fostering and Sustaining a Diverse Muslim Community (Imam Suhaib Webb & Dr. Jackson: ISNA 2008)
from HAhmed.com by Haseeb
The following are notes from Saturday Afternoon’s MSA Session with Imam Suhaib Webb and Dr. Abdal Hakim Jackson. Dr. Jamillah Karim also spoke at this session but i was unable to take notes on her talk. And as always, the following notes are only my interpretation of the scholar’s speeches - and any mistakes are my sole fault!
Imam Suhaib Webb
He basically stressed three major issues:
1. Dealing with Followers
- Many people are religiously illiterate- and this becomes a source of conflict. Issues of aqeedah are commonly debated in forums online and other places - and this is totally uncalled for. There are no issues over basic theoloy - the belief in Allah (SWT) and tawhid. There is no reason for young Muslims to debate minor issues of theology. We need to differentiate aqeedah of faith and that the aqeedah we study in lessons.
- The golden principle he stressed was to work together on what we agree on and ignore that which we do not.
2. Issues of Worship/Practice
- Let the scholars worry about the major issues that divide us (moon sighting, etc.). It is not our role to do so. He mentioned how he read a letter online by “John from Brooklyn” who was attacking ISNA for their opinion. Who the heck is John from Brooklyn?
- 10 years ago we had Muslims debating whether or not niqab was fard or not, now we have debates over whether or not hijab are fard. Why have we regressed as a community?
- We should not alienate those who dont practice optimally - all Muslims regardless of hijab/no-hijab, or how often they pray, etc. should all be welcome - and not judged by any means!
3. Dealing with Sinners
- Imam Suhaib Webb told this story about a young Non-Muslim American who came to a Masjid to ask what islam was. He was referred to this elderly Arab shaykh who explained to him the three things that were necessary to become Muslim:
1. You must change your name.
2. You must be circumcised
3. You can no longer eat at McDonalds or Burger King
(Note this was much funnier in person because Imam Suhaib said them in Arabic (the same language the shaykh spoke in); basically we need to give dawah in a language people understand!)
- We need as a community to trust our scholars. In the past, a drunk man (while drunk) came to the Prophet for advice. Also a married woman who had committed adultery - also sought out the prophet for advice. Nowadays, can you imagine Muslims who have sinned being open and comfortable speaking to their local scholars about such issues?
- Scholars today need to be literate in both the Deen and The Hood!
- He cited one of the following scholars who said the following: (both are cited in Dr Umar Faruq Abdallah’s article: Islam and the Cultural Imperative, which Imam Suahib Webb cited) http://www.nawawi.org/downloads/article3.pdf
Persons handing down legal judgments while adhering blindly to the texts in their books without regard for the cultural realities of their people are in gross error. - Al-QarafÏ
Whoever issues legal rulings to the people merely on the basis of what is transmitted in the compendia despite differences in their customs, usages, times, places, conditions, and the special circumstances of their situations has gone astray and leads others astray. - Ibn Qayyim
Dr. Sherman Abdal Hakim Jackson
- Why have so many converts like himself, Imam Suhaib, etc. come to Islam - because they were inspired. They saw Muslims who lived lives of tranquility and peace. We as Muslims need to be people who are able to inspire others!
- Nowadays, the MSAs are for the most part either dominated by one of the following two groups (and each have their own mentalities):
1. 1st/2nd/3rd Generation Immigrants from the Muslim World - post colonial mentality
2. African American Muslims - post slavery/Jim Crow mentality
- How to Accommodate and Capitalize on the Diversity of Muslims:
- We have to be aware that Muslims are are different stages of religious literacy, knowledge and practice.
- It is primarily insecure Muslims who are unable to accommodate others. Whereas secure people (like the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) ) are able to deal with all sorts of people from drunkards to sinners to adulterers, etc.
- We are all insecure and need to strengthen our relationship with Allah (SWT) - so that he can allow us to be able to deal with all types of people.
- Islam is not an Utopian ideology. Islam means to deal with anything we face with with DIGNITY. Because no matter what we recognize that Allah (SWT) is in charge
Three initiatives our communities/MSAs should take:
1. Preserve and Underscore fundamental truths and ideals of Islam
- For example - the hijab. We may have sisters who do not wear hijab - and they should definitely be welcomed and part of the community/MSA. Nonetheless hijab is still wajib. She may be at her own level of practice and should not be judged for it.
2. Provide Space
- Recognize the Ideal and the Real. All Muslims should behave/act ideally but we dont. We should provide the model to transform the real to the ideal
3. Keep the Big picture in mind
- There is a role for ALL Muslims. We need to accommodate all Muslims at all levels - and who knows which brother or sister can benefit the Ummah in his/her own role. We need to accommodate the real and ideal; and to inspire one another.
And finally… Promote brotherhood/sisterhood!!!
-When the Prophet migrated to Medina, he “brothered” his companions. And these people were all Arab, mostly from the same few tribes, spoke the same language, shared a common culture; yet he still took concrete steps to foster brotherhood among his companions. What does that say for our diverse community!