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Asalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatahu,
On April 2nd and 3rd, 2016, at the University of Toronto (Canada), I attended Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s newest AlMaghrib seminar, “No Doubt.” The seminar is part of an aqidah series and is subtitled “God, Religion and Politics in the Modern World.” It addresses intellectual and contemporary ideological issues that face the Ummah (i.e the ‘isms) — internal challenges & external challenges to the Muslim community .
Below is my personal review of the seminar and a review of some of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s (hafidhullah) work. Overall, the seminar was beneficial. I recommend other Imams of their local Masajid take the seminar and conceptualize the points brought up to reay to their own congregation. Because the seminar addresses issues that every Imam will likely face today. Such issues need to be addressed to our congregation, as well as how to respond, reactively or proactively — issues such as atheism, secularism, and liberalism, etc.
That being said, I am aware (to a degree) of Dr. Yasir Qadhi’s minor evolution over the years. And I myself (along with others), disagree with some of the things he’s gone on record to say. He appears to be sincere — and Allah knows best. While I like some of the things he’s said, I do find some other positions in relation to secularism, politics, LGBT issues, community vision, and Islamic movements to be problematic or too ambiguous. On a lighter note, I’d like also address the good Shaykh Yasir has done. For instance, his recently compiled Seerah series, which I’ve heard is quite beneficial. My goal in this review is to be fair and not exceed my criticism of him. And hence, I will summarize the pros and cons of the seminar below.
I ask Allah subhana wa t’ala to bless Dr. Yasir Qadhi for the good that he’s done and to forgive him for the mistakes that he’s committed. I ask Allah (‘aza wa jal) to grant our du’aat and Imams courage, wisdom, and the ability to implement projects for the Ummah based on what is pleasing to Allah, the Qur’an, and in accordance with the Sunnah of Rasul’Allah salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam. And I ask Allah (aza wa jal) to guide myself, our families, and the Ummah. Ameen.
STRENGHS OF THE SEMINAR:
Overall, the material when it comes to liberalism, secularism, nationalism, feminism, atheism, basic aqidah, unity issues, encouraging activism is well researched and structured. These are all hot topics within the community. And they’re the essence of much of the confusion that face Muslims today. Hence, the content of this seminar, the background info regarding liberalism/secularism/feminism/atheism, and the research provided in this seminar will be helpful to those du’aat who interact and engage with youth, Muslims, non-Muslim (i.e. those who might have otherwise been influenced by such ideologies).
Dr. Yasir seems to be more politically aware than your average Imam. While many du’aat tend to shy away from politics, they may not realize that everything in our society, from personal habits, to social and cultural norms, to economics and politics, shapes the way we see ourselves and our Deen. To separate Islam and politics is almost making Islam irrelevant to your congregation. And it’s a natural turn-off for Muslims because it avoids discussing the elephants in the room (laws, media, foreign policy). Moreover, it’s difficult to mobilize the community and instill a sense of urgency when one neglects the political realities facing the Ummah. Especially when one doesn’t address those urgencies – this passive attitude will eventually trickle down to the congregation making them feel passive and apathetic to the Deen and content with the status quo. The reason why our du’aat shy away from siyasah, I believe part of the problem is because of the very word and misunderstanding of “politics.” Does it mean democracy, voting, political participation, conservatives VS liberals? Quite the contrary. This a shallow understanding of politics. What I actually mean by “politics” is Islam at the institutional level, including the role Muslims play, and how Muslims understand the various social institutions in society (education system, big business, military, intelligence, media, economics system, foreign policy, family laws, etc.) and Islam’s response to prevalent social ideologies. At the end of the day, politics influences in Islam (i.e. a good example is in Muslim countries when a government adopts a particular school of thought). However, the role of the scholar is to ensure that it’s the other way around — that it is Islam, the Qur’an, and the Sunnah that influences society. And they do this by many means, i.e. enjoining good, forbidding evil, da’wah, etc. Hence, I was happy to see Dr. Yasir recommend that more Muslims listen to and read people like John Pilger, Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, and Noam Chomsky and acquaint themselves with the social and political issues of our time.
There is another reason why this seminar is a step forward from apolitical Islam. Familiarizing oneself with the work of journalists and academics who publish objective material that debunk media narratives on domestic and world affairs can equip a da’ee and community leader in their analysis. It helps the du’aat connect to their congregation while articulately challenging today’s media and social institutions. As one Islamic scholar said “The one who is ignorant of politics is more harmful to the Ummah than the one who is ignorant of the evidences. Because the ignorance of one who doesn’t have knowledge of the evidence is clear; he will not be listened to. However, one who has knowledge of the evidence but is ignorant of where to apply it will be listened to and may misguide others.”
Many of the same words spoken by today’s journalist and academics are valuable analysis that is fairly objective and favourable to Islam and Muslims. If Muslims were to say the exact same thing, it might appear antagonistic. Knowing the aforementioned individuals (i.e. Chomsky, Greenwald, Hedges, Pilger, etc.) helps Muslim leaders make Islam relevant to their congregation. This is because the social sciences (political ideologies, economics, media) is the language of today — especially the college/university crowd — who go on to become influential in their community. For example, the propaganda of the corporate media today can be compared to the propagandistic poetry that Hasan ibn Thabit (radi’Allahu ahn) had to face. This is just one example. If a Muslim wanted to understand medicine, they may refer to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Likewise, we need to be aware of political analysis beyond CNN or CBC sensational headlines. Understanding the social sciences today is an important field every da’ee should be somewhat familar with. Because it sheds light on the bigger picture and ideological battle that affect Muslims face, day in, day out, whether they realize it or not. By possessing such knowledge, du’aat won’t be “taken for a ride” when politicians, institutions, or governments approach them with an agenda in mind.
Whether a Muslim in the West realizes it not, they are affected by secularism every day. They are affected by advertising every day (corporatism and capitalism). They are affected by media propaganda every day (the demonization of Islam). They are affected by the education system whether it preaches positive things like protecting the environment or ideas antithetical to Islamic tradition such as liberal philosophies. Students are affected by corporatism which profit from capitalistic tuition fees (microeconomics), whose interest is to support an interest-based economy after one graduates, and not necessarily inspire social entrepreneurs. By du’aat reading and watching the works of non-Muslims (or Muslims) who speak objectively, they (a) are able to connect to their community, make Islam relevant, mobilize youth, they’re seen as leaders and (b) they are able to then speak intelligently. Instead of yelling and screaming about foreign policy, they can now calmly articulate their arguments towards finding long-term solutions, instead of burning themselves out and their energy in the short-term.
I say the above because at the end of the day, this seminar does shed light on politics and social affairs. We shouldn’t be put off by such topics but ask Allah subhana wa t’ala to guide us in the right direction. Statements such as “don’t concern yourself with current affairs” is tantamount to saying “don’t concernn yourself with the community.” I believe such statements are said with good intentions. Poliitcs and current affairs can be confusing, depressing, and complex. However, on one hand, it’s worth challenging ourselves intellectually if in the process we can be sincere to upholding the truth. Secondly, I advise myself and others to never despair, and never allow negativity or pessiminism to dictate our outlook. While feeling and talking about the pain in the Ummah, we should see the good in the Ummah, realize this life’s temporarity, and remember the promise of Allah subhanha wa t’ala. Knowledge of politics and the social affairs is as important as many of the other sciences. It is a prerequisite to developing both organizational and community strategies. For example, some du’aat in the UK were swayed by the draconian Prevent strategy in the UK, because (to give them the benefit of the doubt and what’s most likely the case), they had very little knowledge of the subject, the effects of the Prevent, and how it was tearing Muslim families apart. Because they simply didn’t read the (*right*) news or know their own experts in the community. In summary, I hope you look at this seminar with an open mind, and from hereon realize that spirituality cannot be separated from politics, and neither can politics be separated from spirituality.
Seminar Contents and beneficial points made during the seminar*:
*Note: due to other obligations, I missed modules one, three, and part of module four*
Module 1: the quest ‘Real” Islam
-Defining Imaan, Tawheed, Principles of Islam
-Unity, classical sects, reasons for disunity
-Circles of cooperation (teaching, masajid/school, tackling Islamophobia)
-Importance of unity in the Muslim community, working together (activist and scholars), scholars of the text AND scholars of the context
Module 2: Faith and Reason
-Refuting atheism and agnosticism|
-European phenomenon and the Reformation movement
-The new atheist movement, Islamophobia, justifying colonization
-Argument: why does evil exists, Response: wisdom, appreciate good & mercy, brings us back to God, tests, 30;41, 8:73, etc.
-Argument: proof? Response: the problem is their definition of proof. Signs, gravity, creation, design, temporal life, universe, Quran, 52:35…
-Correlation between Munafiqeen and Atheists in Qur’an (2:55, Furqan:22, Hijr 14-15, Hadeed:14
-Atheism comes down to kibr, arrogance, lack of humility and trying to rationalize everything
-Our intellect is limited, in the Qur’an there are times we need to think, other times we need to submit
-No conflict between Islam & Science, science can’t explain language, conscience, meta-cognition, civilizations, arts & poetry, death and what happens after
-Sh. YQ: I believe in the Qur’an and Sunnah, not science. Science is always evolving…
-Scholars of the text and scholars of the context need to come together….
-Sh. YQ: Global wars, surveillance, drone strikes, airstrikes, all of this wouldn’t be possible without the rhetoric like that of the new atheist movement and Islamophobes. Islamophobia is here because “new colonization” needs to exists. 1.2 million Muslims die in Iraq and no one bats an eyelid.
-Media propaganda: deciphering corporate media VS independent media
Module 3: Islam and the other
-NOTE: I was absent from this portion, so I can’t say much. However below is a summary from the course notes and/or notebook
-Refuting Perennialism; Islam is the only acceptable Deen, Judaism & Christianity is Kufr. (may also be known as religious pluralism)
-He has a talk and article further refuting perennialism, it’s called “Salvific Exclusivity”
-Clarification of verse 2:135
-Walaa and Baraa
Module 4: Modernity and Islam
-Gender roles in Islam
-Sh. YQ article recommendation: “why women can’t have it call”
-The modern phenomenon of pornography
-How the LGBT movement rose to power & influence
-American and evolution of sex in media (i.e. I love Lucy and separate beds)
-Sh YQ’s refutation of Scott Kugle’s “homosexuality in Islam”
-Islam and the Shariah is clearly against homosexuality
-Differentiate between the one who is struggling from sin, versus the one commits it, verse the one who justifies it
-Liberalism as a political philosophy that is often held in high-esteem. Liberalism is debunked in the seminar of its double standards, leading to moral decay, etc.
-Sh. YQ: Liberalism is essentially hedonistic. Things could likely get worse (moral decay).
-Interesting point about change: historically speaking, society doesn’t convert (or change) from the inside. Internal change isn’t realistic. The only change that’s probable is change from the top-down. And history attests to that.
-Book recommendation: a short history of secularism
-Secularism should be viewed as a sect of Christianity. Liberalsim is a European construct. When someone asks why doesn’t a Muslim follow secularism/liberalism, they might as well ask why the Ummah doesn’t follow a sect of Christianity.
-Sh. YQ: Liberalsim isn’t remaining faithful to its ideas. Liberal countries continue to be hypocritical, show duplicity, Sh. YQ gives examples such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc.
-Sh. YQ discussed what he sees as the pros/cons of liberalism and liberal societies
-Responding to reformist Muslims, liberal and moderate Muslims. Sh. YQ has a lecture on this called “A Reply to Progressive Muslims.”
Module 5: Divine Law and Modern Governance
-Analogy: if a martian came to earth, how would we explain WHY we don’t share resources, why there’s hunger, and 5x the amount of resources in one country versus another?
-Three types of philosophies. Tribes/Tribal, Nation-State, and the Ummah. Sh. YQ refutes the former two and focuses on discussing the contemporary reality of nationalism and the Ummah. Nations are sometimes built upon falsehood. Whereas as the foundations of the Ummah are divine.
-Sh. YQ responds to the notion of “support our troops” and the ultra-loyal nationalism we see in some countries. He says that Muslims have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the concept of Muslims’ military and just-war stances (note: he makes a clarification and says he’s not talking about khariji movements, etc.).
-Sh YQ discussed the discrimination and double standards of nation states. States the hierechy of the Ummah is much better.
-Sh. YQ mentions his article that he wrote on an Imam that was unlawfully assassinated without any due process. Brings this as an example of how patriotic states can have oppressive laws that don’t fullfill due process and easily accuse others of treason. Makes the points that ironically Muslims are embarrassed of their own Shariah laws when it comes to treason when they shouldn’t be as these laws are based on the divine Shariah for the Ummah.
-Responding to patriotism. Sh YQ asks a rhetorical question ” are there really American/Canadian values? (i.e. things like wanting an education for our children, integrity, giving back to society) — all nations and people believe in this.
-Another point on patriotism: We feel more of a bond with Muslim, British, Yemeni than sometimes our own neighbor — this is natural. Christians may say the same thing, we shouldn’t be ashamed. Yet, it doesn’t stop us from respecing our neighbor.
-One of Sh. YQ’s favourite books which was banned at one point in time. Book is called “Fighting for your country.”
-Doubts are part of being a human being
-Clarifying doubts and how to deal with doubts
-Returning to the Qu’ran and Sunnah
-The power of du’a
AREAS OF IMRPOVEMENT / WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE SHORTCOMINGS:
There are many pros and benefits in this seminar. However, among the issues that I believe need a second look at…
Contention #1: The LGBT issue
I believe Dr. Yasir’s recommendation as to how the Muslim community should view LGBT issues is flawed and weak. I’d refer him to his colleagues/friends such as Brother Daniel Haqiqatjou, Br. Hamza Tzortzis, Sh. Kamal El-Mekki, Dr. Jaafar Idris, Dr. Bilal Philips, Dr. Haitham Al-Haddad, Ustadh Abdullah Andalusi, Ustadh Uthman Badar, and others who I believe have more principled and creative ways of addressing LGBT issues. To be clear, the problematic things that he’s said about LGBT that I’ve discovered him saying online, he didn’t actually repeat them in the seminar (though it was hinted at). Did he change his position? I’m not sure. In the past, he’s said things like “we can accept homosexuality politically and reject it theologically.” What does this mean exactly? Why even make an ambiguous statement like this that our youth can easily misunderstand? It doesn’t address the problem. And it won’t help us 20 years from now if and when homosexuality becomes more prevalent. Today we can see members of the Muslim community signing statements of solidarity with the LGBT community or having dinners with them. I believe this is problematic because indirectly we’re saying “we approve of your lifestyle, we legitimize it.”
Let me explain something. One of my favorite journalists (and also Dr. Yasir’s) is Glenn Greenwald. He also happens to be an open homosexual. I’ll read his articles any day. I’ll recommend others to read them. We can endorse his journalistic work as a community. If he were invited to a convention for Muslim journalists or a event on Muslim civil liberties, that might be fine. However, to invite him and mention that he’s a homosexual or to collaborate with him on an LGBT issue is a red line our community should never cross. Because it would deliver the wrong message and taint Islam’s position. In some instances, when there’s a lack of clarify in the community, we need openly and clearly state that Islam does not allow for such open lifestyles, even if he benefits the Muslim community. To normalize the LGBT lifestyle would cause significant harm and threaten the Muslim identity and aqeedah. Perhaps the issue here was a lack of clarity. We may separate a person’s work from their lifestyle. Their work we can endorce — but we need to be clear that we reject their lifestyle — especially if Muslims or non-Muslims think we’re being apathetic to it. I ask Allah to give us the courage to be slightly more courageous and principled. w’Allahu ‘Alim.
In the seminar booklet (last section of LGBT) it says “we can speak out against homophobic harshness without considering same-sex unions to be ethical.” I believe this is a flawed and shallow understanding. It’s defeatist and somewhat compromising. Even the Right-wing Christian in America doesn’t take this stance. In fact they’re quite vocal about their opposition to the homosexual culture and more rights for homosexuals. Dr. Yasir Qadhi has defended this stance by alleging that freedoms for the LGBT means freedoms for Muslims in America. And that if Muslims criticize homosexuality, it appears hypocritical because the same constitution that protects homosexuals also protects Muslims.
My response is the following:
(a) There are and have been a number of pedophile and pederast advocacy organizations (i.e. NAMBLA) in the Western societies where Muslims live. If in 20-30 years they, or bestiality, become socially acceptable, will we say the same thing? That we can accept the pedo or beastiality lifestyle politically, but reject it theologically? How confusing is this statement to the community and our youth, and what kind of standards are we setting?
(b) Also, I believe saying ‘more rights for the LGBT = more rights for Muslims’ is a fallacy. Take France as an example where homosexuality is widespread. The GlobalPost says that France is one of the most Gay-friendly places in the world, even more so than the USA. Yet, look at the situation of Muslims. It’s one of the most Islamophobic nations in Europe. Muslims are an underclass. Now one might argue that’s because of the in-activism of French Muslims, but then that’s a different issue altogether. Who is forcing us to say, that we need to defend homosexuality?
(c) As I said, I believe this is a defeatist approach. Alternatively, what we can and should do is find creative ways to debate homosexuality. We need to equip the next generation with arguments as to why homosexuality is a desire and not a lifestyle. And why Islam (submission to the will of Allah subhana wa t’ala) provides us with sanctioned instititions like marriage to fill the voids in our lives.
When it comes to controversial issues, Dr. Yasir Qadhi (hafidhullah) should ramp up the courage to say what’s right instead of making ambiguous statements which appeal to both sides (for example: “I didn’t say homosexuality was wrong or right”), whereas in my opinion, sometimes he needs to come out forthright and say it clearly, while calling out the problems of the system that the opponent in the debate is haughtily defending.
Look, if we were to say that the Muslims enduring airstrikes, torture, and mass genocide, are under severe pressure, we might be able to make the conclusion. Even then, in some instances it’s better not to conform. But, who in the world is forcing us and pressuring us to soften our Deen? Du’aat are supposed to be able to handle heat and pressure. That’s why they’re du’aat.If Christians in America can unapologetically say “we can never accept homosexuality.” What’s stopping us? Do we really ensure that much pressure as those living in the Muslim world? Rather, we’re far from it. And we have the freedom of speech (to a degree). The issue is taqwa. And the issue is courage. That is only Satan who frightens [you] of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [indeed] believers. (3:175). And Alllah aza wa jal knows best.”So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [indeed] believers.” (3:175). And this hadeeth, along with many other hadeeth and ayaat indicates that is within our tradition to speak up: “Kalimatu Haqqin ‘Inda SulTaanin Jaairin.” And Alllah aza wa jal knows best.
Contention #2: Dr. Yasir’s on various Islamic movements
Shaykh YQ did mention some Islamic movements in this talk and in others he’s mentioned a range of them, Salafi, Sufi, Deobandi, Tablighi, Hizbut-Tahrir, Ikhwanul Muslimeen. However, what I strongly disliked is how he spoke about these movements. It’s almost like he belittled all of them and their work. Although in the actual seminar, someone did challenge him on this, and he clarified that what he’s against the staunch groupism that sometimes members of these movements exhibit. Anyway, again, I think in general, he hasn’t really clarified this in his lectures, and somewhat speaks of them in a belittling fashion. So what’s the issue? Firstly, these movements have contributed much to the revival of Islam and Muslims practicing their deen today. In fact, one could say that Islam is revived typically through a movement, collective and organized efforts, etc. Secondly one could easily label AlMaghrib a movement itself. Hence, I think Shaykh Yasir Qadhi (hafidhullah) is better off addressing the strengths of these movemens and also spending more time with them and understanding them. I’ve found his analysis of some of these movements somewhat surface-level or elementary. Movements have provided a vision, serve as an ideological and spiritual front — points that I belive Dr. Yasir could have made and negelcted to make. Although, I will say that his point made in his lectures about the lack of unity and movements misrepresenting other movements is somewhat valid. And Allah knows best
Contention #3: political, civic, and media engagement
Although political engagement wasn’t heavily discussed in the following seminar, I chose to address it. Muslims cringe when community leaders and Imams warm up, display respect, or hold professional meetings with political Western leaders who are deemed to be war criminals (for example: arrestblair.org and warcriminalswatch.org). Muslims cannot comprehend how their community representatives can dignify the same people who supposely mass murdered innocent Muslim families overseas. These are war criminals who massacred thousands of Muslims, the brothers and sisters of the Imams in our community. To show any amount of respect without calling that person to Islam, to share a laugh, or to believe one can benefit from them in a dunya sense may feel like betrayal to relatives of those Muslims who were killed by these very same war criminals. I do feel this is very problematic. There are other ways to engage politicians and governments. And frankly, the African-American and Civil rights movement didn’t gain respect using such tactics. I don’t think any Muslim is against political and civic engagement. In fact, we’re all for da’wah, explaining Islam, holding meetings with those in power to benefit society from an Islamic standpoint…but even those meetings need to be carefully thought out, and strategically done, usually in private. When we’re “speaking a word of truth to an oppressive ruler,” this can be done in public — but it ought to be just that, 90% “speaking a word of truth,” and 10% civilities, not the other way around.
By softening up to tyrants, we are throwing Muslims under the bus whose families were slaughtered by those very tyrants. One may not realize it, but by putting ourselves in a position of humility or allowing ourselves to admire someone who has murdered thousands upon thousands of Muslims — this is at the very least cowardly.No other community would settle for such standards. The African-American community wouldn’t tolerate Cornel West being buddy-buddy with those who systematically oppress the Black American community. In fact, Cornel West has done the exact opposite and has been a critic of the elites. And that’s why he’s respected.
With regards to media engagements, a common issue is when Muslim leaders somehow feel collective guilt due to the pressure from the media and as a result issue “condemnations” right and left. These condemnations are joint statements with signatures in the double-digits or hundreds. But have you ever seen a joint statement that condemns the October 2015 airstrike that killed 42 people in DWB (Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Afghanistan? We even find Muslims sometimes being indited by other Muslims, even before an actual court system has indited them. We ought to consider the circumstances of the Orwellian state we live in that indites the Muslim for simply speaking, and condones the domestic criminal/murder simply because they’re non-Muslim or because they belong to the majority ethnicity. And lastly, I don’t believe appearing on Islamophobic television stations that have been spewing hatred against Islam for years is wise. Especially one that invites those who insult Rasul’Allah, salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam. By doing so we are legitimizing these platforms. Instead, why not collaborate with objective non-Muslim media like DemocracyNow? These are the independent media that deserve our attention and that the public ought to hear about. Aid them, not the corporate capitalistic media that would sell anyone for a dime, sensationalism or otherwise.
On a positive note, To Dr. Yasir Qadhi’s credit, he does call out the brutality of today’s governments on his facebook page. And though that’s a step forward, it hasn’t reached the level in which we as a community speak out when the media asks us to condemn. Facebook & twitter posts are one thing. Joint statements, lectures, and khutbah’s are another.
Nevertheless, the question arises, why do we see many du’aat and Imams, signing joints statements, releasing countless videos when one particular ethnicity is attacked? If we want to address the question of violence in the world, we need to also condemn the extremism of Western governments and state terrorism. This needs to be addressed in order to address the waves of instability in the Muslim world. One breeds the other — you have to address both to resolve the problem. Otherwise, we are being one-sided and we’re failing to call all parties to account.
I realize that more and more Imams are speaking about the state terror inflicted upon Muslims. However, it is still not given the amount of attention it’s supposed to be getting. And even if it is, it’s done cleverly in a vague or general sense (i.e. a side comment or twitter post). Vagueness and ambiguity is counterproductive if one wants to mobilize and wake up the community (to the deen, reality of this life, activism, da’wah, etc.). And this is another reason why unity is so important in our community. If one Imam speaks against Israel or against the LGBT movement, they may get swarmed. But if 10 Imams, or 10 organization, or 10 Masajid speak out collectively, there is strenght in unity. And even if they are swarmed by activists or receive negative publicity. But if they stick to their principles, they’ll at least feel proud in this life and the next Insh’Allah to speak as a unified group/body that stands firm to the principles of the book of Allah, and the way of the Messenger, salalahu alayhi waslaam.
The point of saying “sometimes forces that repel the colonizer bring benefit (Umar Mukhtar of Libya, Lion of the Desert). But also those Ullema who compromise/collaborate with colonizers may also bring benefit too.” The latter statement is extremely problematic to say the least and needs clarification. I’m not sure what Sh. YQ meant, but I wish he would clarify, otherwise, many may misunderstand him.
Contention #4: a lack of vision for the community and allowing the status quo to go unchallenged
I feel the seminar could have included a clearer vision for the Ummah and clearer vision for the community, as well as practical ideas on how to get there. It’s important for followers to understand the bigger picture. And that they are optimistic about their future. They have a clear goal of the deeds they need to achieve in this life (spiritual, political, social) — and in tandem — in order to achieve the next life. I don’t want to use the word “defeatism” or pessimistic regarding the seminar, but there were certain instances where one may have felt like Muslims have no other role or expectation except to live in ultra-secular societies and societies that are becoming ever more liberal. Obvously, I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. However, it’s important to counter the mere thought by outline a clear vision for the Ummah that is parallel to the Seerah. That the same influenced that the Prophet salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam established for Muslims can be established for Muslims today, even if we may never see it. And Allah knows best. We shouldn’t be afraid to be idealistic. We should be afraid of accepting the status quo.
The future of Muslims in the West using models such as the thin social contract, thick social contract, or temporary modus vivendi model we novice. And this topic needs a deeper discussion.
Contention #5: community development and developing the next generation’s skills, knowledge, and spirituality
I wish more du’aat would make the point that Ustadh Nu’man Ali Khan sometimes hints to…yes, we need du’aat who are public speakers. But it’s not the only skillset that Imams should possess. It’s definitely an important one. However, the deed of going from conference to conference ought to proceed with balance. And that balance is that an Imam/Da’i, needs to be there for their community. They need to have a base at their local Masjid, interacting with people on a weekly basis, answering their questions, building their spirtuality, advising them to build on their strenghts, overseeing projects — essentually developing leaders. A tree is known by its fruits. And one of the characteristics of a leaders is that they help develop other leaders who can carry Islam and the da’wah forward. Apart from attending seminar after seminar, there needs to be more than just attending an inspiration weekend program every 3 months. How can we truly develop, cultivate, and instil imaan in people?
That is why, as a reminder to myself as well, I recommend du’aat/activists/Imams, especially now, need to build their skills in three areas:
1. Constantly referring to the Qur’an and Seerah – this is the model and manual for our lives. I was surprised to hear one local Imam saying that the Seerah isn’t that important to study. The Seerah provides the expectations that we can incur as a community. It is the only model and there is no other model. Du’aat and Imams need to keep teaching the Qur’an and the Sunnah (and I’m not just talking about parroting the slogan), I’m talking about actually teaching the Qur’an, teaching Muslims how to reflect upon it, having a relationship with the book of Allah jalla jallalahu, and the Life of the Messenger s.a.w. The Qur’an is a reminder and bring us back to reality. It is our reference point. The du’aat and Imams must make this a real priority, to constantly relate the Qur’an and Seerah to their congregation, to draw relevant examples, parallels to today, using the best analogies and most creative anecdotes. They can only do this is they themselves have a relationship with the Qur’an and Seerah, and if they understand point #2, which helps develop their communication and community skills, and points #3 , which helps them understand what’s happening outside the Masjd, what’s influencing Muslims, and what Muslims needs to do to influence others to call to the sole worship and right of Allah aza wa jal to be worshipped.
2. Organizational development and activism- this can be learned by learning about business, reading business books, practicing business yourself. Management skills are critical for any da’i to have. Otherwise, how else will they allocate resoruces and assign roles to others? Moreover, an Imam must be a person of action. They can’t just be dictating or lecturing all the time. Remember when Rasul’Allah s.a.w. assisted the Sahabah in digging the trench and building the masajid. The du’aat of today NEED to be on the ground, part of the grass roots movement, being an activists and helping build activists. They need to volunteer themselves. They use their Islamic knowledge to instil principles withing the next generation. In addition to contributing to volunteer work by example, they can also hold a weeky halaqah for a small group of potential community leaders, developing their spiritual principles, leadership skills, and knowledge of Allah and His Messenger.
3. Realities of today: Du’aat must understand Islam’s role at the institutional, cultural, and societal level. Otherwise, they will be preaching a secular brand of Islam and a passive one that is satisfied with whatever status quo. As one scholar states “The one who is ignorant of politics is more harmful to the Ummah than one who is ignorant of the evidences, because the ignorance of one who doesn’t have knowledge of the evidence is clear; he will not be listened to. However, one who has knowledge of the evidence but is ignorant of where to apply it will be listened to and misguide.” The issues du’aat, Imams, and activist must learn about are: (a) current affairs whether local, domestic, global, (b) how to analyze those affairs (c) how to differentiate between corporate media, independent media, and propaganda, (d) how to confidently and articulately debate and analyze an argument, critical thinking skills (d) digesting today’s social ill, zinaa, drugs, free-mixing and offering practical solutions, and training other to build projects to deter munkar, (e) understanding the various social ideologies that influence Muslms today (secualrism, liberalsim, feminism, hedonism, perennialism, etc.).
The commercialization and monetisation of Islamic knowledge is something that I prefer to leave between today’s du’aat and Allah subhana wa t’ala. But it’s something the scholars of the past definitely feared for themselves (i.e. taking money for da’wah). If they feared it, then at minimum, we all ought to fear it for ourselves. If the scholars of old feared that relying on a salary might infringe on their ability to speak the truth, shouldn’t we fear it today? What if a da’ee, year after year, becomes comfortable with the idea that s/he should always be paid to speak about Islam. To the point that when they’re asked to do something for free, it becomes unthinkable. What if the commercialization of Islam has led us to believe that we don’t need to struggle? And that we’re supposed to live comfortable lives? Or that when the slightest problem arises, we overact and we compromise (i.e. travel restriction). This is why some scholars encourage du’aat to be self-sufficient by running a business or completing a degree and working in a career. In relation to this, du’aat and Imams need frontline experience instead of reducing themselves to one skillset (i.e. public speaking). One skill needed is grassroots activism, i.e. du’aat and Imams getting volunteer and activism experience in the Muslim community so that they can understand what it means to lead and manage organizations, instead of leaving it to those without a Shariah background. This would also help them work towards unity and establish leadership in the community. They would be respected more because they’re actually “involved” in the community instead of jumping from conference to conference. I’m not belittling our du’aat who give da’wah all over the world — Allah bless them. But they obviously need to balance things and find a way to do both. They need to find a way to use their leadership to build other leaders in the community, i.e. by running a weeky or biweeky circle where students not only learn the Qur’an, the Seerah, the Sunnah, but also have an opportunity to apply what they learn in street da’wah, supervised projects by the Imam, khateeb training, etc. I ask Allah aza wa jal to grant our Imams and Du’aat tawfique and to bless them. Ameen. Because without them surely many of us would be lost. I don’t mean to be overly critical and my writing here should not be seen as an attack on anyone, rather my intention is just general constructive feedback. Again, I ask Allah to bless and guide our Imams, and grant them and their families Jannat Al Firdous Ameen.
Moving on, looking at the Seerah of the Prophet, salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam, it’s well established that our Nabi didn’t just rely on giving bayyan’s, lectures, duroos, speeches, etc. Yes, it’s a part of the da’wah. But to equate mere lectures to da’wah is a misunderstanding. The Prophet salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam lived with his companions, traveled with them, fought with him. They saw him interact with the poor, in trade, with his family, etc. It wasn’t always about big crowds and large numbers — but it was about planting the seeds that went on to spread Islam across the peninsula. The Seerah of the Prophet resembles something much closer to grassroots activism, and not just mere speeches. Our community needs to realize that public speaking and grassroots community work are two very different skills. Both are important. But Islam activism requires consistence, persistence, ongoing spirituality, building people from the bottom up, avoiding conflicts of interests (i.e. always taking money for da’wah).
In conclusion, my goal is to try and be fair. I disagree with Shaykh Yasir on important and critical issues — not all of them I feel like mentioning here. I also recognize that he’s a human being, with weaknesses and strengths. At the end of the day, it is not the da’ee that we place our faith in. They are simply a messenger to connect us to Allah (subhana wa t’ala) and the Rasool (salalahu ‘alayhi wsalam). I ask Allah subhana wa t’ala to guide Dr. Yasir Qadhi. I ask Allah to bless Dr. Yasir Qadhi for the good that he’s done and to forgive him for the mistakes that he’s committed. And I ask Allah (aza wa jal) to guide myself, our families, and the Ummah. Ameen.
Other beneficial talks:
Why do we worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OKEef1_bV4
How to speak to your Lord: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC0KVpJ-qXA
Tawheed and the blessings of Imaan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoUzru2Nf-A
American foreign policy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y8i3hVtUYw
Reshaping of the Muslim world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh9awD5KwNY
Challenges of Muslims in the West: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os0KUKjOJoo