Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shaykh Luqman on: The Agenda of Righteusness

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Beard or No Beard; Is it Worth the Fight?

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

As Muslims we seem to not fail to uncover any stone in our search for issues to argue and fight over. Disagreeing is one thing. However, we frequently escalate issues to the point of separation and splintering which is counter to the very foundation of what Islam is all about. “Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty.” 3:105. One recent issue that caught my attention is the wearing of a beard. Wearing of the beard for Muslim men is the sunna of our beloved Prophet (SAWS) without question or disagreement by any of the reputable scholars of Islam. The fiqh position as far as shaving the beard, is that both the Maaliki and Handball schools of law consider it prohibited to shave the beard off outright, but do not consider it disliked to cut off what is in excess of a handful or to trim off an amount that is not regarded as shaving. The Hanafees consider it a prohibitive dislike to shave the beard entirely. The Shaafi’iyya considers shaving the beard to be disliked. Imam Nawawi, in his explanation of sahih Muslim mentioned ten disliked actions with regard to the beard, amongst them is it’s shaving, except in the case of a woman who has hair growth resembling a beard, in which case is it recommended that she shave it off. (Al-fiqh al-Islaami wa adillatuh, Dr. Wahba Zuhaili, vol. 1, p. 308)

Some Muslims have advanced the notion that a person who does not wear a beard should be beaten or punished. They trace this opinion they say, back to Imam Malik. Requiring that someone is punished or beaten for not having a beard is absurd and irresponsible, especially coming from a scholar. Are we supposed to go about in America’s Masaajid, picking fights and beating Muslims up for not having a beard? Or calling them fussaaq (corrupt)? Punishing people for not having beards is not a practice of the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions of knowledge. So if a brother wears a beard because he fears reprisal from other Muslims, is he then wearing the beard for Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala, or wearing it for the satisfaction of the Muslims who taunt him? If he wears it for the latter then this is shirk, and there is no reward associated with it. This is the idiocy of taking issues of fiqh and deen to extreme levels not practiced by the Prophet (SAWS).

In the biographical account of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, he did not have a beard and it is well known that the Imam of the Muhadditheen, Imam Bukhaari did not have a beard either. Imagine the fitna that would ensue if Muslims started to condemn each other for not wearing beards. Oops, I’m sorry; we don’t have to imagine it, it has already begun. The hadith; “Act against the polytheists, trim closely the moustache and grow the beard.” is a sound hadith from Ibn Umar and collected by Imam Muslim in his sahih. Scholars differ as to the wujoob (incumbent), or istih’baab (recommended) nature of wearing a beard and what is its desirable length. They all agree unanimously that it is Sunna. However, American Muslims should not let the issue of the beard be a part of contention between us to the degree of animosity.

Wearing a beard, although a very important part of natural grooming (fitra) for Muslim men, does not suffice by itself as a referendum on who and who is not righteous. There are hundreds of singular acts of worship, sunnans, recommendations, orders, prohibitions, ideologies, and daily habits that make up Islam and that constitute proper Muslim behavior. For example, the hadith; “He who has no character, has no religion”, or the hadith; “none of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”. A person could easily say to the person who has perceived bad character, that he or she is a bad Muslim, or has no deen as the Prophet (SAWS) said in the hadith. However, that is not the way we navigate faith in Islam according to the Quran and the sunna. Otherwise we would all continuously perform moral cat scans on each other to try to gauge each other to see who has better imaan. Such is not the desirable behavior of a Muslim; “Therefore ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He (Allah) is best aware of him who has piety (taqwa).” 53:32

Muslims should not let themselves be tricked by the devil to relying on outer manifestations of Islamic behavior to become the basis of their deen. Yes, brothers should wear beards because it is sunna. Brothers should also, pay charity, honor their parents, raise their children, be kind to their wives, honor their neighbors, guests, relatives. They should refrain from drugs and alcohol, and selling narcotics, they should pray in the Masjid, they should use miswak, they should feed the poor, tend to the single women with children, be honest in their dealings, they should earn an income and not live on their wives welfare check, and they should remain chaste until married.

Muslim women are often fooled by a brother who has a beard, a sajda mark (sometimes fake as I have been told), and short pants or thobe who presents himself as pious, and then marry them to find out he is a monster in a Muslim costume. There are much more heinous crimes and more important issues at hand than that. Some actions subject a Muslim to public accusation of corruption; a Muslim who openly sells alcohol, encourages Muslim on Muslim violence, or endorses racism, or the supremacy of one ethnic group over the other is more of an open sinner that someone who doesn’t have a beard! By the way if you take a look at Sikhs in America, almost every one of them has beards, so do many suicide bombers.

What’s important is that we all strive to assist each other in righteousness and piety and be patience with each other as we work to do good deeds. Lets stop this madness brothers and sisters. Work on your own faith because when it comes down to it; Allah will only ask you about you. Muslims should be careful not to embark upon issues that further separate the umma into factions. Doing such is itself, resembling the polytheists. “Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah,- Those who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects,- each party rejoicing in that which is with itself” , Quran 30:31-32 And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fatwas and the Responsibility of Muslim Scholars in America

by Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Islamic scholars occupy a special place in Muslim society. They are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers”. In another tradition; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets”. The Quran states that people are elevated by their religious knowledge “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.” Quran 58:11 As the preservers, and often times interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Additionally, scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of sacred knowledge; which is to explain the religion clearly and concisely and not cover up any part of it, “Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah's curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse” 2:159. In today’s turbulent times a, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified teachers takes on a special significance for three reasons, the first being; the scarcity of people available who possess sound and accurate islamic knowledge, It was related in the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): 1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). 2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. 3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). 4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse”. The second reason is the responsibility to stand as barriers between ignorant Islamic leadership and the Muslim people themselves; “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to ignorant as their, leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray”.

The third reason is that the world has changed, people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies into one big melting pot in America and Muslim scholars need to help break down barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here. That means that they have to get out and understand what’s going on in the land. Scholars of Islam have to take the added step whenever and wherever possible, to familiarize themselves with the common people, and the intricacies of American life and culture, about which they render judgments and opinions. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their ills is better than the Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their ills” .

Some Islamic scholars find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America, American people specifically, and in the process, Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. Many scholars aren't even fluent in English, yet presume to hold the answers for English speaking people for their everyday problems. Some, due to their ignorance of American culture and her people, and often operating from abroad, have managed to demonize virtually every aspect of American culture and way of life. Sports, birthdays, Thanksgiving, family photos, decorating homes, designer clothing, thikr beads, wearing jeans, baby showers, attending graduation ceremonies, saying what’s up brother to a stranger on the street, being in a good mood during Christmas season, gospel music, wedding rings, visiting graves of relatives, bereavement practices, women entering Masaajid, loving one’s country, and a host of other things have ended up on the haram list of one scholar or another.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. The average Muslim, especially the convert, who simply wants to worship his or her Lord, and live an Islamic lifestyle, is often left in an almost perpetual state of confusion. Scholars, as they learn more about American society alternately prohibit things in one instance and then make them permissible according to their own evolutionary knowledge of our country, our culture and our way of life.

Anti American oratory has surreptitiously made its way into the modern canonical dialogue of Islam. Many American Muslims have been morally blackmailed into having to repudiate American culture in order to find acceptance as Muslims by immigrant scholars. Even today, rhetoric from a minority of Muslim scholars and some imams are replete with anti-American invectives or rallying cries against so called ‘western culture’ or values. It is ironic however, that from an Islamic theological perspective, morality has no hemispheric basis; “to Allah belongs the east and the west, wherever thou turnest, ye shall find His (God’s) Face” 2:115.

Islam for many Muslim Americans has become too complicated to be user friendly. The dozen or so, often conflicting spheres of scholarly influence has created a virtual merry-go-round of Islam in America, and we need to do something about it. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and morality, in the United States, require a thorough understanding of the shariah, the culture norms of the people, as well as the inclusion and consultation of indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia.

The famous 14th century jurist, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people's cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and for indigenous American Muslims, and others who intend to stay here permanently, this is our homeland. We don’t have a “back home” to go to. So we need to be certain that the teachings of Islam in this country are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, or ignorance about America and our way of life. Granted, this is a difficult topic. Nevertheless, it is one that must be addressed if we have any hope from curbing the undercurrent of extremism that still germinates in the minds of some of our youth. As Muslim Americans, our first duty is to our Lord, and our number one priority is our own salvation. We have the god given right to look out after our own spiritual self-interests.

Imam Luqman Ahmad