Aug 20, 2009 - islam op-eds    4 Comments

What does it mean to be Muslim?

Ayah Aref, too political?

Ayah Aref, too political to be helped?

Ayah Aref on the 5th anniversary of her father’s arrest and detention by the gov’t.

Recently I was trying to publicize an event in our town to protest the injustices going on against Muslims. I described the Muslim response as pathetic and I received replies that people ‘were afraid’ or even that ‘there’s no need to be political in Islam, you can be just as good a Muslim without it’.

Now this is going to sound mean but for people who say that I wonder what they would say if tonight the FBI raids their house and arrests their father and drags him off to jail in the middle of the night, destroying their entire family. Gee it’s OK not to be political right. And then when they become social piranhas to the Muslim community, have no income, have psychological problems and are forced to beg for help from the same government that did this to them I wonder if they would have the same reply?

I really can’t understand where this apathy comes from in our community. It’s honestly disgusting to see. It’s like you watch a man being beat up in the street or a woman raped and you don’t do anything. You close your window and go back to watching American Idol.  Is this what it means to be Muslim? We only care when it happens to me?

What does the Qur’an say about this?

The Qur’an says: “We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice.” [Al-Hadeed 57:25].

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [An-Nisa 4:35]

How can we then sit back and say we are Muslims when we can’t even follow the Quran and stand up for OUR OWN, let alone any injustice to anyone else. When we know that sitting back and doing nothing when there is injustice and need is just not part of Islam. How many places does Islam exhort Muslims to fix the wrongs of society? To give to the poor, to stop taking usury, to look after orphans, to stand up to an unjust ruler, to not be prejudiced, to stop the ills of society, to spread a word of truth, to help those oppressed. All these goals are for social justice amongst ourselves. The Seerah of our Prophet(s) is rife with example after example of how the early Muslims stood up to every injustice and worked to change them.

Yet it seems that we do not care. Our Islam has been relegated to our heart. It’s my own personal faith and belief. No one has a right to “judge me”. Sure no one can judge you, but ask yourself what it means to be a Muslim. Is it all about just prayer and fasting or is there a reason why there is so much exhortation in the Qur’an to truth and justice?

Can a Muslim cut themself off from the entire world and other Muslims and believe it to be fine? Can a Muslim stand by and do nothing while injustice is occurring to others? What is the difference between Islam and other faiths where it is all about belief only? If you believe hard enough you’re saved and that’s all you have to do?

People who refuse to do anything, how can you believe that it is Islamic to act like that towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who are in such difficulties? How can we not want to prevent it happening to others? How can you expect anyone to help you? Do you expect God to help you, when you don’t help others? (after all it might be ‘too political’)?

Now I’m not asking people to run wild through the streets burning flags or whatever, which is usually what people like to think of as ‘political things’ so they have an excuse not to do anything.

Here are some simple things that every Muslim can do in their community.

  • Read articles and news about the different injustices going on just to keep informed.
  • Join the different groups or even just their mailing lists that are working on these things.
  • Make food and send it to the wives and children.
  • Forward and link to articles that talk about these injustices, making other ppl aware of them.
  • Buy Eid presents for the kids.
  • Volunteer to help Muslims in need in your professional capacity, ie as a lawyer, doctor, teacher or psychologist, etc.
  • If in MSA, help organize seminars and lectures discussing these issues.
  • Help the kids buy school supplies or other things they may need for their education.
  • Write to the men in jail or send cards.
  • Help donate money to the funds set up for the families which goes to pay for their rent and food and education.
  • Follow orgs like the ACLU and CAIR when they send out action type items like writing or calling certain people to further a cause.
  • Whenever you see the wives/kids smile and take some time to talk them.
  • Attend the information sessions and seminars on these topics at local Mosques, MSAs or Law schools.
  • Support others who are trying to support the wives and kids, ask what you can do to help them help.
  • Buy new clothes for the kids or mothers and give it to them as gifts.
  • Listen to independent radio stations and shows like Democracy Now and Independent Radio that expose these issues.
  • Volunteer to take the kids to the park or somewhere special.
  • Buy and read the books and autobiographies written by and about these men and the injustices going on.
  • Attend events organized by ppl trying to fight injustices. If you don’t understand the goals or benefits of a particular thing (ie a rally or demonstration) ASK them.
  • Help give rides to the kids to visit the doctor or dentist or to go to Islamic events.
  • Learn more about each specific case and the legal dimensions involved and discuss with others.
  • Visit the wive’s businesses and try to support them by buying.
  • There are a thousand things we can all do within our own capacities.
  • Make Dua for the men in jail and their families.

Now I am going to say the meanest thing I have ever said on my blog: If you personally have never done a single thing on this list or refuse do a single thing on this list, I’m going to ask you if you have a shred of mercy in your heart, and if you don’t have a shred of mercy I’m going to ask you how you think you are Muslim.

Are these things so hard? Why aren’t we doing them? Certainly there are at least one or two things we can do on this list or think up on our own that we could do. Will these things bring down the wrath of the FBI at our door? Very unlikely. Are these things so overtly political that we’ll be branded a ‘freedom fighter’ or worse. NO they’re not.

Even the pagan Quraish, sworn-enemies of Islam, secretly sent food and necessities to the Muslims OUT OF THEIR COMPASSION. Where is our compassion brothers and sisters? Where is our Islam? The Islam of justice for all of humanity, of caring, of uplifting, of ideas for a new and better way of life for the oppressed and downtrodden, of equality, of truth, of fighting evils in the world. Has it become lip-service? Ritualized faith? Are we living at the End-of-Times where we say La ilaha ilaAllah but we don’t even know what it means?

Can you look into Ayah Aref’s eyes and turn your back on her and say she has nothing to do with you?

You’re too busy with your own life right, too busy fasting and praying??? I’ve heard all the arguments and excuses for not doing anything. That people are scared, they don’t have time, they’re barely surviving, they have other priorities, blah blah blah. Frankly, they’re the same things Shaitan whispers to me to prevent me from doing a good deed. Why do we let Shaitan do that to us, instead of doing what’s right?

I know this is a mean blog and a personal one, and perhaps uncomfortable for some people. It’s not personal or directed at any one person. Do not get offended. I’m just a person with a blog after all. Your thoughts and actions are yours and you’ll be responsible on the Day of J. as will I. But I just want each of us to go back to the Qur’an and the teachings of Islam and really think about what it means to be a Muslim. I mean really think about it and then tell me if I’m wrong. Because if I am, I can go back to standing back and doing nothing too.

Wsalaam wrt.

P.S. The pictures from said event.


  • you’re not wrong at all jannah…in fact, every item on that list actually emphasizes the point that we can *all* do something or another for these families and others in similar situations.

    However, just take a moment to view those items on that list…they are all different and speak to people in different ways…not every single muslim can be vocally and actively involved in speaking against these injustices, not every muslim is capable of that, literally. They may actually end up doing more *harm* than good to themselves and others due to not properly representing the true teachings of Islam on this subject.

    I completely understand your arguments, however, and we are definitely NOT doing enough (within our own capacities and limits even) to help these people…and Allah (swt) will judge each person according to what he or she could have done but didnt do…and remember…it is important to work on yourself too..because no matter how much we want change to come in our communities, Allah (swt) also said, that He (swt) does not change the situation of a nation (group) unless they change within themselves…

    and Allah (swt) knows best…

  • Dear Jannah, all I can say to this is that, as a rule, human beings are primarily motivated by self-interest. Not to call an apple an orange, but there’s a famous poem written by a Christian priest regarding the arrest and eventual killing of Jews and others during WWII. Basically, it says, when they came for everyone but me, I did nothing.
    Alternatively, one can look at Newtons laws of motion. An object at rest will stay at rest, while an object in motion will stay in motion. (unless acted upon by outside forces).

    What I’m trying to say here, is that unless we channel our energies into something different than our daily lives, apathy will continue. It’s not just Muslims, it’s people.

    Why else, do you think, that every election, only about half the country votes? Apathy.

    People, when left to their own devices, will usually do what is easiest.

    Regarding your comment about the end of times… I urge you to look up the Monk of St. Denis. (as a history buff, I’ve been reading about the period after the Black Death) You’ll see a very repetitive strain, written throughout history.


  • You’ve got some excellent points there Sis J. I think we are all guilty to some extent, as you say and I hope that with such reminders and with some initiative within ourselves and those in our community who have taken some responsibility to organize such events.With, that we can then make a difference in peoples lives and subsequently improving ourselves, the lives of others and at least in the long-run, improving our condition, so, like that Ayah states, Allah will then Help improve our condition and that of our children and beyond – that is, the Ummah’s condition.

  • Jazakamullahu Khairan for your comments u guys :) Wishing you a happy ramadan inshaAllah!!