Ali Never Said, “Do Not Force Your Children to Be Like You, They Have Been Created For a Time Different Than Yours”

Firstly, despite it’s popularity over social media, such a statement was never said by Ali, the fourth caliph and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), nor anyone else from among the righteous predecessors. It is said to be a statement of Socrates as mentioned by Ibn Qayyim in Ighatha Al-Lahfan and by Shahristani in Al-Milal wa Al-Nahl. It was also said that it is a statement of Plato as mentioned in Lubaab Al-Adaab.

Secondly, the meaning of the statement may be correct if it pertains to virtuous acts that are not legislated in Islamic law. Acts which are not religiously obligated cannot be forced on to the children. For example, if a certain non-obligatory virtuous act is followed in a particular time period but becomes difficult to implement in later times due to change in circumstances, then parents should not force their children to abide by it just because they used to in their days.

However, if it is a religiously obligated virtuous act, then parents have every right to pass it on to their children as much as possible and a change in time will have no effect on its obligation. For example, honesty, trustworthiness, leaving sin, abiding by clear and explicit commands of the Qur’an and Sunnah, etc. will never cease to change with time and place. The righteous predecessors used to learn their behavior from their elders as some of the people of knowledge stated:

“Ibn Mas’ud used to resemble the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his guidance, conduct, and character. ‘Alqamah used to resemble Ibn Mas’ud in these things. Ibrahim used to resemble ‘Alqama, Mansoor used to resemble Ibrahim, Sufyan used to resemble Mansoor, Wakee’ used to resemble Sufyan, Ahmad used to resemble Wakee’, and Abu Dawud used to resemble Ahmad bin Hanbal” (Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah 14/618).

In other words, all of these people learned from their teacher, starting with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who passed it on to his student Ibn Mas’ud and he to his student ‘Alqamah and so on all the way down to Abu Dawud. They passed the same key aspects of guidance, conduct, and character down the generations.

Source: Islam-qa & Islamweb

Muslims in the West: Prophetic Guidance on Dealing With Bad Perception & Persecution

muslims-west

Us Muslims here in the U.S. are facing three main problems with regards to our image and rights:

  • Weak political support
  • Bad public opinion
  • Islamophobia

In many ways, this is no different than the Meccan phase of the da’wah during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). They too had the above three problems. As Muslims, I think it is important for us to look into how he dealt with it. After all, he is our ultimate guide.

When I personally reflect over the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and how he dealt with the above mentioned problems, I can recall at least three steps that he took to deal with them:

Step 1 – Always hold on to Islamic principles and values and never negotiate on them

We know that the Meccans offered the Prophet (ﷺ) many worldly possessions in favor of him giving up his religious ideas because they were unpopular. They even offered that they would worship his God for a year provided that he worship their gods in return for a year, which resulted in the revelation of Surah Al-Kafiroon. However, he stood firm and refused to do so. This is important because today we have some people who are arguing that we should change our religion to make it more palatable to the west. They want us to shift our values and principles in accordance to dominant liberal narratives and deny or reinterpret explicit texts in the Qur’an and Sunnah to fit those narratives. But we have clear guidance from the Prophet (ﷺ) to refuse to give up our principles, beliefs, and values just so that it is acceptable to others. We believe it to be the truth from our Lord and we will and must hang on to it no matter what.

How would Christians in the west feel if Muslim countries told their Christian populace that they must give up this idea of God having a son and dying for everyone’s sins and either change it or reinterpret it in a way so that it is not offensive to Muslims? If western countries are going to keep repeating the mantra of religious freedom, then they need to be made to live up to it. We must stand up to the full extent of the law for our right to worship and believe as we please in peace.

Step 2 – Look for support in all avenues

We know that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) made alliances with some non-Muslims in order to securely deliver his message in Mecca. Whether it was Abu Talib, Abyssinia’s Christian King Najashi (who later converted), or Mut’im ibn Adi, the pagan man who provided him protection to be able to re-enter Mecca safely after he was harassed in Ta’if, the Prophet (ﷺ) sought means of securing ways to continue the da’wah and the practice of his faith. This shows us that we should utilize all permissible means necessary to secure our existence and rights in this country. Therefore, we should look into hiring professional PR firms, lobbying groups, having PACs, think tanks, building alliances with other groups and influential people, and raising funds to support all of these tools. This is how in the modern western world rights are preserved and legislation influenced. Can you imagine if we requested all Muslim institutions in the U.S. to give 1% of their budget to such causes under one large umbrella Muslim organization created for this purpose? That’s not asking for a lot. Even if half of them respond, we could gather up a lot of money. By IRS standards, 501c3s are allowed to give a certain percentage of their budget to lobbying causes. PR firms and lobbying groups are not cheap.

In light of the guidance of our Prophet (ﷺ) in such circumstances, we need to build support for our rights to believe and practice our faith as we see fit. PR and lobbying firms and our partners through alliances could help us significantly with public opinion and political support in D.C. The former will be working on behalf of all Muslims in America because we would be drawing the money to pay them from Muslim institutions. There are some Muslims who feel uncomfortable making alliances with groups that they believe hold contrary beliefs to their religion. However, we must understand that aligning ourselves with a particular group does not mean condoning their particular beliefs and practices. When the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) aligned himself with Abu Talib and Mut’im ibn Adi, he was not condoning their rejection of the message. Similarly, if influential groups and people are willing to offer support and assistance in our right to belief and practice, then we should accept that in light of the guidance of our Prophet (ﷺ). However, if a group makes their support conditional on whether we condone their particular practices or beliefs which contradict our faith, then of course we should reject the offer. Fortunately, in most cases, these groups do not make such conditions.

I just hope we don’t become part of the system and forget why we are doing what we are doing, which is what, as some have argued, has happened in to the African American community. They’ve done everything discussed above but still suffer persecution by the government and various segments of the population. Some have suggested that the reason is that many African Americans go into politics and media but don’t do much for their communities or their people. They just become part of the system. Michelle Alexander in her phenomenal book The New Jim Crow states after criticizing the claim that “previous outsiders, once given a chance, will exercise power differently” that [p. 250]:

“The reality, however, is that the existing hierarchy disciplines newcomers, requiring them to exercise power in the same old ways and play by the same old rules in order to survive. The newcomers…are easily co-opted, as they have much to lose but little to gain by challenging the rules of the game.”

If this is true, then I hope this doesn’t happen with us. We should have a clear plan, strategy, and goal.

Step 3 – Remain patient over those who will hate us no matter what

Whether we like it or not, there will always be Islamophobes. Allah has made us aware over and over again in the Qur’an that we will be tested, harassed, made fun of, and ridiculed because of what we believe and this is something that a believer should expect. It is part of the test of life. “You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination” [Qur’an 3:186].

Islamophobes aren’t going anywhere. They will always be around and have been. All we can do is stand firm and respond to their false allegations and that’s about it. They’ll keep changing their arguments to attack us or cherry pick horrific incidents from our communities to show how all of us are bad just like they did during the Prophet’s (ﷺ) time. They used to claim that Muhammad wants to divide families, disturb the social order, etc. in order to make him and his followers look bad. However, the Prophet (ﷺ) remained patient in Mecca and continued to move forward despite their attacks. We should do the same.

How to Put Darood in Arabic on Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in Microsoft Word

worddarood

There is a very helpful feature built into Microsoft Word as explained in a video by Sh. Mikaeel Ahmed Smith. This can especially be helpful if you write Islamic articles, essays, research papers, etc. in Microsoft Word. The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Open Microsoft Word
  2. Type fdfa where you want to put the darood
  3. Hold down the ALT key and then press down on the X key
  4. Now fdfa should automatically switch to 

There are other Arabic shortcut phrases as well. The chart below goes into more detail about those:

chartwordshortcuts

Imam Salaries: Are Imams Less Valuable Than Garbage Collectors?

As a board member and a president of a mosque in the U.S. for many years, I have some things to say on this topic.

The average salary of an imam in the U.S. is $30,000. The average salary of a garbage collector in the U.S. is $33,660. This should show you how much worth we give our religious leaders. I don’t know why some people in our community give less value to an imam of the community than a garbage man [1]. Is this the type of honor and respect we want to hold for a religious leader in our community?

There are mosques that spend millions of dollars on its structure and its beauty but refuse to increase the imam’s salary for more than chump change. Most mosques can afford $60k imams but refuse to do so. Yes, there are some exceptional mosques that really cannot afford it, but I assure you that they are in the minority. A full time mosque with a jummuah prayer can generally afford an imam with a decent salary. Problem is many Muslims have this false notion that since these guys are working for Islam, they should expect their reward from Allah and not the worldly life. The irony is that most of these people would never accept such salaries for their own sons especially if they have families! There is no doubt that they should expect their reward from Allah but being given a decent salary so that you can take care of yourself and your family is a right of every single imam.

Seeking out cheap imams is one of the main reasons that mosques import imams from overseas. It’s purely cheap labor. The other reason they import is because to some of the board members, particularly the elderly immigrant class, it reminds them of their good old days of having an imam that understands their culture and language back home. This is why when such imams come over, they have a difficult time connecting with those who are not of their own country and culture especially the youth. Thus, this imported imam becomes the imam of the Desi uncles in the community, if that is where he is from, or the imam of the Arabs, if the import took place from an Arab country. The rest of the community suffers. Over time, the mosque comes to be recognized as a Desi mosque or an Arab mosque. I would argue that even those that cannot afford decent salary imams should lay off importing imams. They would do much better hiring up and coming imams raised in the U.S. or new graduates, also American raised, who are willing to work for less to gain experience and grow with the community. As the community grows, then so should the imam’s salary. And yes, there are cases where overseas imams have done very well and are loved by everyone in the community but this is not the case most of the time.

I remember in our own mosque when a particular board member and some elders from the community insisted that we get rid of our current American raised imam and replace him with another foreigner in the community “who is willing to work for less and do more”! Of course, the majority of us board members kicked that ridiculous idea to the side. We were fortunate to have many open minded board members but there are other communities who have closed minded board members who would take such a decision in a heart beat.

All of this is nothing but cultural baggage from Muslim countries that immigrants bring with them. One of the crises in the Muslim community is low salaries for imams. Many of them are suffering financially and this is why it is not uncommon to find imams who have other jobs as well, such as, tuition fee for Qur’an lessons, fee for doing a marriage service, etc. Numerous articles have been written on this issue criticizing masjid boards for holding cultural baggage and treating their imams like they do ‘back home.’ If you visit Muslim countries, especially Pakistan or India, you will see that imams are some of the poorest people.

Then we wonder why we have such poor performing imams who do more harm than good and are full of bakwas. It’s because most of the smart and intelligent religious leaders have some dignity and self respect and are not going to work for some chump change. I myself have witnessed in many mosques where the doctors, engineers, I.T. professionals, and businessmen of the community are far more knowledgeable than the imam of the mosque in religious issues but would never work as imams because they cannot afford to. Muslim Strategic Initiative also has some great articles on this topic.


[1] This is not to degrade garbage collectors who are also serving our communities but just trying to draw the point that leaders in our community deserve more.

How to Bring Positive Social Change

social-change

Fighting for social justice is a huge part of Islam but unfortunately is ignored by the Muslim masses. The term has been given various definitions but generally refers to justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, privileges within a society, challenging injustice, and valuing diversity. We are told in the Qur’an:

Oh you who believe! Be standard bearers for Justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, Or your kin, whether it be rich or poor” [Qur’an 4:135].

In another verse of the Qur’an, we are told:

We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.” [Qur’an 57:25]

And it is reported by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that:

Whoever among you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of Faith.” [Reported by An-Nasa’i]

Social change is a huge part of establishing social justice in society. This type of change refers to any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns and cultural values and norms. I’ve been thinking about how we can be part of effective positive social change in the world. By effective I mean that doing things which actually lead to some positive change rather than just make noise or give us a good PR. During my search for answers, I came across a very intriguing comment made by a user on TED Conversations in August of 2011 which I believe answers the question perfectly:

Too many people think of power flowing downwards. The king/president/prime minister being at the top of the pyramid, and making the calls he wants, the rest of us having no choice but to obey, or we could be severely repressed. We can ask for social change, and hope the elite will give it to us, but if they don’t there’s nothing we can do short of taking up arms, right?

Wrong. Power flows upwards. A tyrant’s ability to rule is directly dependent of everyone else’s willingness to cooperate. This is what was discovered by Eugene de La Béotie, David Henry Thoreau, Ghandi, Martin Luther King and several others.

Protests don’t work because they have no coercitive value. Tyrants don’t change their policies just because you ask nicely. They have to be made to change. They have to be made to understand, they will lose more from keeping their policies than changing them.

Protests are still useful as a means to get the message across and gaining public support. You need that to win. By all means, use all institutional devices at your disposition : protests, petitions, marches, letters to the media, letters to your local officials, etc. Try these in good faith. If the government gives you what you want, you win. If he doesn’t, it becomes more obvious to the casual observer that they are ignoring the will of the people.

What changes governmental policies are massive amount of people refusing to cooperate with the system. Boycotts, strikes, blockades… A protest can work if everyone there is resolute about refusing to leave until their demands are met. Numbers have to be big. Arrestations and police brutality is to be expected, but this will just help your cause in the end (“Wait, the government would rather arrest hundreds of citizens who are peacefully protesting, rather than ordering a public investigation on matters of corruption?”)

In the end, if your strategy is sound and you persevere, you stand a pretty good chance bringing about social change in your community.

If we thoroughly think about the above, it makes a lot of sense. The only reason we are having discussions on race problems in the police force at a national level is because of Black Lives Matter protests. These protests are seen by critics as violent, thuggish, uncivilized, etc. because they impacted the public opinion and forced a national discussion on the issue. They were done across the nation in mass amounts with civil disobedience. This is what drives change and public opinion. They were basically saying, “You think you can ignore us? We’ll make you see that we exist and that there is a problem that needs to be fixed!” Today, even though police shootings continue to exist, the authorities are forced to mention issue of race and more of the public is suspicious of the police’s excuses for why they feel they are not at fault. The same can be said about the North Dakota pipeline issue. The protesters have refused to move even though numerous protesters have been arrested and even violently assaulted by police and this has forced a delay in the pipeline project. Their civil disobedience and refusal to comply with the status quo is leading to change and what started as a few hundred people has turned into a nationwide support and discussion over the rights of the indigenous people and climate change.

social-change-2There is also a very interesting research paper written on paths to social change where the author examines three paths to social change (conventional politics, violence and nonviolence) that have occurred in history and concludes that non-violent actions (rallies, vigils, ostracism, strikes, work-to-rule, boycotts, sit-ins, fasts and setting up alternative political structures, etc.) have historically the best and most effective track record. This is exactly why popular social media activist Shaun King has recently called for economic boycott to end police brutality and injustice. He argues, “The protests build awareness, be they on the football field, the basketball court, the soccer pitch, or in the streets — but they don’t build the political and economic pressure required to force the hand of politicians to bring about the change. We need to force their hand.”

Meeting together once in a while in front of the White House and holding up signs is not going to change anything. Let us be different. One example could be regarding the North Dakota pipeline issue is that we can work with organizations that fully support the protest and wish it success. If we are able, we should join the protest for a few days to sit with them and share the same air and face the same trials as them. If we cannot, then we should reach out to the organizers of such protests and ask how we can help without being on the ground. And we should definitely finance it with whatever items we can give to keep it going. Similarly, for criminal justice reform, we should do campaigns against prosecutors who have been responsible for sending most people of color behind bars for nonviolent crimes. They often run unopposed. We should build alliances around these and other such effective nonviolent means that eventually do lead to some change.

social-change-3Finally, there is some criticism over such methods because people do not see immediate change. I think being patient and realizing that true social change takes a long time is key. We may not see the change in our lifetime but we must lay the seeds and nourish it with optimism that it will eventually lead to the desired result. As Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of a non-profit organization, puts it, “Social change takes time…We tend to work as organizations that have calendar years or fiscal years, and social change doesn’t work on those schedules.”