Brother Suhaib Webbs interview in today’s Saudi Gazette
Conversing with Suhaib Webb: A speaker with street cred
Interview – By Rahla Khan
Jeddah’s streets and walls – in fact, streets in several inner-city areas across the Kingdom – are plastered with graffiti. Some of it is inspired by religious symbolism, but most comprises squiggles and slogans reflecting a global theme: disaffected youth giving voice to their disconnection with society and its rules in brightly colored spray paint. In malls and supermarkets, you can see wannabe “gangstas” – youngsters who are completely immersed in the hip-hop lifestyle: its music, fashion, language and culture – patiently pacing the corridors and aisles for the obligatory prayer to get over and for the shops to open again, without bothering to pray themselves.
I’ve often wondered what’s the best way to address them, so that they turn to the Religion for answers instead of turning to the dissolute. Over and above the usual methods of exhortation (Targheeb) and dissuasion (Tarheeb), perhaps they need speakers with street credibility, someone who has gone through the entire gamut of their worldly aspirations and discovered the emptiness that lies beneath such a lifestyle.
Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an online interview with Imam Suhaib Webb, an Oklahoma-born activist, speaker and student of knowledge, who has known delinquency and disaffection closely, having been a member of a local gang and a successful local Hip-Hop DJ as a teen – before turning to Islam at age 20 in 1992. Currently, he is studying at the College of Shariah at Al-Azhar University, Cairo.
Q. Do you feel that the Hip Hop culture and lifestyle keeps youth away from the Deen based on your experiences, and having worked with the youth as Imam?
Suhaib Webb: No! I feel it can be used as an important tool, if guided by Islam, although not a place one needs to stay too long, of course. For many – and I can vouch for myself – Hip Hop was like our first sheikh! I knew nothing about Islam until I started listening to Hip Hop.
So, there are positives and negatives. The negatives are the hard feeling Hip Hop puts in the soul, the hyper-masculinity, the rebellious feelings that come with it, and the misogyny. But, let me state that Hip Hop today, is very different from the Hip Hop I grew up with.
Q. How do you suppose we can get youngsters to move on to an Islamic lifestyle, get hooked to something that actually benefits them, as opposed to something like this, which is addictive and harmful?
Suhaib D Webb: This points to a greater problem. Youth feel disconnected from the Deen (Religion) and some religious leaders are simply not able to communicate with them. As a result, we have two parallel communities.
The reality is that we have a crisis of parenthood. Kids are being raised by DVDs, PSPs, i-Pods and what they need is “DAD AND MOM”. We cannot neglect our kids and expect our dreams to raise them. The mother of Sheikh Mawlana Ilyas used to grab him when he was a small child and say, “I smell the fragrance of the Companions from you!”
Look how she motivated and built his character and later on, in his life, one of his teachers called him and said, “Why do I smell the fragrance of the Companions with you?”
If someone trusts you, you own them – they will be receptive to what you have to say, and sadly, the language of some scholars is not the language of the streets.
We are impoverished to speak to the problems of today: our talk, our language and our methods are outdated and we are like a man speaking a different language to his people. This leads to a hyper frustration on both sides
They (the youth) feel that the words of Tupac carry much more sincerity than someone who tells them that they are washed up losers (without providing an alternative). We are really facing a crisis in our message and inability to connect, so Tupac, being perceived as more sincere in what he says, even if it is Batil (deviancy/falsehood) upon Batil, relates to the pulse of the youth in a fashion that others don’t.
Q. What sort of resources do you feel the youth need today?
Suhaib Webb: Allah has placed so much importance on the youth in the Qur’an that, in Surah Al-Kahf, instead of using a pronoun He maintained saying, “Has the story of Ashab Al-Kahf….”; in the next verse, “When the youth sought refuge…”; in the next verse, “They were youth who believed in their Lord…” Instead of saying, “them, they” they are referred to as “youth” repeatedly to underline their importance.
Youngsters today need the right mentor, the right resources, the right community and the right friends. The word guidance has the same Arabic root as the word gift: Hadiyah and Hidayah. So we have to present things in a way that wins hearts and minds.
There is another point, a trick from Satan (Shaytan) and that is he puts a harshness and a hatred in the hearts of the Muslims (towards each other). So there is spite in the heart, spite instead of love; anger instead of mercy and arrogance instead of humility.
Allah says, “And had you been severe and harm-hearted, they would have broken away from about your…” This is the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions! Our new generation needs a break to feel motivated about their Deen. That is why the negative messages are working with them, the negative messages give them a feeling of identity – this applies to the messages of terrorists as well – they give them a sense of worth.
We need scholarship that speaks to the non-scholar, knowledge that warns ignorance and morals (Akhlaq) that melt hearts. We need style, we need Da’wah that uses all the latest things to motivate and involve our youth – get them designing video games on Islamic themes if that is where their interest lies. We need to instill promise, hope and inspiration through practical education experience coupled with community-based activities that empower and build character. – SG
A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
When I taught the AlMaghrib course I flew back from Houston after the first class. Masha’Allah, first or second time in my life I think I flew first class. First class is no joke, awuthu bilahi min al dunya wa ma fee ha (I seek refuge in Allah from this world and that which is in it). So I was sitting in first class with my V8 and there was a guy next to me named Frank. I was actually preparing for a class that I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I thought, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to turn on the laptop and make the font like 100 so Ben can see what I’m writing.” And you have those interactions every day. I was like “Man, I’m lucky! Finally I get a chance to try out what I learnt at al-Azhar.” This is what Siraj Wahhaj calls “da`wah moments.”
So I turned on the laptop and started typing, “The Qur’an, Allah created us, etc.” That didn’t work. Then I needed to get up, and actually he got up before me and the stewardess was kind of rough, kind of harsh. I said to him, “You know it seems maybe she’s kind of rough.”
He said, “You know her husband lost his job.” So then I realized he’s a decent guy; he asked her and found out that she was a decent person.
Then he asked me, “What’s your name?”
I said, “My name is William.” I say William or Muhammed. Why? Because if I say Suhaib they ask, “What’s Suhaib?” Actually one of my names is Muhammed, that’s a long story, but I’m not lying to him. So I said, “My name is William.”
He said, “Really? What are you reading right there?”
I had an Arabic book with me. Don’t be shy of who you are. People are interested.
The other day I was working out at 24 Hour Fitness and I left a copy of ‘Umdatul Ahkaam because when you are on those elliptic machines you can read. So I was trying to memorize some hadith from ‘Umdatul Ahkaam although it’s not very easy. So I left the book there and came back after about an hour and a half and I said, “Did you guys find a book?”
The guy said, “Man, this is an amazing book. What is this? What is this writing? So beautiful.”
I said, “This is Arabic, I’m a Muslim. You know we have a local community.”
Just that instance of being able to talk to them can make a difference. Arabic has a barakah (blessing) to it.
So when Frank saw that writing, that khat (script) he said, “What is that book you’re reading? That’s not Freakonomics. What is that book you’re reading?”
I said, “Well this is an Arabic book that I’m translating for a class I teach.”
“Are you a Moslem?”
I said, “I’m a Muslim.”
He said, “You know I’ll be honest with you. I have a very bad opinion of you people.”
I said, “You know what? I appreciate your integrity.” He said it in a nice way.
He said, “I will be honest with you. I’m just being honest, man. I have a really bad image of you people.”
What he’s saying is despite all the work we do in the community, we’re very incubated and we’re not reaching people.
So then we started to talk and we got into some discussions, and he is actually pretty orthodox. By the end of the conversation he said, “This is the first enlightened conversation I have had with a Muslim in my life.”
And because of that one conversation now he e-mails me and he will say, “Look, what these people said about Islam is not true.” Just one simple interaction. I didn’t quote anything from al-Azhar, I didn’t tell him, “Well, Sheikh Ali Guma says such and such.” I didn’t say that; I just told him simple things: what’s Islam, who are Muslims, etc.
And you know he was asking, “You’re not terrorists right? You’re not really. Because we’re on a plane.”
I said to him, “No, we’re not terrorists.”
He’s like, “I knew you weren’t.” But he just had to hear it. Who did he have to hear it from? Who did he have to see it from? From one of us.
So every day you pack your lunch and you go to work. That’s a very good opportunity. That’s not something you should be ashamed of, because number one the Prophet (s) said, “The best property is the property of the righteous person.”
The other thing is, as we mentioned, the Companions of the Prophet who were the most helpful to him were affluent. They used their money for the sake of Allah. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a fitna (trial). It’s a trial, but fitna is used to clean silver and gold ore to get pure gold. So that’s a trial for us all. Wealth is a trial.
So there are just a few important points to make.
Number one: As people involved in Cisco and Sun and the MCA (Muslim Community Association), the most important thing is balance. Balance in your life. Allah said, “[Do] not transgress within the balance” (55:8). Especially for young professionals coming out of college; I remember when I came out of college. There is the propensity to get sucked in and lose priorities. The first and foremost priority is to be the servant of Allah. And that job and that money and that profession are used for Allah. If that intention is there you will find Allah will bless it, wallahi. Allah will put a blessing in those things.
I remember when I worked for AT&T there was a brother who worked there with me. Wallahi they loved us Muslims over there. We’re the best workers. We don’t come in with hangovers on Monday. Maybe we watched some cricket over the weekend but other than that we weren’t complaining, “Oh no, it’s Monday.” We were like, “Oh alhamdullilah it’s Monday. I’ve prayed Fajr in the masjid, got my dhikr down and I’m ready to get busy.”
So you see the Muslims are not staggering around like zombies; we’re ready to go. They told us, “We’ll give you a room to pray in.” Brothers were scared to pray, brothers wouldn’t pray. And I said “Why are you scared to pray, man? The land belongs to Allah!”
So we went, we talked to the woman in Human Resources and she said, “I know Muslims. Muslims are my best employees. They’re always on time, don’t take long lunch breaks, don’t talk to girls. They’re focused. Don’t talk to boys. They’re focused people. I respect that. They’re streamlined. You get from them all the time. They give it to you.”
I said subhan’Allah look at how these people look at us, yet we are too nervous even to say our names, instead saying “My name is Mo or Ebe, or Abdul.”
They like us. I remember there was a woman once who told me, “Please wear a thobe. I used to live in Saudi Arabia. Wear one of those white things, those are cool.” Subhan’Allah.
So they gave us a room to pray. By that time we had gained such an affection of the people, by the grace of Allah alone, that we would go and find brothers and say, “Let’s go and pray, man. It’s time to pray Asr.”
So with most of the brothers we had a jama`a (congregation) of about fifteen people. And non-Muslims would walk by and be like, “They’re praying. These people are praying. That’s interesting how they pray together.” They would stop, like you pass by the great Andes rhino in a museum, and they were just surprised. They would all ask us, “Why do you pray like that? You pray like it says in the Bible. Why do you wash? That’s in the Bible too.” And so we start a conversation with people and they start to know us and they start to respect us.
There was this one brother I went to and said, “Brother, come on, let’s go pray.”
You know what he told me? He said, “Allah doesn’t sign my paycheck, dude.”
I said, “Wow.” Deviant alarms started going off. So I said, “You know, brother, okay fine. I’m not going to ask you to say anything else because I’m worried about your state. You keep talking there’s no telling what’s going to happen to you.”
So I just left him. The next day he was fired. I wanted to go to him and say, “It looks like He didn’t sign it this month, brother!”
Nobody got fired from there, but he got fired.
So number two, the second important thing that you’ve got to realize, and I’ve got to realize, in corporate America is the issue of your identity. You have a noble identity—you’re a Muslim! Allah blessed you to be Muslim, that’s a sharaf (honor). It’s an honor to be a Muslim. It’s an honor, a great honor. Sometimes we don’t feel it because of the condition of Muslims. We’re going through some hard times, but remember that Allah called the Prophet (s) and said, “Wala sawfa yu’tika rabuka fatarda – Your Lord will give you what will please you” (93:5). Why didn’t He say wala sawfa yu’tika Allahu? He said rabuk because the Rabb, the Lord, is the One who nourishes you and takes care of you and makes sure everything is comfortable. At the same time it’s as if He’s saying to the Prophet (s), as Imam ibn Ashur explained, the horizons in front of you, O Muhammed, they might be difficult, but I am your Lord, don’t worry, because I am with you.
So when we get to high school, or junior high, or university, and we go home at night, sometimes we need to remember what Allah said to the ummah (Muslim community). Allah said to the Ummah of the Prophet (s), “Indeed this nation of yours is one nation, wa ana rabukum (and I am your Lord).” So Allah is telling us as an Ummah, “Ana rabukum, la takhafu wa la tahzanu ana rabukum – I am your Lord, do not be afraid, and do not grieve. I am your Lord.”
So the second issue is the issue of identity. I’ll be honest, when I was a non-Muslim I knew Muslims. I knew a guy in a high school named Salim Salim. Crazy dude, man. You would have never known it but he was a Muslim. And I remember I did not respect him. I didn’t respect him because he didn’t respect his religion. And I was a non-Muslim! I’m not going to tell you his full name—names have been changed to protect the innocent. But I remember as a non-Muslim I felt that he was a sell-out. I said, “Man, this dude’s a sell-out.” Even though I was doing more dirt than the Caterpillar company, I thought to myself, “This guy is a sell-out because he doesn’t practice Islam.” And we knew about Islam. What Islam tells them not to do, he does it. So I had no respect for him, but when I met a Muslim for the first time who held on to his principles and told me straight up, “I’m a Muslim,” I respected that person.
American people are like that. They respect you if you’re straightforward. No flip-floppers, no John Kerry. Straight to the point.
I remember I met a brother named Ali who became Muslim in Wichita, Kansas of all places. He had a stereo that broke the sound barrier. The brother would pull up to the masjid and the windows would start shaking. Step by step he became Muslim. Alhamdulilah he’s all right.
So I asked Ali, “Brother Ali, how did you become Muslim?”
He said, “Muslims are cool.”
I said, “Cool?” I thought maybe he was like me, you know I read the Qur’an, I read Ahmed Deedat, and got into intellectual debates about Paul and the concept of the trinity.
He was like, “No. Muslims are cool, man. Muslims are cool.”
I said, “Could you elaborate on that coolness?” Let’s get into our core coolness here and try to understand why Muslims are cool. Listen to this, sisters.
He said, “From middle school to high school in Wichita, Kansas there were these girls that used to wear this thing on their head. I couldn’t believe that they could do that.”
I said, “Why?”
He said, “Because of the pressure in my school for them to lose their virginity and dress like prostitutes. I watched those women from seventh grade to my senior year in high school and I came to a conclusion.”
I said, “What?”
He said, “Those girls are onto the truth.”
I said, “How?”
He said, “They didn’t waver, brother. Everyone wavered but them. To wear that in the nineties? The age of J. Lo? To wear that, something had to be stronger than the human spirit. Something had to cause them to transcend popular culture and cling to principles. The only thing that can do that is al-Haqq (the truth). That’s why Muslims are cool.”
I said, “I agree, brother. Muslims are cool.”
He became Muslim and he said, “I never talked to those girls. Those girls don’t even know me.”
By watching a living example of someone in the age of post-modernity, where there is supposedly no “fixed truth”, cling to the truth, and to look how he watched them from middle school to high school; he said, “From middle school to high school I realized that these women were holding onto a higher power. Something that they were clinging to gave them the ability to transcend the jahiliya (ignorance) that was around them and I realized it had to be the truth. So I stopped to ask questions and I found out that they were Muslims.”
You can do that in corporate America. How? By going out and preaching and telling people we are Muslims, etc? No. The most important thing people need now is people of good character. Upright people, righteous people, decent people. People who are not snakes. All over the world people need that, not just here.
There was a brother who worked in a startup in LA. Hardcore with a big long beard, turban or kufi, everything. I’m not telling you to do that, I’m just giving you examples of some people who subhan’Allah are proud of their identity. His coworker was a knockout. As these young people say, she was hot. I don’t like to use that kind of word but just so our youngsters can understand. For those of us who are older, she was quite lovely. So the brother he was pious, so he was like, “Subhan’Allah! I’d prefer if they would give me the old grandma.” But, alhamdullilah it was the qadr (will) of Allah.
So that brother, who was one of the students of Dr. Hussein Abdul Sattar, he made a sincere effort to be a good Muslim, for his own sake. And according to that brother, everyone in the place was hitting on that woman. Everyone! And she was married, but they had no class. The brother talked to her, he respected her, he was good to her, but he never tried to talk to her outside of normal bounds. Then he got a job in Chicago, may Allah reward this brother. This is a true story. He went to Chicago.
After a few weeks he gets a phone call from his old job telling him, “What did you do to the Latina lady?”
He said, “Wait a minute. Authu billahi min al shaitan al rajeem (I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the accursed). I did nothing to the Latina lady.”
“No, no. You did something.”
He said, “Why?”
They said, “She feel into depression. She’s crying at work. She said she misses you, man.”
Now, this brother, no offense he’s not Brad Pitt. The brother, he looked all right.
So he calls her, because they said, “Please call her.”
You know what she tells him? “I’m madly in love with you.”
He said “Why?”
She said, “You are the first person in my life to treat me like a woman. You’re the first person that didn’t treat me like a piece of meat in a butcher shop. That’s why I love you.”
Now I’m not telling you to go to corporate America tomorrow and find a pretty girl and be pious. It doesn’t work like that. But look how Allah blessed that brother to spread the light of Islam to a woman who everyone was trying to do bad things to. The Muslim character comes out.
That’s why in the Quran Allah says, “Washshamsi waduhaha. Walqamari itha talaha. By the sun and its brightness. And [by]the moon when it follows it” (91:1-2). As though Islam is like the shams (sun). The light is so strong that even in the darkness of night it illuminates things like the moon. So even in the cesspool of darkness the nur (light) of Muhammad (s) and the nur of Islam shines on people’s hearts.
Number one is identity. Don’t lose yourself. Don’t lose yourself in this world. Be who you are, don’t live a fake life. Be who you are and struggle. It’s not easy.
Number two: make sure that you find other Muslims in the workplace. You’ve got to have that relationship with brothers and sisters that will hold you together. I remember the brothers at Cisco, and Intel also, they invited me to two programs they did on Islam. Man, these were the best programs I ever saw on Islam. Amazing. The Intel program was so incredible that Intel recorded it and put it on their website. They said, “We’ve never had a program like this, this is unbelievable.”
Why were they so impressed? Because Muslims are doing it. Muslims are doing a good job, Muslims work hard, Muslims are decent people, and they’re on time.
The brothers had formed something like an MSA. Because what happens? What I call PMSA syndrome: post-MSA syndrome. We get out of college, we have all that zeal, we come to the communities and the chachas(elders) throw us out. Young brothers and sisters come out of college and they’re used to having that freedom to work as they did on campus. When they get older they lose that freedom and start to get depressed and down. They give up. It goes from Islamic awareness week to Islamic awareness minute, if we’re lucky. So you have to find other Muslims and create organizations on campus, Muslim organizations that will support you and also give a good image to other people.
The third and very important point is to not cut the umbilical cord to the masjid. You’ve got to come to the masjid, man. Once a week, twice a week, three times a week outside of Jumu`ah. Four times a week, once a day if you can do it, man.
You might say, “But I’ve got kids.”
Bring your kids to the masjid! I’m not going to tell you to throw your kids out. I want to see your kids in the masjid. No problem, we’re a community, bidoon istithnayaat (without exceptions). Just control your kids when it’s time to pray, brother.
And I want to warn you about the trick of letting your kids pray behind you. That’s a trick. There was a sheikh once in one of our communities who used to put his sons between the men and the women. So he thought, “Masha Allah, I’m following the sunnah my kids are going to be all right.”
In Salat al-Taraweeh as soon as the Sheikh would go Allahu Akbar [to start the prayer] his kids would go downstairs and play ping-pong and listen until they knew it was the last raka’ then they would run up and make rukoo and pray the last raka’. Every two raka’. They loved ping-pong.
But one day the Sheikh broke his wudu (ablution). He went back there and… We had to tell him, “Sheikh, we have child abuse laws in America. You’re not back home, Sheikh.”
Take your kids to the masjid. Take your wife to the masjid! Spend the evening together. Go pray Isha together, alhamdullilah. Go as a family. Go to the masjid because you have to have that connection, brothers. You’ve got to have that connection with Allah, because what’s going to carry you through corporate America is not your talents. That’s a side issue. Allah has blessed all of you, many of you have gone to Cornell University or MIT masha’Allah, but if you don’t have that relationship with Allah it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not going to take you anywhere. It won’t take you anywhere. So the third point is to have a strong relationship with your community.
A Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad
Allah mentions the ruling on seeking a livelihood at the end of Surah Al Jumu`ah, “And when the prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” (Qur’an, 62:10) After you have finished the prayer, go search out the fadl (blessings) of Allah. Here this means work, as in a livelihood. The ulema (scholars) said that seeking a livelihood could have the following rulings:
- Waajib (obligatory) for somebody who has to, fulfill the basic needs of life
- Recommended for someone who is not sure about his livelihood: does he have enough to make ends meet? It may be that seeking another job is recommended.
- Makrooh (discouraged); if the person doubts that what he or she is doing is halal (permissible) or haraam (forbidden)
- Haram (forbidden); if somebody seeks a livelihood from the forbidden things which Allah and His Messenger salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) prohibited or it is earned in a way that harms others.
But the general ruling on seeking a livelihood is ibaha (permissibility) or waajib. For someone who has to seek a livelihood to fulfill the basic needs of life, this is an obligation on the person.
The Proof for this is the statement of Allah,
“And it is He who created every thing upon the earth for you.”
Umar (radi Allahu `anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) one day came into the masjid of the Prophet (s) and found two young people, young men. They were sitting in the masjid of the Prophet (s). He asked them, “What do you do?”
They said, “We are from those people who worship Allah.”
Umar (r) said to them, “No, where do you work?”
They said to him, “We don’t work. We’re just righteous people who just make dhikr (remembrance) of Allah. We’re alhamdullilah (all praise is due to Allah) those people whom Allah chose to be close to Him.”
Then Umar said to them, “Wait one minute.” If Umar says to you “wait one minute” that means duck and cover. He came back with a stick and he began to hit them and he said, “Go work somewhere. Go find a job.”
So sometimes we find in our Islamic discourse, especially after the age of the righteous generations, when there was a mixture of foreign philosophies with some Islamic theology, that there is the understanding that being a successful person or being someone who works hard to be successful is something that we should be ashamed of. It is not something that we should be proud of – something that we recognize as a blessing from Allah. But Allah says rizq (provisions) al fadl (blessings). In Surah Al Jumu`ah He calls provisions fadl min Allah: “Seek from the blessings of Allah” (62:10), meaning wealth and provisions are from His blessings.
The Prophet (s) said in a sound hadith to Hakeem ibn Hizaam ibn Khuwaylid, “Hakeem, the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” We look at the Companions of the Prophet (s). What made them unique people is that they were successful. Many of them were successful in this life and successful with Allah. So, for example, if you take the ten who were promised paradise by the Prophet (s) and implant them in today’s society they would be on Forbes’ list of the 50 richest people. They were successful people, and because they were successful people they were able to help the Prophet (s) more than anyone else.
The best example is Abu Bakr (r) because his property and his money gave him transcendence, so he was able to free the slaves, he was able to give charity, and he was able to donate to the battles of the Prophet (s). In fact, the day after he became khalifa (caliph), Umar (r) saw him walking to work.
Umar said, “O Abu Bakr, where are you going?”
He said, “I have to work.”
Umar said, “You are the khalifa of the Muslims. How are you going to work? You’re going to be busy.”
Abu Bakr said, “I have to have a livelihood.” And this is how the salary of the khalifa was initiated because Abu Bakr still wanted to work.
Abdul Rahman ibn Awf (s), one of the ten promised paradise by the Prophet (s), when he migrated to Medina, as related by Imam Al Bukhari in his collection, came and gave salaams to the Prophet (s) after he arrived in Medina. The Prophet (s) said to him, “Where are you going?”
Abdul Rahman (r) said, “I’m going to the markets.” Why? To get busy, to develop some type of sustainable income for himself. The Prophet (s) did not rebuke him. The Prophet (s) did not refute or rebuke him for going to the markets because he knew that Abdul Rahman ibn Awf wanted to get married to an Ansari woman and needed to settle his affairs so we gather from this that that working and making an income is permissible.
Even those people who made hijrah (migrated) to Medina, we see in the Quran and also in the hadith of the Prophet (s) that there was some effort to help of them financially with their hijrah when they arrived in Medina, such that the Ansari who was helping Abdul Rahman ibn Awf said to him, “I will give you one of my houses.” They didn’t go without any type of economic promise or hope of economic benefits, although they struggled.
One of the reasons that we look at the companions of the Prophet (s), is because they represent the balanced model that we need today. There is the story of the Imam who played soccer and was fired from his position of Imam. So he asked his community why. They said because holy men cannot play soccer.
What kind of understanding do these people have about Islam? Subhan’Allah (glory be to Allah), it’s a very strange understanding of Islam. So his job is to eat biryani and mansaf, and die before he’s thirty-six because he doesn’t exercise? Then we say rahimahu Allah, kana rajulan salihan wa lakinahu kana yakul biryani kathira (may Allah have mercy on him, he was a good man). When he dies we say, “Oh he was a pious man but he ate a lot, masha’Allah.”
Maybe we think that the Prophet (s) encouraged poverty when he said “Allahuma ahyini miskeenan, O Allah resurrect me poor.” This du`a’ (supplication) is sometimes used by people to say that the Prophet (s) discouraged people from seeking a livelihood. But as the Sh. Tahar Rayan taught us, what the Prophet (s) means here is “Resurrect me muftaqiran ilayk (reliant on You).” Resurrect me so that when I am resurrected the only reliance I have is on You. We have the term miskeen which is literally somebody who does not have any property and so on and so forth. But also we have the term miskeen for the one who relies on Allah, trusts in Allah alone, and this is the one the Prophet (s) meant.
What other proofs for this to do we have? The statement of the Prophet (s) when he said the best property is the property of the righteous person. And we have his companion Abu Talha Zaid ibn Sahal when he gave his garden for the sake of Allah. Allah said you will not attain bir (righteousness) until you give from what you love (3:92). Abu Talha said, “I love this garden,” so he gave it fi sabil Allah (for the sake of Allah).
Anas ibn Malik, the narrator of this hadith in al-Muwatta, says this was from the most beloved of Abu Talha’s property. So Imam al Baji al Maaliki, the great scholar, in al Muntaqa he says that it is acceptable for someone to love his property, though there are conditions for that love. He described one of the greatest companions of the Prophet (s) Abu Talha saying that the most beloved thing to him from his property was the garden, and this wasn’t to debase himself but this was to state the reality of that person.
Aisha bint Abu Bakr (radi Allahu `anha – may Allah be pleased with her) used to love to wear under her jilbaba red saffron colored dress. She used to like this color because it was a beautiful color. Sometimes we think that the companions of the Prophet were walking around in rags because they wanted to. No, the poverty of the Prophet (s) and the poverty of his companions was due to circumstance, not choice.
Imam Abdul Rahman ibn Al Jawzi al Hanbali had a very strong, very sharp tongue. He said, “Those extreme people if they knew that the Prophet loved to wear the Yemeni dress (which is a very comfortable type of dress) and he loved nice perfume and he loved sweetmeat, if they knew this they would apostate and leave Islam.” He said because they made Islam so difficult they would not be able to fathom how the Prophet lived his life very simply.
As ibn Qayim mentions in Zad al Ma’ad—a four volume masterpiece about the Prophet—he said the Prophet (s) was very simple. Whatever somebody gave him, he would wear it as long as it was not something forbidden by Allah.
Among the great students of the companions of the Prophet (s) some of them were poor because of circumstance and some of them were rich. A good example is the grandfather and the father of Imam Maalik. They were people who had good wealth. Imam Maalik used to wear the clothes of a king when he related hadith. He would send his servants to the people and they would ask them, “Do you want to learnhadith or Islamic law?” They would say to him or her, “We want to learn Islamic law.” Then Imam Maalik would come out immediately. But if they said, “We want to learn from the hadith of the Prophet,” Imam Maalik would go makeghusl, put on ‘ud (incense), put on the best clothes he had, then come and teach hadith.
People actually used to chastise him. Some ascetic people wrote him letters and they said to him, “Why are you dressed like that? Why do you look nice? You should be more pious, you should be like this…”
And his response is interesting. He said, “What you are doing is khayr (good) and what I am doing is khayr(good). Khalas (finished), leave me alone.”
Many of us know Imam Abu Hanifa as a teacher and a faqih (expert in Islamic jurisprudence) who used to relate hadith on behalf of the Prophet. But if you wanted to buy silk in the city of Abu Hanifa the best place to buy silk was his shop that he ran with his brother. So even though he was an Imam he still had his business; he still made money to be sufficient.
Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal once was asked, “If somebody has a hundred thousand dinar can he be from the people of zuhud, can he be a pious person?”
Imam Ahmed, who was the strictest of the four as far as being a person of zuhud (asceticism), said yes as long as the person doesn’t put love for that money in his heart. And this is a strict person.
Imam Ahmed also noted that the qualties of a mufit are five; one of them is that he should earn enough to keep himself self sufficient.
al-Shaf’i used to say, “If I’m busy with the basal (onions), I cannot think about the masail (issues at hand).”
Imam Abu Hamad al Ghazaali, who died 505 after hijri, many times people see him as the archetype of the ascetic personality. But once he lamented, “Ya salaam! (O peace!) There are some people, they made everything haraam and everything difficult on the people until the only thing that you can find halal to eat, if you follow the opinion of these people, is the grass on the ground.” And then he chastised them. He said, “What is wrong with these people? Why did they make the religion this way?”
So the question is what is zuhud? What does it mean to be a person who is a zaahid? And how can we gain this understanding of az-zaahid? Is it a condition related to the physical or to the internal?
As with most of the scholars, ibn Qayim mentioned, in Madarij al Salikin and others, zuhud doesn’t necessarily have to do with how much you have, but zuhud deals with how you handle what you have. Being in corporate America and working in corporate America has nothing to do with your piety. It has nothing to do with your piety. The Prophet (s) said that taqwa (piety) is here, pointing to his heart.
Some people came to me and they said, “Oh you are much more pious than us.”
I said, “Why?”
“Because you sit in the office all day and you read books, and you don’t go out, and you don’t mix with this and that. Masha’Allah.”
I said, “That’s not piety, man, that’s luck. That’s qadr (Allah’s decree).”
But the scholars used to say something interesting about Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. They said that they respect Umar ibn Abdul Aziz more because he had the propensity to do wrong and he did not do it. He had the chance to do wrong and he did not do it. That’s why Umar ibn Abdul Aziz is respected more than others. Those zuhadaa, those people who used to sit in their offices away from the people, they said, “By Allah we respect Umar more then we respect ourselves.” Why? Because he had temptations in front of him and he controlled himself and left the evil things for the sake of Allah.
Another point is where did the Prophet’s companions settle after the time of Umar (r)? Umar kept them in Medina, but after the time of Umar (r), the majority of the companions of the Prophet went where? To the caves? To the mountains? They went to the major urban centers of the world: Kufa (Iraq), Basra (Iraq), Sham (Syria), Masr (Egypt). They went all over the world to the major cities, except for a few of them, and they engaged the people. That’s how Islam spread. And when they went to those places were Muslims the majority or the minority? Nobody ever thinks about this. Islam was still a minority, but they functioned within the society, brought benefit to the society, and by them, the Companions of the Prophet, Islam spread. By dealing with the people. By engaging the people.
And that’s why when Umar was asked who is the best person: the one who flees from the people or the one who mixes with the people, he said the one who mixes with the people. He said the one who mixes with the people are those Allah has tested.
So my point is, sometimes I notice that people feel an inferiority complex because they are in a professional field. Wallahi (by Allah) you should not feel this way. Your example, all of you, is like those Yemenis who went to Malaysia. How did they spread Islam in Malaysia? It was through business. Through dealing with the people, engaging with the people. We are not going to spread Islam through an Imam who sits in an office. Islam is not going to be presented to the people in America if a reporter comes to one of our religious leaders in the community and interviews him on TV and he says, “Islam means peace. Muslims are good people. We don’t do anything wrong, we’re a constitutional religion,” and so on and so forth, and they have no one to talk to or to see. So, by Allah, to some degree I envy you, because you’re able to interact with the people.
The Following is a Chapter from “Oops I forgot I am a Muslim”
Unity is a very hot topic among the Friday sermon. Every Imam has mentioned this issue more then once in his life time. But unfortunately no one has given a practical model how can this be possible. We Muslims are divided in different groups, and the amusing part is each group claims that we should unite and that they are on the path of the Quran and the Sunnah. But we are not united in fact we have divided our self in different denomination.
One thing that can be appreciated is that as soon as a crisis comes to any Muslim Lands the whole Muslims of the world stands up and help the Muslims who are in need. For example it is a known fact that there is a rift between Shia and Sunni. But when Israel attacked Lebanon they faced great retaliation from Hisbullah; during that time I Know there were many Sunni’s who were praying for them to win. The question that we should ask our self is that do we always need a crisis to get united?
No we don’t, due to this reason I will be presenting a framework for unity. If you as a reader disagree, then there is nothing wrong with it. However I would like you to improve this framework or produce a completely new framework. This way we would be doing something constructive and we should be coming closer to our objectives by uniting the Muslims all over the world.
Before I introduce my framework for unity lets discuss a few vocabulary. First if all we need to understand the difference between groups and teams.
“Two or more interacting and interdependent individuals who came together to achieve a particular goal”
“ Groups whose members work intensely on a specific goal using there positive synergy, individuals and mutual accountability and complementary skills”
So if we wish to unite our self the first thing we have to do is change our vocabulary. Instead of saying we are divided in different groups we should say that we are divided in different teams. We Muslims belong to one group whose objective is to Please the Creator of the heaven and earth. The reason why we are doing this is to achieve Jannah. Technically speaking we are already united for one cause.
The question you may ask is why did we get divided in different sect and divisions. That’s simple, imagine there is a small group of Muslims working together. With in that group there would be an individual who thinks differently, or wishes to change the way things are going . If his or her ideas get rejected that particular person leaves the group and forms another sect. As soon as he /she form another group he/she would attract people who think exactly like himself/herself.
There is nothing wrong in forming different groups. The problem arises is after few years these groups are stagnated. This is simply because these groups don’t accept any new ideas. Due to this reason they do not move forward. The only success factor is how many people have joined them and they are satisfied with that.
This is why no group has ever been effective. The only time a group might have been effective is when their founders were alive and probably this was the only time that a particular group could have been effective.
Framework of Unity
Before giving you a framework I would like to give an analogy of a car.. This transportation device has different parts installed in them and in order to develop an effective car we have to have all of these parts working together. You can have the best engine but with out tires or a steering wheel this engine is not effective. You are not going anywhere. Similarly we as a Ummah have to function together in order to be effective.
The first step is recognize that we belong to one group and our goal is to achieve paradise. The second step is to consider our self as teams. There is a team for dawah, there is a team who handles political wing, there is a team for social welfare and so forth. The third step is that these team should develop strategic alliances with each other. Which basically mean to help each other out.
I would like to emphasize a lot more on strategic alliances. What each team should also do is that they should train their youth by sending them as internees to another team so that they can develop a better understanding. What I am basically suggesting that we should find out ways to develop bridges among these teams.
Finally I would like to challenge each and every sect/organization out there. You alone can never be effective, you can take a 100 years, your organization alone cannot bring an effective change in the Muslim world.
By Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
I envy the sand that met his feet
I’m jealous of honey he tasted sweet
Of birds that hovered above his head
Of spiders who spun their sacred web
To save him from his enemies
I envy clouds formed from the seas
That gave him cover from the heat
Of a sun whose light could not compete
With his, whose face did shine so bright
That all was clear in blinding night
I envy sightless trees that gazed
Upon his form completely dazed
Not knowing if the sun had risen
But felt themselves in unison
With those who prayed, and fasted too
Simply because he told them to
With truth and kindness, charity
From God who gave such clarity
His mercy comes in one He sent
To mold our hearts more heaven bent
I envy all there at his side
Who watched the turning of the tide
As truth prevailed and falsehood fled
And hope restored life to the dead
Men and Women through him found grace
To seek together God’s noble face
I envy the cup that gave him drink
His thoughts that helped us all to think
To be one thought that passed his mind
Inspiring him to act so kind
For me this world is not one jot
If I could simply be a thought
From him to God throughout the ages
As revelation came in stages
I pity all who think it odd
To hear him say there is one God
Or he was sent by God to men
To hone their spirits’ acumen
It’s pride that blinds us from the sight
That helps good men to see his light
He taught us all to be God’s slaves
And he will be the one who saves
Humanity from sinful pride
Muhammad has God on his side
So on this day be blessed and sing
For he was born to grace our Spring
With lilies, flowers, life’s rebirth
In a dome of green like his on earth
The following is an extract from an upcoming book “OOPs I Forgot I Am A Muslim”
By Ali Mujahid, Pakistan
We as human being have a lot of things in common. No matter where we are coming from what language we speak these commonality exists only because we are human. On of the commonality is that we all want to be successfull. Nobody wants to be a looser. The only thing which differs is our criteria for success.
Some of us believe that being a doctor or an engineer is success, while some believe that being famous is sucess. Our criteria for success changes according to the condition surrounding us. Let say if we are thrown in the middle of the jungle our criteria of success is not to be eaten by a anaconda or any other wild animals.
Allah (SBT) knows this, due to this reason He has given us His criteria of success. Its given in Surah Al Asr.
The surah say ” By Time. Surely all of humanity is at the state of loss. Except thoes who has belief, do good deeds, invite people to the truth and have patience”
Exploring Different Dimensions of Surah Al Asr
This surah basically starts with a swear, and for me it was difficult to understand why is Allah swearing on time. Due to this reason I started to explore the concept of time; and then one day it hit me. Before going into the surah I would like to share the concept of time.
When I was young I was told about the day of judgement and that I would be standing in front of Allah (SBWT) and He would Judge me. Well being young I was not afraid of standing in front of Allah, on the other hand my fear was when will my turn come. Billions of people have died before me and Allah knows how many people have died with me. Whatever the case its going to be a long wait. At that tender age the concept of time was difficult to understand. I was surprise that even more mature people don’t understand this wonderful concept. So lets start with time
One of the greatest scientist (Theoretical physicists) of our time Stephen Hawking said that time and universe started at the same time. This simply means everything in the Universe is bonded with time.
Time is also the dividing line between the Creator and His creation. Since the Creator created time it is not bounded with time. In fact the Creator is above time. This is why in Islam we are not allow to worship any deity that is bounded by time. Anything that is bounded by time has a start and will eventually come to an end. This is why God does not die because He is not bounded by time. Since God is the Creator of time He is All Knowing (Al Aleem). He can see the past and He knows what is in the future.
Similarly our Universe is also bounded by time. It will come to an end. There are numerous theories how this universe will end. Some sciencetists believe that when our expanding universe will start to contract everything will fall apart. Then there are other scientists who believe that the universe is expanding and it will keep expanding until nothing exists. No matter what school of thought we follow the end result would be like Surah Al Qariah. This is why when we would stand in front of Allah (SWT) on the day of judgement we would not feel anything. Because time as what we know has already come to an end.
So when Allah is swearing on time it would simply mean that He is swearing on all of the time; the past, present and the future. Plus He is swearing on everything that is bounded by time. In simple words He is swearing on everything that He has created; solar system, stars, atoms etc. This is no doubt the greatest swear that any one can imagine.
Who are successful?
Then Allah (SWT) says that humanity is at the state of loss. Every human being from history to the end of time is a looser. Which no doubt is a scary thought. But then Allah says that their is an exception to the rule. There are few people who are not looser. And then Allah (SWT) explains the exception to the rule. The first thing is that you should have Emman but having Emman is not enough. You should be doing good deeds. According to the Surah this is also not enough you have to invite to people to the truth Islam; and then finally you have to be patient.
In order to be successful in front of Allah we Muslims have to be working on 4 qualities. Firstly we have to work on our emaan, then we have to perform good deeds, thirdly we have to call people to Islam and lastly we have to be patient. We will not be successful if any one of these qualities are missing. The most interesting part about this surah is that it gives us a very simple checklist which can be evaluated on a daily basis. Just imagine before going to sleep we could use these four qualities to reflect on our day. Plus we could use these four qualities to plan our day.
Source: Gems & Jewels by Abdul-Malik Mujahid
Ibn Qayyim wrote in his highly esteemed book, Al Fawa’id: “How perfect is Allah! In the soul of man is the pride of Iblis, the jealousy of Qabil, the insolence of the people of ‘Ad, the tyranny of Thamud, the temerity of Namrud, the arrogance of Pharoah, the wrongdoing of Qarun, the trickeries of the people of Sabt, the rebelliousness of Al-Walid, the ignorance of Abu Jahl, and the impudence of Haman.
The soul of man also has many characteristics of beasts. He has the avarice of a crow, the gluttony of a dog, the display of a peacock, the filth of the hog, the malice of the camel, the predatory nature of the lion, the venom of the snake, the frivolity of the ape, the greed of the ant, and the deception of the fox.”
The rigid training of the soul exercises these conditions; however, if one allows any of these traits to linger and prevail, one then becomes akin to the ones cursed by Allah and akin to the beasts possessing lowly characteristics. A person who allows these traits to dominate his soul is not that commodity in the contract described by Allah (The Exalted).
“Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives.” (Qur’an 9:111)
Such a commodity (soul) must be refined by Faith and purified by repentance and attentiveness in worship. the commodity must also be protected from defects or from being destroyed so as to allow the buyer to accept it.
By Ali Mujahid, Pakistan
When I was in 8th grade my econimics teacher told me about scarce resources. The more scarce the resource the more value it carries. Sitting in Karachi one day I started to think which is the most scarce resource in Pakistan. Is it electricity, I mean I have seen some power failures in two years in which we were out of electricity for sixteen to eighteen hours. Is it oil? gas? or any other minerals? Actully in Pakistan like any other third world country we have resources but they are not managed effectively and efficiently.
Eventally one fine day it hit me. I now know which resource is the most scarce in Pakistan. The reason I was searching for this resource is that if I have this resource then probably I would become more valuable.
The resource I believe which is scares in Pakistan and in the Ummah at large is “HOPE”. I know most of you would not agree with me that how can “Hope” be a resource. Well I believe it is, just imagine we have everything as an Ummah but with out hope where would we end up.
Just look at Pakistan,how can we have hope when our president is Asif Ali Zardari (Please forgive me if I am politicking in this article). If you are living in Pakistan and were given a task to go find hope, its gonna take a long time. Because you need a electromagnetic microscope to locate it (I don’t know if there is something like electromagnetic microscope). But Alhamdullila you can find it with a keen eye in the streets of Karachi. For this I would like to share three stories of hope. And I would like my readers to make dua for these people .
The Wind Shield Cleaner
Usually when we stop at a traffic signal in Karachi we find that lots of beggars and wind shield cleaners show up for some change. I usually give my change to wind shield cleaners. Like always one particular night I gave some change to a boy who just wiped my wind shield. I did not even how much change I gave but the boy did something amazing. He took my change and put some in a donation box of an ambulance. Plus he gave some more coins to a smaller kid and told him to put these coins in the donation box of the ambulance.
First of all I would like to request my readers to make dua for this particular boy. He was truly an inspiration. The way he contributed and the way he was training other to do the same. This particular incident showed me that as human being we don’t need big qualification to contribute positively to a society. You just try your level best and hope that your contribution can bring a positive change in the society.
The Guys Who Mugged My Father
Few months ago my father was robbed by two men in a motor cycle. This incident took place outside our entrance in the morning. Few weeks ago my father was parking his car in the garage, when the same theif drove by. He noticed my dad and turned his bike towards him. He came near him and said “Uncle I hope you are not upset with us.” and my Dad said “No I am not”.
Where on this planet robbers feel sorry and apologize to their victims after they have commited the crime. Street crimes are increasing in Karachi at an alarming rate. The question that comes to ones mind is why. Well we will figure the why part some time latter. But I would like you to make dua for this thief, so that he would get Hidaya Inshaallah.
Stray Dogs united Three Strangers
It was very early in the morning I was driving to attend a workshop of Time Management. On the way I say a girl in her school uniform, her age would be probably around 12 to 13 years old. She was crying and screaming on the middle of the road and these stray dogs around 4 to 5 of them were barking at her. Not letting her move form her place. I Immigiately drove my car towards the dogs and parked it between the dogs and the girl. She was apprently waiting for her school. Basically I shouted at the dogs to move them away and asked the girl to leave the premises but she did not move she wanted to sit in the car but I did not want her to sit in the car. You have to understand one thing about Karachi, always say no to hitchhikers, no matter who they are. While I was claming the girl down and telling her to leave she was so frightened that she just wanted to sit in the car. In the mean while another man showed up in his bike. He just said to the girl to start walking he would follow her. Even he did not let her sit on the bike. As he escorted her I noticed her school bus showed up. In a split second another person stood by the car. Non of us moved from our place until we made sure the girl was safely on the bus. As soon as she was on the bus we all departed from that place and moved towards our destination.
I learned a very important lesson that day. As human being no matter how corrupt we are, we enjoy doing good deeds. Its in us, no matter who we are what religion we belong to; we as human being know what are good deeds and how it makes proud.
In these time Hope is more valuable asset we have and we have to find a way to accumulate it and learn how to distribute it. The people who gives us Hope are the people who are closest to Allah, because it is through Him we have Hope. Without knowing Allah surely we have no Hope, and our life would be filled with darkness.
Production: Sandala Films
By Ali Mujahid, Pakistan
For some apparent reason communication is a subject that is ignored by majority of the Muslims. Communication is a very important skill. Any civilization or nation who has mastered this skill has ruled the world. Communication basically means to send a clear message which the receiver can understand. The misconception of communication is that people usually relate it to talking. But this is only one dimension of communication. Producing a movie, writing a book, reciting poetry, or even the way we dress, are all forms of communication. In each of the above cases the sender is sending a message to the world about how he/she is feeling, propagating their ideas.
This skill is not something new. If we look at history you would see how nations and civilizations have used this tool to prosper and rule the world. Let us start from the Roman civilization. They developed huge networks of roads, which were used for communication. With communication new businesses prospered and the flow of ideas became a common concept. After the Romans came the Islamic civilization. They used Hajj to improve their communication skills. Islam was a huge empire from China to Spain. What happened was that each year people used to come for Hajj from all over the world and exchanged ideas and discoveries. So if something was discovered in Samarkand, within a year it would reach Andalusia. This was a great achievement. The other invention that flourished communication was the heavy use of paper by the Muslims. This invention was developed by the Chinese but was heavily used in the Islamic world.
After the Islamic Civilization the British Empire came up and gave us the railway industry. This revolutionized communication. Now people were writing and traveling; the exchange of ideas was going back and forth. After the railway the telegraph and telephone were invented and with these inventions the US started to rise. And then ultimately Internet came into existence and basically changed everything. Besides this, the development of films and television also came into existence which further more enhanced the field of communication. With the help of movies and television we not only rely on voice or text but we can communicate ideas visually.
Mass media played a very important role. First it was used only for entertainment and education purposes. But during the two World Wars it was used for propaganda purposes. It was then realized how effective mass communication was. Mass media literally changed the culture of the whole world. The impact was so high that our clothes, food, houses, even our religion was under the influence of the crew running the show.
So by now you have realized how important this subject is and how much we have neglected it. It does not matter what profession you belong to or what profession you have chosen, we have to learn the art of communication. If we as Muslims wish to rise once more, then we have to develop new tools to communicate or become an expert with the current tools in use today.