his reach. The Prophet said: “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of those who sin, are those who repent.” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] The Prophet also mentioned in an authentic hadeeth, “I swear by the One in whose hands my soul is in, if you all did not commit sin, Allah would remove you and replace you with a people who would sin and ask for His forgiveness and He would forgive them.” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] This is NOT a green light per se to openly disobey Allah without any fear of divine retribution, but a source of comfort and reassurance that with all of our human imperfections, Allah’s forgiveness is vast and not contingent on the multitude or degree of our sins. Allah says, “O My servants who have transgressed against their own selves, don’t despair over the mercy of Allah, indeed Allah forgives all sins. Indeed He is Oft-Forgiving and Merciful.” (39:53) Allah stated very emphatically in the Qur’an: “This Day I have perfected your religion and completed My favor upon you and I am pleased with Islam as your religion” (5:3) The day this verse was revealed Umar Ibn Al Khattab began to sob profusely, and when he was asked why he replied: “Because there is nothing that is perfect except at some point it is bound to regress!” Umar wasn’t referring to the religion itself rather he was referring to the practice of Islam and the quality of Muslims that were to come in latter times. Even Huthayfah Ibn ul Yaman said: “…O Messenger of Allah, we were in the pre-Islamic state of ignorance and sin, then Allah brought us this good of Islam, will there be any evil after this good?” So the Prophet said: “yes.” Then I asked, “Will there be any good after this evil?” And the Prophet said: “Yes, but it will be tainted…” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari and Muslim] Meaning, the good that is to come later on, although there will be good in it, it will not be as pristine as it was in the beginning. This is not an indication of the alteration of the religion per se, but the practice of the religion amongst Muslims living in that particular era. One of the Tabi’een said, “If one of the companions of the Prophet could be brought back to the

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time in which we are living today, he would not recognize anything of Islam except the direction that we pray (i.e. Qiblah).” This, in no way implies that we shouldn’t have some level of jealousy for the religion, as this is a prerequisite to our faith, even when we don’t have the physical capacity to change it. The Prophet said: “If one of you sees a wrong then let him change it with his hands, and if he doesn’t have the ability, then let him change it with his tongue and if he doesn’t have the ability then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest form of faith.” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t hold Muslims to the expectations that Islam sets for them, but this should be done with consideration for the time, place and circumstances in which the religion is being propagated and practiced. The Messenger of Allah did not have the same religious expectation for the believers who migrated to Ethiopia, as he did with those who were in Medinah with him. Even Umar Ibn Al Khattab said to two individuals who were raising their voices in the Masjid: “Where are you two from?” They said: “Ta’if” So Umar said, “If you two were from Medinah I would beat both of you for raising your voices in the masjid of the Prophet!” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] Meaning, because they were not from Medinah— where those who were constantly surrounded by the Messenger of Allah would have known better— he was not going to punish them for something they might have been ignorant of. I’m sorry to disappoint the many Muslims who, in their enthusiasm to recreate Saudi Arabia in the urban cities of America, frustrate themselves with an endeavor that will NEVER come to pass. Individuals in the past were so enthralled with the idea of women wearing black abayas and men wearing white thowbs in Saudi society that they altered the social dynamic of a whole city— rather the dynamic a whole socio/economic class of African Americans— in a vain attempt to recreate Saudi Arabia right here in America. This was a very clear example of ‘putting the cart before the horse’ simply because the hearts of the people had yet to be changed with pure Tawheed in order to be consistent with the outward appearance of religiosity they accentuated. And this has continued all the way up until the very moment I utter these words. Nonetheless, when community members failed to conform to this ill-thought out initiative— simply because the Qur’anic and prophetic methodology of intermitted change was not adhered to— they eventually became the victims of their frustration. And with no other recourse, the sins of people were exposed on the mimbar during Friday sermons in front of the community. Imams became more detached from the social/economic needs of the community members and concentrated more on the mundane aspects of worship and miscellaneous information about Islam, looking for self-validation due to their own frustration. Imams began to verbally attack one another (and in some instances physically) simply because some were in tuned with the reality of the situation, while others continued to live their fantasy and would sacrifice any/everything to make it a reality, etc. All the while, one important aspect
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was completely ignored which was; Muslims living in the urban cities of America will NEVER be Saudis. And even attempting something of this magnitude suggests that Saudi Arabia is the only acceptable standard of a true Islamic society, when in fact the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Methodology of the Salaf us Salih, beginning with the first three illustrious generations of Islam, are in fact the only standard. And whatever the culture, ethnicity, color, attire and traditions of a particular people are, as long as they work diligently to tailor their environments to the core concepts of these three components, then they have satisfied the Islamic obligation of adherence to them. The expectations that we put on people have commensurate with their level of spirituality. And to expect Muslims living in urban cities in America to resemble the picture perfect view of Islam through our own lens, is a sort of social injustice that that will continue to frustrate the proponents of such an unrealistic outlook. To shed a little more light on what I am referring to, years ago one of the Imams here in America—some contend that it was Dawud Adib— went to some of the scholars in Saudi Arabia and obtained a fatwah (i.e. Islamic ruling) regarding the impermissibility of women driving in American cities such as Philadelphia. In an attempt to replicate the Saudi law against women driving in America, a ruling was given and he returned to America with the newfound notion that women in the City of Philadelphia were not allowed to drive, but instead had to take public transportation. Another example of this is Hassan As Somali, who either read from a book of Islamic rulings given by Saudi scholars to Saudi citizens, (which should not be applied generally, especially if it is related to social matters specific to a particular group of people until consultation is taken with the scholar who issued the fatwah initially or others of his caliber. Refer to Shaykh ul Islam, Ibn Taymiyah’s treatise on “The Fatwah and the Mufti”) or secured a fatwah through the usual means of calling one particular scholar or another, presenting half of the scenario until the desired ruling is attained. During a 4th of July weekend seminar, where Muslims from various backgrounds, ethnicities and understanding(s) of Islam were attending in order to gain a better understanding of Islam. Hassan As Somali declared that wearing the abaya that sits on the shoulders was henceforth impermissible (i.e. Haram) and the only acceptable form of abaya is that which rests on the top of the head (i.e. overhead abaya), which is traditionally the dress of many women in Saudi society. I swear by Allah, women were literally taking the garments they had recently purchased back to the vendors, in a sincere attempt to adhere to this newfound notion. All the while, no consideration was given to the fact that many sisters were new converts (and some old ones too) who struggle with the idea of covering to begin with. No consideration was given to the young Muslim girls who attend public school and struggle with the constant ridicule of their over
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garments and therefore try earnestly to tweak the garment— even if only meeting the bare minimum of covering— in order to find some level of comfort within her surroundings. No consideration was given to the fact that while we continue to compound and complicate the details of the over garment, many sisters today do not cover at all, using the intricacy of the over garment as an excuse to justify their frustration with a matter that could have been made so appealing to them if the right measures were taken from the beginning. This reminds me of a story that Allah mentions in the Qur’an where He instructed Bani Israel to slaughter a cow. This is the story by which Surah Al Baqarah (i.e. The Cow) derives its name. Allah commanded them to slaughter a cow and then take a piece of it and strike the body of a man who was murdered unjustly and he would come back to life and expose who committed the murder. So instead of following the general command to slaughter a cow—any cow—they began to ask for specifics, unnecessarily complicating simple instructions in order to justify them not adhering to it at all. Reflect for a moment on the following verses, “And remember when Musa said to his people: “Verily Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.” They said: “Do you make fun of us?” He said: “I seek refuge in Allah from being amongst the ignorant. They said: “Call on your Lord for us that He may make it plain to us what this cow is!” He (Musa) said: “He (Allah) says, verily it is a cow neither too old nor too young, but it is between the two conditions. So do what you are commanded. They said: “Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us its color. He (Musa) said: “He (Allah) says: “It is a yellow cow, bright in its color, pleasing to the onlookers.” They said: “Call upon your Lord for us to make plain to us what it is, for verily to us all cows look alike, and surely if Allah wills, we will be guided.” He (Musa) said: He (Allah) says: “It is a cow neither trained to till the soil nor water the fields, healthy having no other color except bright yellow.” They said: “Now you have brought us the truth.” So they slaughtered it although they were near to not doing it.” (2: 67-71) In addition to being realistic about the expectations we put on people, we have to consider that the Messenger of Allah prophesized that there is no time that comes upon mankind except the time that comes after it will be worse than it. [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari]. He prophesized that there was going to come a time where fitan (i.e. trials and tribulations), of all sorts, would appear in droves like the waves of the ocean. He mentioned that these trials would be so overwhelming that a man would go to sleep a believer and wake a disbeliever. Or wake up a believer and go to sleep a disbeliever. He would sell his religion for a portion of this life. [Collected in Sahih Muslim] Keep in mind that a decision of this magnitude is not done impulsively. Rather these are decisions that typically take a great deal of time to make after months or even years of

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deliberation and contemplation. But when the time comes where people begin to make these types of decisions impetuously, know that these are the times the Prophet warned us about. It is my contention that, to some degree, much of what the Prophet mentioned has already emerged, and perhaps Mr. Lee was just a self fulfilling prophesy which he obviously failed to prepare himself for. People tend to react, not only to the situations they are in, but also, to the way they perceive the situations and to the meanings they assign to these perceptions. Therefore, their behavior is determined in part by their perception and the meanings they ascribe to the situations they are in, rather than by the situations themselves. Once people convince themselves that a situation has a certain meaning, regardless of whether it actually does, they will take very real actions in consequence. The point I am making here is that times have changed, and the alteration of time, by its very nature, dictates the alteration of the people living in that time. We frustrate ourselves trying to hold on to the ‘way things were’ or the ‘way things are supposed to be’ instead of dealing with the reality in which things/people are and dealing with them accordingly. It is during these times that qualities like steadfastness, persistence and tenacity become the only viable solution to combat the elements of timidity and uncertainty instigated by Shaytan. Allah says in the Qur’an, “It is but Shaytan who instills fear into you through his allies. So fear them not but fear Me if indeed you are truly believers.” (3:175)

Secondly: It is clear from the comments of Mr. Lee that he really lacked true understanding of
Islam holistically, because as a practicing Christian of the “Southern Baptist Church” as he put it, he would have known that spirituality only enhances once the indivual grasps the truth of the religion he has embraced. The Prophet said: “The best of you in Jahiliyah (i.e. pre-Islam), will be the best of you in Islam, provided you gain an understanding of the religion.” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] This hadeeth points to the fact that individuals who are generally considered the best amongst the people before Islam, usually take this energy and commitment with them after embracing Islam. Similar to companions like Abdullah Ibn Salam, a Jewish scholar who embraced Islam and later became a Muslim scholar. It is the innate qualities of an individual that transcends all cultures, religions and traditions, provided he gains an understanding of the religion. I find it very hard to believe that Mr. Lee actually renounced the Christian doctrine of the trinity upon embracing Islam initially. This is considering the renunciation of a particular belief is not something that a person reverts back to unless there was some newfound knowledge attained through rigorous study or the new faith he embraced was not done so wholeheartedly, which makes the process of reverting back to the pervious faith effortless. Allah said to Bani Israel who, when Musa liberated them from the shackles of idol worship and the tyranny of Fir’oun, reverted back to their indifference and ingratitude, “Do you trade in what is greater and more superior (e.g. Tawheed) for that which is lesser and inferior (e.g. Kufr)!” (2:61)
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Mr. Lee was a Muslim for a substantial amount of time, enough for him to have acquainted himself with the basic tenets of Islamic faith (i.e. Tawheed and all of its subsidiary branches), just as he acquainted himself with just about every inadequacy of the Muslims. Any Muslim with an inkling of understanding knows that the foundation of Islam—La ilaha illalah (i.e. nothing worthy of worship except Allah) is predicated on two principles: Negation (Nafi) and Confirmation (Ithbat). So, upon embracing Islam, every Muslim is obligated to negate the belief that any deity deserves worship and to affirm that worship is the sole right of Allah (God) alone. This is why the Prophet stressed renouncing Jesus as the son of Allah upon taking Shahadah (i.e. testimony of faith) when he said: “Whoever bears witness that none deserves worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is his Messenger and Jesus is the Messenger of Allah and His word (created with the word, ‘be, and it is”) placed in Maryam (his mother Mary by way of Angel Gabriel) and a spirit from Him, and that the paradise is true, and hell is true, he will be allowed to enter into any of the eight gates of paradise he wishes.” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] When I listened to the monologue of Mr. Lee I struggled with the fact that he actually conceptualized the impeccable dogma of Tawheed and abandoned it for a belief that he previously renounced due to its apparent fallacy. And to hear him utter those painful words: “I have embraced Jesus Christ as my lord and savior”, words that make the heavens and the earth tremble, as Allah says: “And they say the Most Merciful has begotten a son. Indeed they have brought forth a most despicable falsehood. The heavens were about to break asunder and the earth split open and the mountains shake and crumble to dust that they should ascribe a son to the Most Merciful…” (19:88), was a clear indication that he either embraced Islam for the wrong reasons—looking for something other than Tawheed— or embraced Islam and failed to educate himself properly in order to rid himself of the doubts and uncertainties that ultimately came back to haunt him. And there is no doubt that Mr. Lee will have to live with that decision, but I want to remind Mr. Lee about a verse that he may or may not have been familiar with. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Indeed those who believe and then disbelieve, and again believe then disbelieve and increase in their disbelief, Allah will never forgive them, nor guide them to the right way…” (4:137) And the statement of Allah, “And whosoever from amongst you turns back from his religion (i.e. apostates) then dies while in a state of disbelief then their deeds will be lost in the life of this world and in the hereafter, and they will be the dwellers of the hellfire, to abide therein forever.” (2:217) So he can enjoy the fruits of his decision temporarily, but he will eventually come face to face with it on the Day where every soul will be held in pledge for the choices they made and the actions they perpetrated. And perhaps Mr. Lee was a victim, to some degree, of the same elements of dysfunction he condemned in his monologue, and in that case, we (Muslims) really need to reconsider the type of precedence that we are setting for the new converts to Islam.
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The reality of the situation is that there is, without a doubt, some level of dysfunction and misrepresentation of Islam in our communities that gives birth to this level of uncertainty amongst new converts, ultimately impacting their view of Islam en masse. And Mr. Lee’s situation is one of many that I know of personally, so let’s look at this from a more general perspective instead of making it specifically centered on him. In many of the ‘Salafi’ Masjids, sciences such as: Jarh wa Ta’deel (i.e. criticism and praise of someone) are the most important topics of discussion distinctively tailored to bedazzle the new converts in order to secure their permanent membership. Most, if not all, of the criticisms levied against individuals are suspiciously trumped up cases they’ve taken to carefully selected scholars who in turn pass rulings on them, which are brought back to America (from the yearly ‘Umrah trips’) and made the launching pad for many planned attacks they concocted long before “consulting the scholars.” Many Friday sermons (i.e. Khutbahs), E’id sermons and 4th of July weekend seminars are centered around miscellaneous matters of the religion that build no spiritual foundation for new converts such as: innovation (i.e. bid’ah) and warning against the people of innovation—who, in most cases, are local Imams they condemn— etc. All of which is wrapped in a particular jargon shared amongst them perpetuating a cult-like street mentality that many embraced Islam in order to escape. Even if there are lessons related to Tawheed, they are not taught in a manner that fosters true consciousness/fear of Allah with the aim of practical application in the daily lives of the new converts that attend their communities. The subject of Tawheed—much like any other topic—is taught by mostly undereducated brothers who themselves are seemingly religious and completely detached from the social needs and ills of the people they are addressing, who seek by such, selfvalidation and eternal relevance in the sphere of da’wah. From the moment the new convert steps into the ‘Salafi’ Masjid, this begins his/her orientation to the cult. The awkward stares, the surface observations and the misplaced and discourteous ‘advice(s)’ given based on such observations etc. And most of the time, these things are given precedence to merely expedite their acclimation to the environment in order to avoid a sort of communal awkwardness and to add credibility to a supposedly healthy religious environment. An example of this is a post I read recently that two sisters embraced Islam in front of a ‘Salafi’ Masjid in Philadelphia, and the following day they were being praised on twitter for wearing black hijabs etc. as if this is the focus, or even more, as if this brings some type of additional credence to that particular community, who are known to be proponents of utter dysfunction and misrepresentation of Islam/Salafiyah in the City of Philadelphia. Nonetheless, there is very little emphasis placed on helping the new converts to challenge their previous beliefs. Albeit, the perceived fallacy of these beliefs is what lead them to Islam, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have rejected these beliefs wholeheartedly. There is v ery little
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focus placed on helping them rid themselves of previous ideas and concepts about Allah (i.e. God), life, the hereafter and how to PRACTICE Islam as a WAY OF LIFE and not simply as a religion. This is evidenced by fact that many new converts—and old ones too— continuously engage in behaviors and pre-Islamic practices that either nullify or violate the very foundation of their Shahadah (e.g. participating in Christmas and other pagan holidays, faulting Allah and /or the Religion of Islam for their personal calamities, material worship, minimizing sin, personality worship etc.) Very little emphasis is placed on making their experience as new converts one of love, compassion, camaraderie, deep spirituality and a holistic approach to developing a healthy relationship with Allah. Consequently, we end up with Muslims so frustrated and dissatisfied with their surroundings that they begin ‘building cases’ against Islam that unfortunately results in them viewing their previous beliefs and/or lifestyles as more viable and appealing than what they found in Islam and eventually apostate. And what I mean by ‘building cases’ is that every inadequacy is perceived as an indication of the fallacy of Islam or their decision to embrace Islam. To add insult to injury, Muslims will sit back after the individual decides that he/she no longer wants to be a Muslim, and condemn the person to hell, as if our dysfunction—on all levels— coupled with our intolerably poor representation of Islam had absolutely nothing to do with their resolution. I swear by the One besides whom, there is nothing worthy of worship, I have often heard brothers utter comments like “Well if Allah wanted to guide him, he would still be Muslim!” or “Obviously Allah did not want him to be Muslim.” etc. in order to ease our consciousness—if we have one at all—by taking the responsibility completely off of us and placing it on the individual who, perhaps may have been the victim here. How do we fundamentally misrepresent Islam and then have the audacity to condemn a person to hell and not have an inkling of guilt for his/her decision? When Umar Ibn Al Khattab was stabbed while leading the Fajr prayer, he sent Abdullah Ibn Abbas to go and find out who the culprit was. When Abdullah Ibn Abbas returned he informed Umar that it was Fayrooz, the captive of Mugheerah Ibn Shu’bah, who was responsible and Umar said, “All praise is for Allah who did not make my death at the hands of another Muslim!” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] The scholars explain that the reason Umar praised Allah for this is because, it would have been a tremendous misrepresentation of Islam, had his murder been carried out by the hands of another Muslim. Who would want to embrace Islam seeing that Muslims kill one another, or even worse, kill their leaders? He took responsibility for the proper representation of Islam and placed the onus of such a task on his shoulders, even though he was the victim. The Prophet did the same thing when one of the hypocrites in his community stood in front of companions and shouted, “Fear Allah Muhammad! And when Umar exclaimed in a fit of jealousy for the Prophet “O Messenger of Allah! Let me strike the neck of that hypocrite?” The Prophet responded by

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saying, “No Umar! Least the people say that Muhammad kills his companions.” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] This individual clearly was not one of the companions of the Prophet, however, hypocrisy is a matter of the heart that only Allah knows—and what He exposed to His messenger. So the average individual in the community of the prophet would have considered him a companion (although he wasn’t) and outwardly it would have appeared that the Prophet killed his companion. And who would accept a religion knowing that the leader of it could at any point viciously kill his followers with no fear of retribution? The point here is that the Prophet and his companions were overly concerned about the way the religion was being represented, while today we place the blame for the harvest of our inadequacies on everyone else but ourselves, and then condemn the people for it. Without a doubt, people who seek to embrace Islam are responsible for the decisions they make, but we (Muslims) are just as responsible for the way we represent Islam before they convert, just as we are responsible and ultimately accountable for the way we represent Islam after they’ve converted. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Say: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then the messenger is only responsible for the duty placed on him, and you are responsible for the duty placed on you. If you obey him you, you shall be upon right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to convey the message in a clear way.” (24:54) And the notion that we (Muslims) are not accountable for their decision to apostate from Islam is preposterous considering that more than often they embrace Islam because of our actions. How often is the scenario where a non-Muslim woman embraces Islam due to her inappropriate involvement with a Muslim man and then reverts back to Christianity once she notices the blatant hypocrisy in his actions? So, he was just as responsible for her conversion, as he was partly responsible for her reversion. The hypocrisy in our actions as Muslims is that we celebrate the accolades associated with the fact that people convert to Islam due to our actions but then we take no responsibility for their reversion despite the fact that it was part and parcel due to our actions and misrepresentation of Islam. The Prophet said: “…Whoever introduces an evil practice in Islam, he will bear its sin, and the sin of everyone who follows him in it, without anything being subtracted from their sins.” [Collected in Sahih Muslim] The Prophet would instruct his companions when he dispatched them to go and give da’wah (i.e. Islamic outreach) not to chase people away. He said: “Make things easy on the people and don’t make them difficult, give glad tiding and don’t chase the people away…” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] On one occasion the Prophet scolded his companions harshly for this very same reason. One of the companions got up to lead the Isha prayer and decided to recite Surah Al Baqarah, which is the longest chapter in the Qur’an consisting of 286 long verses. So one of the companions left the rank, not being able to stand for that length of time, and when the companion who was leading the prayer finished, he was informed about the individual who left and called him a hypocrite—to add injury to insult.
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When word reached the individual, he went and informed the Prophet , who gathered his companions and said in a very angry and agitated tone: “Indeed from amongst you are those who chase people away! If one of you stands to lead the prayer then let him not prolong the prayer, for behind him are the elderly, sick and those who have other matters to attend to.” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] The point here is that the Prophet was keen in instructing/admonishing his companions about being instruments of chasing people away from the religion, which is a clear indication that we (as Muslims) are without a doubt responsible for the way we represent Islam and ultimately accountable before Allah. In the spirit of being solution oriented, I would like to conclude this article with a few points of advice I believe will be viable to the productivity and longevity of our communities. Many of the African American Islamic communities are located in predominately lower-class urban areas that are imminently decaying morally, socially, economically and spiritually. Simply going to the Masjid for prayer in these environments becomes a task in and of itself, and the Masjids in these areas are either part of the problem or part of a solution to create real change. There are instances where Muslims have been murdered, robbed and victimized right outside of these Masjids and even worse, there are instances where Muslims have been violated and verbally abused inside these very same Masjids. And I think when we re-examine the purpose of the existence of these institutions of worship; we can clearly pinpoint our deficiencies and work towards rectifying a dilemma that has long since been an eyesore in the communities we live in. First: We have to re-examine why Masjids are built in the first place. Masjids are not clubhouses or flophouses where we congregate primarily for socialization and secondly for worship and other religious acts of devotion. The Masjid, as a religious institution of Allah, is primarily built for the purpose of worship for all Muslims (within the context of the word Muslim) in order to purify themselves from the taint of sin and disobedience to Allah. And when we set out to open a Masjid this should be the goal. Allah says in the Qur’an: “The Masjid whose foundation was built upon piety to Allah from the first day is more worthy of you standing therein for prayer. In it are men who like to purify themselves (from sin and impurities) and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (9:108) The Prophet clarified the overall objective of the Masjid to the bedouin who urinated in the Masjid, “These Masajid are not the appropriate places for urination and matters of a similar nature. Rather they are for the recitation of Qur’an, Salat and the remembrance of Allah.” [Collected in Sahih Al Bukhari] It seems today as if many Muslims have caught on to the hustle that churches and ministers have been taking advantage of for decades in the African American communities. Many churches hand you a bible and in turn take your money with no refund either spiritually or otherwise. Many Masjids are operating in the same fashion today where Muslims are constantly being ask

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to be generous in their sadaqah (i.e. charity), but offered absolutely nothing in return in terms of religious prosperity and overall value to their lives holistically. There is absolutely no transparency with the funds that are collected nor do the congregants who donated the funds that pays the Imam’s salary and keeps the Masjid operating (i.e. electric, water etc.) have any say in the quality of religious services (or lack thereof) being provided to them. This modus operandi has literally turned Masjids into pit-stops where people just drop in to pray, and totally undermines the atmosphere of community the Masjid is supposed to represent. Second: There has to be a more systematic approach to developing the new converts and helping them get acclimated to the religion in a timely fashion. Suggesting marriage to a new convert (male or female) as a means of helping them become more acquainted with the religion cannot be considered a viable solution. There is a need for a new convert orientation program consisting of an eight to ten week course dealing with topics such as: purification (as well as matters related to menses and post partum bleeding for women), Salat (with all of its conditions, pillars and obligations), Tawheed, recitation and memorization of Al fatihah, and the basics of Islamic creed beginning with the six pillars of faith. There has to be greater initiative taken by community members in following up with the new converts to help reassure them that they made the right decision by embracing Islam through frequent phone calls, visits, inviting them to Islamic functions and gatherings that fosters a social camaraderie reflective of the true meaning of brotherhood/sisterhood in Islam. There is a need to get them the mental and medical attention they need due to the fact that many new converts embrace Islam and suffer from a variety of mental/psychological illnesses. This may come as a surprise, but many people who suffer from mental health illnesses embrace Islam because they are coming to the one place they believe they can get cured. People of all faiths tend to believe very strongly that Allah (God) can cure them, and to simply write them off as “crazy” or marginalize them in the community as individuals who really n eed to be somewhere else other than the Masjid, is simply unacceptable and a disservice to the community at large. Third: The leaders of Islamic communities need to work hand- and-hand with Muslim professionals to add more value to the lives of the people they are servicing, instead of viewing those who want to assist as a threat to their positions as Imams. The Masjid has to be an allinclusive entity providing services beyond the normal spiritual regimen that Masjids are typically accustomed to providing. In the past, Masjids concentrated solely on the religious deficiencies that many people came to fix, but left Muslims with the unnerving task of venturing outside the Islamic community for services in other areas such as: mental illnesses, housing, financial assistance, domestic abuse counseling, drug/alcohol counseling etc. This, in and of itself, is spiritually hazardous because it exposes Muslims to a vast array of unislamic practices, some may even include elements of shirk (i.e. polytheism). They bring these
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practices back into the community as viable solutions to problems that could have been solved by Muslim professionals in the same field(s)—in a manner consistent with the Sharee’ah— if we would invest more time, research and resources in creating services that address such issues. Muslim professionals in our communities are unfortunately viewed as irrelevant and their secular knowledge disregarded by the spiritual intoxication of brothers and sisters who believe that any knowledge other than the Qur’an and the Sunnah is superfluous and unnecessary. The Imam himself, in many instances, does not emphasize the importance of secular knowledge to the community out of fear that he will lose his own relevance in the process. Consequently, there is a precedence of social ignorance that is set in the community, which keeps the Imam addressing the same issues redundantly, year after year, while the core issues are never addressed. This causes professional members of the community, who desire a more comprehensive approach to the quality of religious services being offered, to seek healthier and more adequate services elsewhere. In the community of the Prophet , the believers almost never had to venture beyond the parameters of the Islamic community for services in any sphere. When the Prophet was sick, right before his demise, they brought in doctors from all over to treat him. These were Muslim doctors who, even A’isha took the opportunity to benefit from, and actually learned the science of medicine. When Umar placed Amr Ibn Al As’ as the Amir over Egypt, Amr requested that Umar send him someone who would teach the Muslims in Egypt how to read the Qur’an. So Umar sent Abdur Rahman Ibn Muljam (who later on killed Ali), to teach the Muslims how to recite Qur’an. Today in many colleges where subjects like: Mediterranean Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic Studies or even Arabic are taught by Jewish scholars or non-religious Arabs, while we shout from the rooftops, as non-factors, that college is haram (i.e. impermissible). You have graduates from the Islamic University like Mustafa George who, (I am almost ashamed to call him a graduate) graduated a year before I did in 2006, but came to the University in mid 1990’s. A total of almost 10 years in a University whose Bachelorette program only consist of 6 years (including the 2 year Arabic Language program). When we factor in the countless absentees, staying back on purpose (to spend more time in Medinah), and poor grades etc., I guess it would take 10 years to complete a 6 year course. Nonetheless, Mustafa George wrote an article recently on the impermissibility of “Muslims in the ‘West” attending Universities. The article was comical to say the least, and a tremendous disservice to the Muslims livi ng “in the West”, but I would expect nothing less from someone who himself struggled academically for many years, and has been living in Riyadh teaching English since he graduated and is completely detached from the social/religious needs of the Muslims “in the “West.” But this is exactly the type of commercial attitude we get from individuals who audaciously believe their
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words are relevant, but have contributed absolutely nothing to the religious prosperity and social advancement of the communities he finds so convenient to advise. It is exactly this type of inconsequential and subjective thinking that continuously marginalizes African American Islamic communities causing them to become stagnate, and in some instances completely regress, while other ethnic communities continue to move forward. I know brothers and sisters are going to read this article and say: “What does he mean by moving forward?” And that is because every comment has to be detailed to the letter due to the “dumbing down” process these brothers have systematically imposed on themselves and the communities they represent. What I mean by other communities moving forward is that other ethnic Islamic communities be they Arab, Indo-Pak, African etc. don’t respond as a community to the rhetoric perpetrated by the ignorant from amongst us, as African Americans. When we say going to college is haram, they ignore us as ignoramuses who do more talking than they do building. They look at our accomplishments in order to properly gauge the validity and credibility our comments. Their children go to college, and have a family support system while they attend these universities. And most of the time their wives and daughters are the career oriented OBGYN’s and Pediatricians that our wives and children rejoice at, when our insurances can afford them. They build Masjids in their neighborhoods (most of the time from the ground up with their own money), their children memorize the Qur’an before going to college, and marry once they finish, with rare instances of pre-marital relationships or illegitimate children. Now compare that to (and this is going to get ugly) the run down store front places that we rent and call Masjids that are primarily located in the most decadent parts of the inner city. We don’t place any emphasis on who we take knowledge of our religion from so any individual claiming to be a student of knowledge, and endorsed by the right click of brothers, is accepted as pillar in the community. In many instances our women are married and divorced, passed around from brother to brother like a common cold, without any concern for the resentment and animosity each situation creates, that comes back to haunt the community later on. Let me shed a little more light on this subject so we are clear about what is happening here. There is no doubt every instance of divorce is a traumatic one. The trauma not only affects the sister who was divorced, but it affects the brother who divorced her as well as the sisters in the community who watched her relationship deteriorate right in front of them with each passing day. This creates an atmosphere of trepidation and anxiety as it relates to marriage in the community and it literally forces the women to construct defense mechanisms in the form of emotional walls that makes it difficult for her to enjoy marriage. This creates a syndrome I like to call “divorced before married” wherein the woman is so scarred by the many episodes of divorce in her respective community that she doesn’t believe any marriage will work. So she subconsciously eliminates key elements necessary for the survival of the relationship (e.g. healthy communication, emotional availability/dependence etc.)
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in order to justify the failure of it later on. Consequently, she has lost trust in the institution of marriage and believes she will never have a healthy marriage and thus finds herself married multiple times within the same community never understanding what the problem actually is. And the unfortunate thing about this is that with almost each instance of marriage there are a number of children born or involved, who never seem to get their due of the rights Islam has obligated upon the brother and sister, and grow to resent the institution of marriage and/or polygyny altogether. Many of our children work odd dead-end jobs, with no vision or desire to secure a stable career. Many of them engage in pre-marital relationships that result in illegitimate children who are given Islamic rights undeservedly in order to justify or validate the act of zina. Almost none of our children have memorized the Qur’an, and many of them don’t even know how to read it in the Arabic language. Many of our daughters have been so traumatized by the many episodes of domestic abuse in their homes and the constant shuffling from one home to another that they have no respect for men or the institution of marriage in Islam. The list goes on and on. Fourth: There has to be a more resourceful and efficient system designed to protect the institution of marriage in our communities. Marriage in many African American Islamic communities today resembles the pre-Islamic institution of courting to such a degree that many of the marriages dissolve within the first year. This means that many of the non-Muslim boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, as illegitimate and dysfunctional as they are, last longer than many of the halal marriages that take place in our communities. The masjid has to provide adequate solutions to the marriage and divorce dilemma that continues to eat away at the moral fabric of our communities. There has to be a systematic process for women to attain adequate and quality representation from the masjid—namely the Imam’s office. There has to be a support system designed to ensure that all of the Islamic prerequisites of marriage are satisfactorily met. There should be an application process that stipulates all of the Islamic requirements, as well as any additional requirements the Masjid may demand due to circumstances and situations that are unique to us. Additional requirements such as: A.I.D.S/ STD examinations, to make sure neither of the two parties is infected with any communicable disease(s) etc. There should also be a more concrete support system for the couples, both before and after marriage, in the form of premarital counseling, as well as weekly classes, lectures, seminars and Friday khutbahs, which ensures proper understanding of marriage in Islam and provides a glove of information to assist couples with rudimentary marital problems that we encounter in the pubescent stages of our marriages. I pray that what I have contributed in this article will open the door for further solution oriented discussions regarding the road to healthier Islamic communities in our environments. Many of us would like to believe in our own estimation that we are agents of change, but if we focus on

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being the catalysts for sparking the desire in the minds of our youth, who will perhaps be the real agents of change, then we can see better results. We need to start working from our strengths. If we spend 80% of our time strengthening a weakness, we may only see 20% of the result. And I believe when we continuously engage many of the proponents of the utter dysfunction that we are suffering from today, we fall victim to spending 100% of our time trying to strengthen a weakness and see absolutely no results. These individuals (many of whom I’ve already indentified in this article and previous articles. Refer to The Elephant in the Room I and II), their dilemma is not me, Tahir Wyatt or Muhammad Munir, but the relevance they fight so hard to maintain, which is quickly fading away with every passing day. They use people like me, Tahir Wyatt, Muhammad Munir and anyone else they can exploit in order to maintain a relevance in communities where they would otherwise be insignificant. So spending 80% of our time improving an area of strength, we actually improve 100-400% more. I pray that Allah guides Mr. Umar Lee back to Islam with a more profound and indepth understanding of the religion and a more fortified level of Iman (i.e. faith). For there is no greater deprivation then having the truth and not being able to taste its sweetness, just as there is no greater deprivation then to know that Allah exists, but never seeing His face. I pray that Allah rectifies the unhealthy condition of our communities and restores the sanctity that was once a mainstay in them. I pray that Allah returns our youth to the correct practice of Islam and instills in them the zeal and vigor necessary to be true agents of change. I ask Allah that he makes me from amongst those who, if they are given they are grateful, if they are tested, they are patient and if they err, they seek His forgiveness. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His final Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions.

Written by Imam Shadeed Muhammad on the 30th of May, 2013 in the City of Philadelphia, Pa.

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