Browsing "islam op-eds"
Aug 7, 2009 - islam op-eds    6 Comments

Go back home to your country!

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So onto blogging! :)

Go Back Home to Your Country!


goback

This past week an interesting thing happened that brought up a subject I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. That is the exodus of Muslims from the US back to their countries (or to other Muslim countries). The reason it came up is because a visiting shaykh to the area was asked a question about it and he encouraged all Muslims living in the US to go back to their home countries! He even went so far as to say that the only reasons Muslims were here in the West was for Dunya and ‘to make piles of money’ and that they would be asked about it on the Day of J!!! Now this was said in the richest suburban Masjid in our area where the people are all doctors or professionals and the cars are all BMWs and Mercedes (and I even saw some old uncle driving a really hot convertible to Jumah!) You can imagine the shock and the pin drop silence of everyone there. And then people started arguing saying that they are better Muslims here and that the world is a global village and that it’s not how it used to be with Islamic lands and non-Islamic lands, but he was adamant.

So what do we think about this? :) On the one hand I can see where the shaykh is coming from. I’m sure he gets tons of people that come up to him lamenting about their kids, how messed up they have become and how many have become non-Muslims. No doubt there are a lot of Muslims in the US that have no Islamicity whatsoever after their parents generation. Many even renounce Islam and marry non-Muslims and the children end up becoming non-Muslims. I read an article 10 years ago by Yahiyah Emerick that talked about how we were continuously losing our fist generation and the only reason Islam was surviving in the US was because of fresh immigrants that would ‘refill our stock’. I think if we all thought about it, for every Muslim we know that goes to a Mosque and really tries to raise their kids Islamically we know many more that have become non-practicing and will be completely lost after the next generation. How painful is it for us to learn about all these waves of Muslim immigrants who came to this country even in the 1920s or 1960s and there is barely a trace of them today except for a sign that might say Madina, Ohio. We only have to look to our youth today to see the extremely deterimental state we are in. Do we want the same thing to happen to us and our future generation?

So I always ask myself if these kids and their families would be better if they lived in a Muslim country? There are no doubt the same evils existing there as here and sometimes there is an even higher level of ‘dunya coveting’ and corruption, but the society as a whole tends to protect people from certain things and even if you have a bad apple or two in your children, your entire lineage is not lost because their children have a fairly good chance of being raised as Muslims by the societal culture. To find a girl converting to Christianity and marrying a non-Muslim is rare, but in the US it is sadly becoming common. Wearing hijab, praying 5 times a day, fasting every day in Ramadan is it rare or is it common in the West? And don’t forget statistics say the Mosque-going Muslims are 10% of the actual Muslim population in the US.

But does moving back make sense? What about those people who have no ties to any Muslim country, like white or African-American converts? What country are they supposed to go to? And speaking of which, what country are Muslims going to move to? Saudi has an extremely strict immigration policy as do Syria and most other Muslim countries. In fact there are groups of Muslims who try to ‘make Hijrah’ all the time and are living illegally in these countries. Even if you are legally there you do not have the same access to health care or education as the real Arab citizens do. You can’t even own property. Even if you somehow obtain a work visa and live in these countries, once your working life is over you will be sent back to your ‘original country’. There is no way single women or single mothers would be able to move overseas because the societies are just not built to accommodate them. This is coming from someone who lived overseas for a time on a temporary student basis and that was difficult in itself. And what about all of us who came from minority Muslim countries? (like India or Cambodia or wherever) Why would we just move back to another Muslim minority country? What’s the benefit there? So what should we do?

Some people argue that you can only be a true Muslim if you live in a Muslim country because only there can you practice all of your Deen. Oh really? Muslims in the West can pray, they can fast, they can pay zakat, they can go to Hajj. No doubt there are some discrimination issues there but it is possible. Is there such a thing as Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb anymore? No country in the world practices Islamic Shari’ah 100%. And every Arab country I know of is under a dictatorship. What can’t people practice here if they have the drive or effort in the West?

I think, for myself, having the experience of living in a Muslim country for awhile I can’t see myself moving overseas. I can’t see the Islamic argument for it and I wouldn’t be able to justify it for myself. That’s why when I see these great Muslim families moving overseas it just makes me really sad. They are like so valuable here for so many reasons but over there they could just be anyone. It’s just a big loss for the Muslim community here even if they feel it’s a better decision for themselves and their kids.

I know the New York Times and some other papers (Chicago?) did some articles on this, post 9/11 like in 2002 or something that talked about how there was mass migration back to home countries by Muslims and the affect it was having in certain Muslim type areas like Devon St. /Jackson Heights. But it wasn’t until about 2005 until now that I’ve been noticing a number of very well established good families moving back home. Many families who are here to study and work temporarily are going back home instead of staying like their counterprarts did in the 80s and 90s. If everyone goes back what will be left? If they stayed we could really build a strong identity, culture, foundation and institutions to allow us to be a viable thriving minority in this country.

Is the shaykh right and it’s every family for themselves. Save your family and forget about the rest? Going back to me just feels like the easy way out. When you go back what else do you have to do? Nothing. You raise your family like everyone else. You send them to school and you really don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to be active in the community. You don’t have to teach or do Dawah or anything. (In some of those Muslim countries doing Dawah can get you in a ton of trouble even!) The irony is that many families have gone overseas for the ‘economic benefit’ in these troubled times. (It’s easier for a US professional to find a job over there than here!) So what does this say about the Shaykhs argument about “dunya-lovers” ?!?

Anyway the whole thing is very complex if you ask me. I just thought I’d bring it up as a discussion topic to think about as it’s something I think about every time someone leaves or there’s a new shaykh in town that drops a hugely controversial opinion like this on ppl!! ;)

Jul 21, 2009 - islam op-eds    6 Comments

Response to the usual criticisms

I was all set to write a new blog on a certain topic, but then I received the following comment on a previous blog and thought responding to it would make an excellent blog post!!!

Here it is:

i read your blog (cant believe i did) but seriously some points are good while others are just opinions…next time try referencing from QURAN, what that says about how men and women should behave.. wow anyways your opinions are way too westernized… and it comes under the banner of “Islam of Convenience”

OK so first of all you “can’t believe you read the blog”.  I can’t believe you did either. Not sure what that means. If you didn’t want to read it, you shouldn’t have. Next time do me and yourself the favor of not reading something you obviously have issues with.

As for the blog, this whole blog is an OPINION. I don’t know if you didn’t realize this but:

Main Entry: blog           Listen to the pronunciation of blog
Pronunciation: \blohg, \bläg\
Function: noun
Etymology: short for Weblog
Date: 1999:

a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer ; also : the contents of such a site

About referencing the Quran, you’ll notice that throughout all my posts I will mention points of Islamic reference.  These are not Islamic articles where I’m going to quote Quran and Hadith chapter and verse, although I very well could and I HAVE written many such articles. But my point with the blog is to write about everyday contemporary, maybe controversial topics that affect the average Muslim and myself from an Islamic perspective. Including things about Islam and making Islamic points without using the Khutbah style. Sometimes with all the Quran verse 3: surah 4: Hadith Bukhari #2893 the message can get lost. Do people really want to be reading Quran and Hadith every other sentence in a blog and then debate about the authenticity and tafseer and chapter and verse? I’m sure some do and that’s why we have polemic blogs and forums and websites spreading dogma and debate over issues none of those people are qualified to debate.

Not sure why I’m explaining my Dawah method to you but since you asked there it is! :) Interestingly, there is one blog here that talks about a scene in a movie and the entire blog is actually a condensed version of a discourse by Ibn al Qayyim given by a scholar. Now I could certainly have written Ibn al Qayyim said …kazza wa kazza and listed the Quran and Hadith but it certainly wouldn’t reach as many people as bringing out the points in a way people can understand.

[I also tried this experiment where I wrote an Islamic article that had a lot of detailed Arabic fiqhi technical terms and many references; then I rewrote it completely in English translating things like tazkiyah to purification and salah to prayer and tawbah to repentance. What a difference! I guarantee you there would be people out there who would read the second article and call it 'Bid'ah' or some such thing!!]

Anyway since you talked about opinions, it seems your opinion is that the best Dawah method is through listing verses of the Quran, but this certainly isn’t mine. Yes certain things are my opinion and are clearly stated as such. If you want to read an article about Gender Relations in the Quran you should open up the Quran. Or if you want scholarly fatwas on a particular subject you should go to your local Imam so that he can find out your exact circumstances and conditions and give a ruling.

Lastly you talked about how “westernized” my opinions were and implied that I must be practicing an “Islam of Convenience”. I can understand how people overseas think that. They’ve just never seen Islam except in the way they practice it (or are told to practice it). Anything else is wrong, even though many times they are confusing their own opinions and culture with Islam, just as they accuse us “Westernized Muslims” of doing so. As for those Muslims that live in the West and think Muslims are too “westernized”; I believe what they are really saying is, “My interpretation and way of practicing Islam is the right one and everyone else’s is wrong” (despite even scholars and fiqh that says it’s Islamically OK). This is just a poor and uneducated way of accusing someone of doing something wrong. And to that I would say why don’t you just come out and discuss the issue with a real scholar instead of going around calling people “westernized”. Why do you think your opinion is not “westernized”?

I’ll leave my defence of my “Islam of Convenience” at that. I don’t know you and you certainly don’t know me, but I will say that 99% of the time someone calls me not a good Muslim or practicing an “Islam of Convenience” (or worse names) is because they don’t like what I’ve written because they know it’s right :)

Take care and thanks for the material for this blog post!!

wrong_internet

Mar 27, 2009 - islam op-eds    8 Comments

Islamic Groups: The Fracturing of Islam in North America

Muslim orgs today.

Muslim orgs today.

A number of years ago while I was studying in Damascus, I applied for a deen intensive program that was to be held in Makkah/Madinah. I was tipped off by a friend in a high place that registration would be opening within the next day or so. So before and after classes I went to the internet cafe (there wasn’t any internet at home in Syria at the time) and checked online. The next day after school, the application was up and I spent an hour or two, or three filling it out and even went home and wrote some more stuff out on my flash drive before going back to the cafe to submit it.

I added some things I had pre-written which included an ‘autobiography’ and ‘thoughts on Islam’ and some longer essays I had written before. The application was long and thorough and I spent time filling everything out carefully and really tried to add any Islamic activities, courses, study abroad, classes, learning, shaykhs, references, organizations, everything I could think of that could help me get in. I would say I submitted it at about 5 or 6 AM US time after registration had opened at 12 AM. Over the next few weeks the program and registration was advertised and I heard from many friends who applied as well.

About 2 weeks after I submitted the application I received a polite email that I was rejected, but no reason or explanation. D’oh! You could imagine my consternation. What did I do wrong? Was I too old? Was I too young? Did I not study with shaykhs they liked? But I had studied with some of them! Did I not have any Islamic experience or did I have too much? Was I not active enough or too active? I just didn’t get it. Especially when a number of people I knew and even people in my own community were accepted months after. And I mean MONTHS! Later, a few people (again in those high places) told me that I didn’t know the ‘right’ people and I hadn’t been to the ‘right’ programs.

Last year when I attended a wedding I met a sister who was very friendly and we chatted about various Islamic activities going on in her area. I then mentioned a shaykh that I studied with and her reaction was absolutely priceless. “Him! Oh we don’t do that, we’re ____” After that, cold shoulder, she just visibly ignored us the rest of the 3 days of wedding activities. I was shocked, and am kind of still shocked that any debates over shaykhs or groups would come down to such a level where it influences personal interactions.

Over the last few years we have seen a number of organizations established by various shaykhs and groups. We have Zaytuna, Al-Maghrib, Sunnipath, Aalim, ZamZam, Nawawi, MAS, SeekersGuidance, Fawakeh, Zawiyah, Bayinnah, Sunniforum, Texasdawah, Mecca, Al Madina, etc. etc. etc. Their purpose was and is noble. They want to organize and teach Islam. I don’t discount the good work they have done and how they have changed and revitalized the knowledge scene in North America. I also don’t begrudge the formulation or ‘professionalization’ if you will of these organizations because I do believe Muslims should start paying their scholars and for knowledge in order for these to develop. But what I’m talking about are the side effects of these organizations. At times, it’s just unbelievable.

The amount of vitriolic debate across Islamic forums, blogs, in speeches, in communities is appalling. This shaykh said this and that one said this in response. This organization did this and that one did that. Oh I’m a part of thisgroup, I don’t go to thatgroup. I mean, it gets much uglier than that with words like “kaffir” and “aqeedah” and “islam” and “truth” thrown around, along with specific quotes and incidents. Some shaykhs advocate not attending other’s lectures and classes “in case they get messed up by them”. Some downright declare other teachers/teachings to be heretical. A shaykh who decides to teach at another camp (ie Suhaib Webb) is immediately declared to be a traitor. If you attend a certain group’s classes and courses, you are part of that crowd and enjoy it’s exclusive benefits like getting into certain exclusive programs or forum or mailing list. If you don’t, you’re locked out.

At one point I believed that all the debating and fighting was perpetuated by ignorant, zealous students only, but I know now that’s not true. Each of these organizations has their own agenda and “aqeedah” so to speak and by that virtue even its leadership is involved in perpetuating this fracturing of Islam in North America.

They certainly have done nothing to stop it. I don’t know how you guys feel, but I’m truly just sickened by it all. Ten years ago, Farid Munir likened ISNA – as an umbrella organization, to a mall. In the mall there were a ton of stores and anyone could choose to go into any store. And Thank God it was like this, because the day ISNA decided which stores were right and wrong and which would be closed, God help us. Well here is that day. Each organization has now decided to open up their own store, has set up its own times of business and customers, what to sell and sent out its sales fliers to its exclusive customers. If you are one of those people that are part of the club you are quite happy I’m sure. But what is happening to the bigger picture, Islam & Muslims!! What about those people who don’t want to be part of your club? What about those people who do want to be? What about those who want to benefit but don’t want to join you?

If the groups could just go back to being ‘simply ways to organize’ or if the leaders of these groups would actively try to teach and institute policies to eradicate exclusivity it would help. But what shaykh or group is going to say, ‘Go get your knowledge from anywhere, go to any program , we don’t mind’. The whole reason they were organized in the first place was to do things and teach things in the way they feel is important. But now in order for the group to survive, it must retain its supporters. The group by virtue of being a group, must inherently form mechanisms to perpetuate itself. Thus, the problem is so inherent that nothing short of dissolving all these organizations would actually solve it. But how can we then build institutions and organizations without groups? Physically, financially, organizationally we need them to progress.

The only alternative I see, is for us, we the people, who are part of these organizations, who attend these programs, who apply to them, is to protest. And by protest I mean to stop engaging in the politicking, the argumentation, the this-group-versus-that-group mentality, the my shaykh vs. your shaykh debate, and to advocate for transparency and non-exclusivity. Who makes up these organizations, who attends them? We do. We need to stop “being the problem we seek to change.” Let’s stop being exclusive and country club like and start standardizing some fairness policies. Let’s break the cult of personalities by seeking knowledge for the sake of seeking knowledge, not based on who teaches it or where. Why do we attend only certain programs? Who cares if this shaykh isn’t in your camp, can you not benefit from him? Why do we travel thousands of miles to go to something when there is that brother at the local corner mosque who has been teaching this subject for the last 10 years, when that local sister who knows Tajweed has no students? We need, sigh hate to say this in a recession :), but what we need, is to start shopping freely at the mall again!

ps i just realized i’ll probably now be blackballed from every north american organization, but please just take this as naseeha for the future. check yo’self b4 u wreck yo’self as my students say. :)