Sunday, September 19, 2010


Surah 9 verses 111-115 Al Tawba

111. Verily, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties; for the price that theirs shall be the Paradise. They fight in Allah's Cause, so they kill (others) and are killed. It is a promise in truth which is binding on Him in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and the Qur'an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which you have concluded. That is the supreme success .
In a business deal Allah offered to purchase from the believers their lives in this world in return for giving them lives in Heaven, provided they were willing to fight in His cause in this life.
It is just a method of communicating. It is Allah who gives life and it is Allah that takes it. It is simply a test of the belief of the believer. It is also a standard of seriousness imposed upon the believer. Sometimes the mission is so serious and the outcome so important that one should be willing to risk one’s life in order to achieve it. The task here was the protection of the prophet of Allah so that he could complete his mission.
It was not necessary that the life of the people who entered into this deal would be lost but it was a risk that they should be prepared to take. The task could involve not only the prospect of being killed but also may involve killing others who attacked the prophet. As a job, the job description was complete and the compensation deferred. Many might reject such an offer for they would value the life of this earth but if this offer was coming from your creator it was the deal of a life time. How many of us can say that Paradise is guaranteed to them even if they tried hard to lead virtuous lives. Here there was the certainty of Paradise. How many of us can say how long their lives would be? After all this was up to Allah. For Good measure Allah also says that He is good for His word. He has a long history when He has promised this deal before as evidenced in the Bible and the Old Testament.
112. (The believers whose lives Allah has purchased are) those who repent to Allah (from polytheism and hypocrisy, etc.), who worship Him, who praise Him, who fast (or go out in Allah's Cause), who bow down (in prayer), who prostrate themselves (in prayer), who enjoin (people) for Al-Ma'ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all what Islam has ordained) and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism of all kinds and all that Islam has forbidden), and who observe the limits set by Allah (do all that Allah has ordained and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which Allah has forbidden). And give glad tidings to the believers.
This is not a deal for everyone. I must warn you that the promise of Paradise should not be abused. It should not be regarded as a short cut to Paradise. It is possible for people to set up shop and offer Paradise for getting yourself killed in some cause or the other. Only God can decide who will go to Paradise and this is not always clear to those who offer Paradise or those who accept their offer.
You must prequalify for it and the qualifications are clearly stated. You are not ready for Jihad unless you already doing the following;
1. Believe in one God and worship Him.
2. Are regular in prayers
3. Keep your fasts
4. Talk about the oneness of God.
5. Avoid what has been forbidden and urge others to avoid.
6. Remind the believers of the day of judgment.
This is a very summarized explanation and not to be taken literally but it is intended to give you the sense that before fighting in the cause of Allah you must already be in a state of Jihad of the Nafs. You must be practicing both in a spiritual and a worldly sense what has been demanded of you. The oft repeated mention of “glad tidings”, was also part of the affirmation that to be a Muslim was to believe of the afterlife. The life of this world is but a small part of a soul’s total existence, nevertheless it is the more important part. What you do in this brief interlude will determine whether you are awarded a Doctorate or a graduation or just a pass or count as a failed and wasted life.
Part 2
It is a given that Allah would protect His Prophet until the message was completed but it was also important to involve the Muslim Ummah in this project because there was here a message for all times. No one died because of the migration, but they treated it as if their life depended on it. The wars that were fought between the Meccans and the people of Medina were fought after the migration. So what does it mean for us today?
To me it means that every worthwhile task and mission has to be embarked upon as if one’s life depended on it. To achieve anything meaningful one has to go through a lot of anguish and stress and tension. To give ones blood is to give one’s life energy.
If you look at the environment today, you see an environment that is hostile to Muslims. The dignity, the self respect, even the lives of Muslims are threatened. It is an environment when in many parts of the world Muslims threaten other Muslims. It is a time when Muslims are confused and frequently divided. Confused and divided by the blaring propaganda being orchestrated against Islam. It is not possible to be a true Muslim today without being confident that yours is the right path. That what you have to offer is superior to anything else that is on offer. If you are not convinced about this then meditate on it and discuss and ponder. Islam is not for the weak of conviction.
In this country, it is easy and it is difficult to be a Muslim. Easy because you have the freedom to worship and difficult because you have a very comfortable life style and you may be called upon to choose between putting your life style at risk and standing up for your rights. Having said this, our challenge today is nothing as compared to the challenge of those people who took an oath at Aqabah 1400 years ago. If you are concerned, if you are in doubt, if your friends and family are in doubt, I want you to read the verses from Al Touba that I have quoted today and be inspired. What is the worth of your life whether it is 40 years or 80 years? We all need to have a cause beyond raising our families and being good citizens. We all need to have something that we feel so strongly about that we can invest our combined physical, emotional and psychological energy in. What we should be most afraid of is being superficial Muslims, or half hearted Muslims or reluctant Muslims, especially today when Islam needs our whole hearted commitment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Friday Khutba May 21 2010

I will talk today taking Surah 16 ( bees) Al Nahl as my inspiration for this talk. The sura focuses on how God has not only given life to a human but also the means to live that life. There is an abundance in nature for man to exploit and live life to the fullest. The example of the Bee is a good one, in that it collects nectar from nature and then produces a liquid which is beneficial for all mankind.

Having said that my talk today is about two other aspects from the Surah, one our relationship with Allah which is what life is all about and secondly how affluence can be a curse if we take God/Allah out of our affairs.
Surah 16 Verse 51
Allah has said: Take not ( for worship ) two Gods: For He is just One God: Then fear Me and Me alone.
Verse 52
To Him belongs whatever Is in the Heavens and on Earth. And to Him is duty due always : Then will ye fear other than Allah?

When there is a mention of two Gods, One is the One who has created everything and the other is the one that we have created, whether in the form of an idol or wealth or some other product of our imagination or superstition. This must be obvious to all those who profess to believe in One God, but even those who believe in One God take this belief for granted. This belief in one God defines our whole relationship with our creator.
What is our relationship with our creator? Our relationship with our creator is defined by submission. Submission means acceptance. Acceptance means acceptance with gratitude of all that has been given to us including a lifetime. Submission does not mean submission to the will of others. That is where one takes on others as partners of God. When Allah says Fear Me and me alone, He is not only saying fear me, He also saying that you need not fear anyone else.

We live in a world where we are full of fears, fears for our safety, and our future, fears for the safety and future of our loved ones, fears for our livelihood and fears of not being loved enough. If we are so full of fears then where is our trust in God, what is the meaning of our belief that there is only one God, that whatever is in the heavens and on earth belongs to him and that He has created us for a purpose. Why are we so fearful and what will make us fearless?
Our relationship with Allah should be such that it fills us with confidence and hope and not with fears and anxiety. Confidence is not something that comes from success, it is a sign of the strength of our relationship with our Creator.

Verse 53
And ye have no good thing But is from Allah: and moreover when ye are touched by distress , unto him ye cry with groans.
Verse 54
Yet, when He removes the distress from you, Behold! Some of you turn to other gods, to join with their Lord-

Our relationship with our creator needs to be independent of the world. It cannot be a see saw where we forget Him when we are well fed and remember him when we are in pain.
What is the meaning of an independent relationship? So what of this world which takes up all our time and energy? This is precisely the confusion that comes from serving two Gods. If the world is a test, then it must be a test of our belief that He who has created us, only created the world for us as an accommodation and not as a distraction. It is we who are easily distracted. We say we believe in God and yet we behave as if we equally believe in other things also. We kill, lie, cheat, usurp the property of others, create injustices and do everything that is in defiance of what Allah has ordered of us and we still say that we believe in one God.

Verse 57
And they assign daughters for Allah!-Glory be to Him!- and for themselves ( sons-the issue) they desire!

Verse 58
When News is brought to one of them of ( The birth of ) a female ( child ) his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!

Such is the faith of man that he rejects the favors of Allah whatever form those favors take. So the two step approach to denying the existence of God is one to completely forget Him when all your needs have been taken care of and secondly to reject any favors that with our limited intelligence we have no understanding of.
Little do we realize that the more that we disassociate Allah from the affairs of our life the more we become limited in comprehending what is truly good for us. We start taking credit for our good fortunes and we swagger around full of false wisdom and arrogance in our own abilities. There can be no greater curse on us than to be affluent. I pray that Allah make us all affluent and at the same try I pray that we remain grateful to Allah for providing us with that affluence and by gratefulness I do not mean thanking Allah. By gratefulness is meant sharing your affluence with others. For who are you that Allah should give you more than you need. Allah only gives you greater than your need because He has chosen for you to be an agent for the needs of others. If you spend on yourself what was not meant for you, you are as good as a thief.

Verse 4
He has created man from a sperm drop and lo this same ( man) becomes an open disputer.

I want to talk to you today about the curse of affluence.

1. The biggest curse is that it makes us forget God. It creates worldly distractions. People flock to us for our favors. We are distracted by all the pleasures that we can now afford.
2. The second biggest curse is that it destroys our children. They become spoiled and dependant on the good things of life. They have no motivation to strive as everything is available to them.
3. The third biggest curse is that it creates waste. We will eat more than we need, we will live in larger houses and spend our resources keeping them furnished, warmed, cooled, cleaned and secure, we will have closets full of clothes that we will never wear more than once and we will buy and throw away things at great speed.

The US is today the most affluent country and we can see around us the creeping curse of affluence. There is an unbelievable arrogance that the US today is what it is because of its hard work, better systems and superior planning. No one recognizes, not even most of the people sitting in this congregation today that the US inherited a land so rich and full of natural resources that no nation in the world can ever hope to match it. The native American inherited the land and did nothing with it. The European settlers exploited its resources to the full and created a thriving nation but now you see evidence of a fatal disease. As the great consumer society intent on living it up, the US Is fast becoming a burden on the world. It has accumulated debts that it will never be able to pay and it has amassed an army to threaten people who want their money back. It represents 5% of the population of the world and it consumes 25 % of the world’s resources.
It is not my intent t run down the US. We all have a vested interest in making sure that it is a fit place to bring up our children but it provides a spectacular example of what can happen to each one of us if we lose our bearings with God.

Affluence does not lead to a satiation of our desires it creates an insatiable need to become more affluent, we become more addicted to the so called good things of life rather than less. We lose our relationship with God, we lose our children and we become wasteful, lazy and self indulgent.

Verse 9
And unto Allah leads straight the way but there are ways that turn aside: if Allah had willed. He could have guided all of you.

I am not advocating poverty but I am advocating poverty of the soul. When one day we stand before our Lord and account for what He gave us and what we did with it, How will we explain our excesses, how will we account for eating out of that which was given to us for others, how will explain how we refused guidance and lost our way and then committed even greater sins then we would have had we not taken the road prohibited to us.

It is the subject of another Khutba, where I can dwell upon how to be poor and dependant can be a curse greater than to be rich and affluent. I am not therefore saying choose the middle path be neither rich nor poor. We must all strive to do the utmost with our energies but we cannot give ourselves any credit for our worldly successes. All that we have is provided for us by our creator.

Verse 8
And (he has created ) horses, mules and donkeys for you to ride and use for show. And He has created ( other) things of which ye have no knowledge.

One day you will be given credit for not foolishly taking the credit that only belongs to God. Why do we wish to cheat God. He does not need the credit but He would wish us to be wise enough to know that the surest way to lose our way is to delude ourselves.
Let us pray that we remain humble enough to continue receiving the guidance that will allow us to be good human beings, that we fulfill our duties without fear of others and that we remain poor in spirit even when we are rich and patient and committed even when we are poor.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Friday Khutba, July 2009- Stoning to death for adultery.

I had the opportunity recently, while in Karachi to listen to a two hour commentary on Islamic punishment. Included in the talk were the Hudood laws. The talk was given by Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi a man who gained prominence during the time of General Zia and helped draft the much debated Hudood ordinance. Punishments included the chopping of hands, whipping and the stoning to death for adultery. I remained unconvinced as to the reasons for bringing back these punishments although, Dr. Ghazi came across as a learned and reasoned advocate. One thing that I was struck by was that among the 5 protections mentioned by Dr. Ghazi to justify these punishments was the protection of the Nasl. In other words the next generation. ( other protections included, protection of Deen and protection of Maal)

The institution of marriage was man’s vehicle to make sure that the highest and most exclusive priority was given to making sure that humans evolved into a better species and that this responsibility was given the greatest importance. This was in keeping with Allah’s design because He had made sure that the combination of hormones was such that men and women would die to mate and go through all the rituals that the animal world went into in order to select a suitable partner to procreate with.

The prohibition of Adultery and the severe punishment for it advocated in the Quran is a strong indicator that the institution of marriage requires fidelity and focus. Men must lower their gaze and women hide their beauty until they are ready to form a bond in marriage otherwise the result would be pregnancies outside of marriage as we are witnessing in the Society that we live in. The result is not just children outside of marriage but also children having children. It is a breakup of the institution of marriage and the environment of bringing up children within it which results in children being brought up as directionless orphans.

Our sacred duty is to bring forth the next generation. So much of our time and energy is devoted to this function. No one bears a greater burden of this than the female of the species. Less than a hundred years ago it was not uncommon for mothers to die young at childbirth. Now they survive and become champions of their off spring. No one pursues this with more energy and single mindedness then the female. No one deserves more respect and recognition for this than the woman.

The male is a hapless creature who struts around in all his glory unaware of the great conspiracy to steal his genes. He is seduced by the wiles of the female and then happlily or reluctantly submits himself to the responsibilities of fatherhood. In the grand design of Allah men have been more severely tested then women with the Fitnah of women. Allah has made women very desirable to men but has forbidden them to cast even a second glance at them.
Prophet Mohammed said,” I have left behind no Fitnah more harmful to men than women.” ( Bukhari and Muslim).

If one were to remove the restriction of adultery then men more than women will be happy consumers of it. A very large number of them would want all the pleasures of sex and none of the responsibilities of marriage. Sex becomes a Fitnah when you submit yourself to its desire not when you harness it as a means of achieving a higher purpose. You can either treat sex as a bodily function the same way as going to the bathroom to get rid of impurities or you can elevate it to the level of spirituality.

The responsibility of women in this respect should not be underestimated. They too have the Fitnah of making themselves appear attractive and desirable. A recent survey has revealed Almost three-quarters of South Korean male office workers feel uncomfortable when female colleagues show too much leg or cleavage in the workplace. A poll of 1,254 employees by the job portal site CareerNet found that 74 percent of men felt upset with the attire of their female co-workers. The Hijab is therefore not a symbol of the oppression of women as is thought in Western society but a sign of their respect for men.

Very few of us will become nation builders or great philosophers or inventors but every one of us will get a chance to be parents. Rich and poor, successful or unsuccessful, marriage and parenthood is within the grasp of each one of us and therefore it is the great common denominator. One of the measures of how we are all equal in the eyes of Allah is in the equal opportunity to form partnerships to bring forward the next generation. In this we may be satisfying our needs but we are also doing Allah’s work.

I want to emphasize that Marriage is built for creating a family unit not just for companionship. Companionship is essential to the stability of the union not just for its own sake. The faithfulness of the man to the woman and vice versa is also an essential feature of marriage. Infidelity and adultery distracts the focus of the marriage from being a family unit.
They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them. (2:187)
Just as a garment hides our nakedness, so do husband and wife, by entering into the relationship of marriage, secure each other's chastity. The garment gives comfort to the body; so does the husband find comfort in his wife's company and she in his. "The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." Islam does not consider woman "an instrument of the Devil", but rather the Qur'an calls her muhsana - a fortress against Satan because a good woman, by marrying a man, helps him keep to the path of rectitude in his life. It is for this reason that marriage was considered by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as a most virtuous act. He said: "When a man marries, he has completed one half of his religion." He enjoined matrimony on Muslims by saying: "Marriage is part of my way and whoever keeps away from my way is not from me (i.e. is not my follower)." The Qur'an has given the raison d'ĂȘtre of marriage in the following words:
And among His signs is this, that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (30:21)
Here the Quran is focusing on the positives of marriage both for the man and the woman but there is also a need to focus on preserving the institution from temptations that both men and women can fall into and one of them is Adultery. So important was marriage to Society that the harshest punishment was prescribed for unfaithfulness. There can be nothing harsher than death and nothing more painful than being stoned to death.
I am not advocating here the revival of this punishment as Dr. Ghazi was and I can go into lengthy arguments as to why I am not advocating it but that is another subject for another time. What I am emphasizing is that if Society wants to promote the institution of Marriage then Society must insist on suitable laws for it. American Society is so focused on the rights of Individuals that it cannot be a champion of marriage. American Society is therefore already experiencing the breakup of the marital institution. That this poses a serious threat to its next generation is not adequately recognized.
The preservation of “Nasl” as a sacred duty does not stop at having children, its focus is on making an attempt to improve the next generation. For this it is not enough to think that a man and a woman trying their level best to form the best family unit and to give the best upbringing can bring about the desired result. Let us not forget the partnership with Allah. Let us not forget that Allah has His own plans for each individual and that we must submit to those plans. The conscious participation of Allah in the institution of Marriage is Islam’s unique contribution to mans thinking on this subject. Trying our best, as we know it, is part of our test but the results are not assured.
I have tried to explain today the background of the punishment for Adultery in Islam. In today’s world with all its complexities there may be problems in executing this punishment and at the same time ensuring that the poor are not singled out for this punishment while the rich continue to evade punishment and therefore practice adultery without fear of mans law. Punishments under Sharia were and are intended to deter and discourage certain types of undesirable activity. Would be adulterers are more likely to be discouraged if they thought that they would be stoned to death rather than incur the wrath of their spouse. I am conscious that I have not recommended a suitable punishment for adultery in the modern world except to say that it should be strict an exemplary but I hope that I have stressed that adultery is a crime against society and not a question of individual morality.
Sharia can be well implemented or poorly implemented. Sharia poorly implemented may be worse than sharia not implemented because it does not achieve its purpose and further gives a bad name to Islam. In Muslim countries the implementation of Sharia has been half hearted and done without much thought to how the existing systems may end up sabotaging it.
I have also tried to explain that Western Society while understanding the importance of marriage is far too focused on Individualism and protecting the rights of individuals. This has caused an irreconcilable conflict in which marriage has become the victim. The marital parties are more focused on their individual wishes and thus ill prepared to forming a healthy unit. They are also far too distracted by not imposing enough restrictions on themselves against adultery and the most common cause for the breakup of a marriage then becomes infidelity.
The overall loser in all of this then becomes the Nasl. We are witness today of a generation of next Americans who are not as well educated, obese and spoiled by the good life and most importantly less likely to be successful in their marriages. The divorce rate keeps climbing and in spite of their best efforts to care for his children and her children, the end result is a society where men and women are finding it very difficult to form lasting relationships. Muslim families have an opportunity to bring up children who can contribute to a healthy America if they hold on to the values emphasized by Islam.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Marriage Khutba-Nov 28, 2008


There are a vast number of books written on the subject of choosing a partner for marriage, how to make a marriage successful or how to repair a marriage once it becomes unsuccessful. There is not enough said, until recently, about how Islam looks at these issues, specially in the context of the contemporary issues that are faced by Muslims. Those of us living in the US have special challenges because we are exposed to many influences which may lead us to an un Islamic solution.

Let me mention just four influences with which we interact almost on a daily basis, which on the face of it seem to be progressive influences.

The sexual revolution brought about by contraception.
The Feminist movement brought about by the discrimination against women.
The increasing economic independence of women brought on as a subset of the feminist movement and the challenges of trying for a better standard of living.
The gay and lesbian movement brought about by the strong advocacy of gays and lesbians to promote homosexuality as a normal way of life.

It is not my intent in this Khutba to dwell upon the pros and cons of these movements but simply to point out that these influences have for ever changed the life style of societies, particularly the society that we live in. Magazines, Movies, TV shows, Newspapers, College courses are full of them and subliminally advocate their pros without sufficiently warning us about their side effects.

For a Muslim it becomes doubly important to keep going back to the teachings of Islam to hold on to our values and be guided by Islam so that we can lead Muslim lives. Today what I want to address is the subject of Marriage both in the context of Islam as well as in the context of the challenges that are faced by Muslims living in the US.

Muslim women today are better educated, more economically independent, and have a greater say in who they will marry than before. Muslim men have largely but not completely adjusted to how this impacts their relations within a marriage.

The Institution of marriage itself has taken a big hit in the US not only amongst non Muslims but Muslims as well.

Divorce is on the rise in the Muslim community, especially in the West. According to a study conducted by Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a sociology professor at State University of New York, the overall divorce rate among Muslims in North America is at an astounding 31%. The state of California ranks highest with a 37% rate of divorce and New York, Ontario, and Texas follow closely with a 30% rate. Compared to the overall rate of divorce in the U.S. (49%) and Canada (45%), the increasing rate of divorce among Muslims is cause for alarm.

Dr. Ekram explained at a recent Muslim American Society (MAS) Family Development workshop in Sacramento.
We live in a culture of boyfriends and girlfriends, and youth want that kind of relationship so bad they ask to marry. They think they’re ready for marriage, but really they are seeing it as a replacement for the no-dating rule in Islam. Marriage comes with more obligation than this,”
According to Dr. Maher Hathout, senior advisor at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles, the rise in Muslim divorce rates can be blamed partly on the recent “Me” culture, where people live only to make themselves happy.
“Here in the West and abroad where they are heavily influenced by the West, the ‘Me’ culture is overtaking our minds. False statements like ‘I have one life to live’ and ‘this is my life’ have been repeated enough times to suddenly become true,” Dr. Hathout said. “I ask, ‘Did you have a choice in your creation? Did you choose your life?’”
As pointed out to me by a young man, one of the difference between the prophet’s time and today is that during the Prophets time it was easy to get married and easier to get divorced but very difficult to do Zina. Today it is difficult to get married, even more onerous to get a divorce but very easy to do Zina.

In the next 10 minutes, I can only give you an introduction to the subject. Over the coming weeks other Khateebs will provide more guidance and food for thought.

The importance of Marriage in Islam

Islam advocates marriage as a part of the grand design of Allah. It is not made a fardh but it warns that the absence of marriage in a persons life could lead to psychological issues. Sex outside of Marriage is a sin and sex is regarded as a normal biological make up of all Humans.

"O you young men! Whoever is able to marry should marry, for that will help him to lower his gaze and guard his modesty." (Al-Bukhari)

Modesty was regarded as a great virtue by the Prophet. He said, "Modesty is part of faith." (Al-Bukhari)
The importance of the institution or marriage receives its greatest emphasis from the following hadith of the Prophet,
"Marriage is my sunna. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me."

The primary reason of Marriage how ever is not just to fulfill our sexual needs although that is an important part of it. The sexual revolution in western cultures emphasizes the pleasure part of sex and almost ignores the reproduction side of it.

The primary reason of Marriage is forming a unit to bring forth the next generation. Our children are the legacy that we will leave behind. What we pass on to them will be the only thing of value that we will leave behind.
Companionship is a secondary but critical reason. Without companionship, there will be friction and unpleasantness.
Companionship comes from sharing each others worlds, psychologically and emotionally since physically is not always possible

There are two verses from the Quran which I believe are relevant to our subject which talk about companionship and raising a family respectively;

And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly in these are signs for those who reflect. ( Al Rum 30:21)

The definition of companionship is therefore, living in tranquility with love and mercy in your heart.

And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best. (Al Nahl 16:72)

The children out of a marriage are thus described as a favor from Allah, almost a reward for having established a marriage. This reward is further enhanced by the promise of sustenance.

Choosing your partner

In a beautiful tradition the Prophet (peace be upon him) has given the most important point that should weigh with every Muslim in selecting his bride:
"Whoever marries a woman solely for her power and position, Allah will only increase him in humiliation. Whoever marries a woman solely for her wealth, Allah will only increase him in poverty. Whoever marries a woman because of her beauty, Allah will only increase him in ugliness. But whoever marries a woman in order that he may restrain his eyes, observe cautiousness, and treat his relations kindly, Allah puts a blessing in her for him and in him for her."

When the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When a man marries he has completed half of his religion and he needs only fear Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, to complete the other half." (Mishkat), he was reminding us that marriage is not separate from, but part of the deen.

The consent of both the man and the women is an essential element of marriage, and the Qur'an gives women a substantial role in choosing their own life partners. It lays down:
Do not prevent them from marrying their husbands when they agree between themselves in a lawful manner. (2: 232)

However, Imam Malik, one of the four great Imams of the Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, gives a slightly restrictive interpretation to this verse and makes the choice of partner by a Muslim girl subject to the over-ruling power or ijbar of her father or guardian in the interests of the girl herself. In today’s world where the women are getting married at a later age than before i.e. 24 and later rather than 18 or even earlier, and have the ability to support themselves economically, this ruling may need some amendment.
The case of Abu Juham bin Hudhaifah and Mu'awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan is relevant here. They proposed marriage to Fatimah bint Ghaith. The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Fatimah not to marry either of them on the grounds that Mu'awiyah was then a pauper and Abu Juham was cruel and harsh. So she married Usamah.


Islam, which functions as a Patriarchal Society, insists that the male take care of the physical and financial security. The female has limitless freedom within these boundaries. There is no prohibition on the economic contribution of the female but it is understood that there will be times that she has to focus 100% on the upbringing of the children.
During such times the man has to be extra sensitive and supportive of the woman. The man can never give enough respect and allowances to the woman for her role in child rearing.

And according to hadith:
"The best among you are those who are kindest to their wives".
Divorce is taken to be a last resort in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Of all the things Allah has permitted, the one He most dislikes is divorce.
it is to be stressed that the woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind. He is the father, she is the mother, and both are essential for life. Her role is not less vital than his. By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect. She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to seek the counsel and advice of his wives, play with them, travel with them, listen to their opinions, and fulfill all their rights.
Here, we can review the well-known stance of Umm Salamah, the Mother of the Believers, when the Muslims concluded the Hudaybiyyah Peace Treaty with the polytheists of Makkah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions to slaughter their sacrificial animals, but they were too depressed to do that. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave instructions in this regard three times but with negative response. He told his wife Umm Salamah about this attitude of his Companions. She advised him to take the initiative, slaughter his animal and have his head shaved. Seeing that, the Muslims started to slaughter their animals and shave their heads. The advice of the Mother of the Believers in this situation was very good and highly appreciated.


Both parties come to the marriage with different expectations. Some of these are based on what they have seen in their own families. Most of these are based on one being male and the other female.
Female expectations revolve around the need for security (physical, financial and moral) and male expectations revolve around the need for Intimacy
(mostly sex).


Communications styles of both male and female differ. Females traditionally over communicate while males under communicate. Female communication is designed to constantly confirm the mans commitment to the marriage. Male Communication is designed to maintain his independence.
Men tend to be logical and the women emotional in their communications.
This does not mean that women cannot be logical or that men cannot be emotional, It is simply a recognition that they have different styles of communication where one stresses the logical and the other the emotional.

Dispute resolution

Listening is key to all dispute resolution. When both parties talk at the same time, no one is listening.
There needs to be a conscious dispute resolution mechanism which incorporates the concept of listening and the concept of time off for meditation. There should be room and allowance for both emotional and logical communication.
It is a bad idea to go into the accounting of who is contributing more to the marriage. The formula has not been invented which will convert intangible contributions into tangible measures. The success of the marriage depends on the mutual appreciation of what each party is able to bring to the marriage.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Islam for beginners

Lecture on Islam- Oct 2008

My talk is in four parts

1. Introduction and prehistory
2. What is the Quran?
3. The life of Mohammed
4. Fundamental Beliefs.

Islam is the third and last of the three Abrahamic Religions. The three religions span a period of around 2600 years but were all focused on the area of the world now known as the Middle East. Abraham is estimated to have lived around 2000 BC, while Moses came 500 years after the birth of Abraham but a considerably shorter time if calculated after his death as he lived to be 175. Jesus came 1500 years after Moses and Mohammed
( SAW) came 600 years after Jesus. It is now almost 1500 years since the death of Mohammed ( SAW).

Although Abraham is acknowledged to be the founder of Monotheism, he in fact did nor start a religion. The reason is that there is no codified book that remains which would explain his religion. It would be unfair to say that Abraham did not start a religion but we certainly do not have people today who could be called followers of his religion. Central in the Quran is the conflict between Abraham and his father, Azar. Azar was an idolater, and Abraham turned away from him, when he could not make his father follow the message of God (

For Islam, Abraham was not the first of the Prophets, Noah and others had preceded him. A Total of 25 prophets have been mentioned in the Quran by name.

The Book of Genesis tells us that Abraham was childless, without hope of children, and that one night God summoned him out of his tent and said to him: “ Look now towards Heaven, and count the stars if thou art able to number them.” And as Abraham gazed up at the stars the voice said: “ so shall thy seed be.”1

At the age of 84, Abraham fathered a son, Ishmael, from Hagar, his second wife and formerly the handmaiden of his first wife Sarah. Thirteen years later Sarah bore him Isaac ….and when he was weaned she told Abraham that Hagar and her son must no longer remain in their household. And Abraham was deeply grieved at this, on account of his love for Ishmael; but again God spoke to him, and told him to follow the counsel of Sarah and not to grieve; and again He promised him that Ishmael should be blessed. Not one but two great nations, were to look back to Abraham as their father- two great nations, that is, two guided powers, two instrument to work the Will of Heaven…2

Moses and Jesus as well as Joseph and Solomon and David were descendents of Isaac while Mohammed, was a descendent of Ishmael. God had fulfilled his promise to Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars.

The Quran tells us that God showed him ( Abraham) the exact site, near to the well of Zamzam, upon which he and Ishmael must build a sanctuary; and they were told how it must be built. Its name Ka’bah, cube, is in virtue of it’s shape which is approximately cubic; its four corners are towards the four points of the compass. But the most holy object in that holy place is a celestial stone which it is said was brought by an Angel to Abraham from the nearby hill Abu Qubays, where it had been preserved ever since it had reached the earth .3

Fast forward 2500 years, and the Ka’bah has become a place of pagan worship presided over by the tribe of Quraish. It was populated by Idols and there was an annual pilgrimage to it from various parts of Arabia. The Quraish had become rich from trade and by looking after the holy place of pilgrimage. Mecca had become a thriving mercantile city, but in the aggressive stampede for wealth some of the old tribal values had been lost. Istead of looking after the weaker members of the tribe, as the nomadic code prescribed the Quraish were now intent on making money at the expense of some of the tribe’s poorer family groupings, or clans.4

Not unlike Capitalism today, the Shaikhs of the Quraish had become far more interested in maintaining the apparatus of trade than in caring for the dispossessed. 5

Mohammed belonged to a clan of the tribe of Quraish. He was an orphan and had not been educated and was illiterate. He was how ever well known for being an honest and devout person, who frequently went to mount Hira to meditate.

The Quran

In one of his visits to Hira, Mohammed had a frightening experience. There came to him an angel in the form of a man, who squeezed him very firmly and asked him to recite. Even as Mohammed protested that he could not recite, the angel squeezed him hard three times and demanded that he recite. On the third occasion, the Angel said,

Recite in the name of thy Lord who created!
He created man from a clot of blood,
Recite; and thy Lord is the most Bountiful,
He who had taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not, 6

This was the first revelation to Mohammed ( SAW) one of many that were to follow which would eventually be codified into what we know today as the Quran. The Quran was revealed in its entirety over a period of 23 years in the form of verses and guidance to Mohammed ( SAW) and was memorized by followers as it was revealed. In this way it is today in it’s original form unlike the other Religious books, which were not codified until much later and many of which have several versions. The Quran continues in it’s original version and is therefore revered by Muslims as the direct Word of God as revealed to Mohammed ( SAW). People may argue about how to interpret the words, but the words cannot be debated. Since it was revealed in Arabic, the only other point of contention can be relating to it’s translation into another language and whether it loses any sense in the translation.

From time immemorial we have evidence of God directly communicating with chosen humans in order to guide them as to the origin and purpose of creation. There is clearly a plan that God has. Creation is not an accident, man is not without purpose. Evil and temptation are deliberate forces that man is intended to battle. When he fails to do this and becomes unjust and exploitative, God first warns him through chosen prophets and then destroys civilizations that are too embedded in bad ways to be able to reform themselves.

The Quran is the only document which is available in it’s original form that records God’s conversation with His prophet in all it’s detail. In order to understand the context of these revelations one must also know the background and history of these revelations. The Quran needs to be read with Historical Commentaries including legitimate Hadith. Hadith are the conversations between Mohammed and his followers when they sought clarifications from him about the meaning of various verses. The Quran is full of Symbols, metaphors and parables, which means that it’s words cannot always be taken literally.

According to Muslim belief, the Quran is the last guidance that mankind will receive from God, it is final and for all times. There will be no updates or upgrades. The challenge to Muslims is therefore to be able to seek guidance from the Quran for contemporary issues.

Islam has no formal clergy or theological hierarchy to guide it and therefore it becomes incumbent upon every Muslim to read the Quran , understand it and be guided by it.

The Quran says, "This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt,"1. for those who fear Allah.2. Who believe in the Unseen,3. are steadfast in prayer,4. and spend out of what We have provided for them;5. And who believe in the Revelation sent to thee, and sent before thy time,6. and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter. 7

Mohammed ( SAW)
Mohammed’s rise, from an illiterate orphan of a relatively unimportant tribe in lowly Arabia in terms of world hierarchy to the most influential person in the world is underestimated today amongst any but Muslims. Prophet hood did not start for Mohammed until the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and at that time he was already 40 years old. He died at the age of 63 and within 23 years had transformed the world for ever. At last count Islam had 1.2 billion followers and was the fastest growing religion in the world.

For the first two years after the encounter on Mount Hira, Mohammed limited his preaching’s to friends and family. He did not exactly jump at the responsibility placed on him. He suffered from doubts about the meaning of his experience and was not sure about how he could deal with the awesome responsibility being placed on him. Unlike Moses, he was not an insider with the powerful of his Society.

In this respect he was right. The moment he went public with his message, there was not only resistance but personal abuse, the setting up of road blocks and attempted assassinations. Originally, the Quraish regarded him as a nuisance but as more and more people started heeding his message they became very alarmed and wanted to put a stop to his activities by eliminating him if necessary. The time came when Mohammed had to flee Mecca with his followers or risk getting killed. The Meccan period however lasted 13 years and in this period God revealed to Mohammed the spirit of Islam. The Meccan verses are all spiritual while the Medina verses have more to do with guidance on setting up a state with laws on Inheritance, marriage, Women’s rights, dealing with non Muslims, dietary restrictions, taxation and other economic matters, rules of engagement with the enemy, a judicial system etc.

Mohammed was different from his predecessor prophets in that in the last 10 years of his prophet hood, he was required to form and run a nation state. He left behind therefore a template of proper governance. Islam evolved from being a Religion to a way of life. All through this process God was by his side, guiding him and sometimes reprimanding him. Mohammed was an ordinary human being like any other. Unlike Moses or Jesus, he was not required to perform miracles. His task was not only to bring about social justice but hold up the Quran as a text which would provide guidance to coming generations on Social Justice.

Islam believes ingoing to war in self defense. He fought two battles with the Quraish. The first one( The battle of Badr). in which he was hopelessly outnumbered, resulted in a crushing victory for him. The second one ( the Battle of Uhud) , when he was in a much stronger position resulted in a stalemate. His biggest victory was how ever on the diplomatic front. The treaty of Hudaybia, which was regarded by his followers as too conciliatory ultimately turned itself in to the means by which the Quresh ended up accepting him as their leader. I will not cover details of the two battles or the treaty of Hudaybia in the interest of time but these events are worth studying as a critical part of the story of Mohammed.


The fundamentals beliefs of Islam are as follows;

1.The oneness of God, and ascribing no partners to Him
2. Life after death and Accountability
3.Accountability, reward and punishment
4. Balancing worldliness and spirituality
5.Social Justice
6. Belief in all the prophets preceding Mohammed and the revelations sent to them.
7.Neccessary Rituals

1.The oneness of God, and ascribing no partners to Him

Allah forgiveth not ( the sin of) joining other gods with Him;
but He forgiveth whome He pleaseth other sins….

Surah Al Nisa 4/116

The first lesson is that before me and before every one there was GOD and after everything there will be God. He is the creator and to Him we will all return. So before reading the Quran, before dealing with any issue we must develop the right attitude, get into the right spirit, feel the humbleness of who we are and who we must look to for the right result.

“ Islam began by freeing the human conscience from servitude to any one except that of Allah and from submission to any save Him. There is no supreme authority anywhere except that of Allah nor can any other grant life or death. None save He can supply provision of anything in earth or heaven, nor can there be any mediator or power, and all others are subject to Him, without ownership either of themselves or of others.” 8

2. Life after death and Accountability

The Quran repeatedly reminds us that we were once a mere clot of blood and that we will one day be dust. Not only that but that we will be held accountable for what we did in the “appointed time” that was allotted to us. If we do not forget this, we will be in a better frame of mind to deal with the issues which have to be dealt with in any case. We will then deal with them in a spirit of humility and generosity.

All our lives we deal with issues. Issues of survival, food, shelter, clothing. Issues of emotions, like love, revenge, friendship. Intellectual issues like women’s rights, freedom, discrimination. These issues are all consuming and we get caught up in them and forget, forget where we came from and where we are going.

The Quran is emphatic that we should not be in any doubt about the final meeting with our creator. For Muslims, it is one of the cardinal principles. The concept of self accountability flows from it and is very powerful.Sura Ali Imran Verse 4/ 185 ( translation Abdullah Yusuf Ali )“Every soul shall have a taste of death: Verse 4/185“ taste of death” is a vivid description suggesting that death is simply an event in our journey and certainly not a permanent event. And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense.Only he who is saved Far from the fire and admitted to the Garden will have attainedthe object (of Life).

3.Accountability, reward and punishmentThere should also be no doubt about the punishment for falling prey to the temptations of this world.[Naba 78:21] Indeed hell is lying in ambush.[Naba 78:22] The destination of the rebellious.
The reckoning will be fair and every detail of our acts will be available.[Zilzal 99:7] So whoever does a good deed equal to the weight of the minutest particle, will see it.[Zilzal 99:8] And whoever does an evil deed equal to the weight of the minutest particle, will see it. At the end of the game, there is no judge. The results can almost be automatically calculated. The system is very precise. Our deeds are all documented. Our bodies will bear testimony. In no other system is there a method of self accountability such as the one above.

If any do deeds of righteousness-
Be they male or female-
And have faith,
They will enter Heaven,
And not the least injustice
Will be done to them.
(Al Nisa 4/124)

4. Balancing worldliness and spirituality

For the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception. “ goods and chattels of deception “, suggests that you could become so enamored with the life of this world that you begin to deny that there could be anything better.

This verse is not intended to discourage humans from worldliness but to warn them from losing perspective. It is possible to become drunk with worldly success. It is possible to gauge success and failure in material terms.. When we see some one materially successful or unsuccessful we tend to assume that the path they took is worth following or avoiding.

God has a measure of success which is not material and He warns mankind not to lose sight of the measure that He will employ.

For the human soul, the life of this world will present many temptations. Material belongings, desires that satisfy the ego, accumulation of wealth and influence, all have the power to make a human being lose focus on the object of life.

5.Social Justice

Islam believes in wealth creation, free enterprise, ownership of property but also strongly advocates support for the economically challenged. The concept of Zakat places responsibility on the individual rather than the state for a certain redistribution of wealth. Zakat is separate from taxes and intended to help the really needy. Charity and zakat are so important in Islam that I will go into the details of Zakat.
There is an assumption is Islam that those who have wealth and power have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that they share their wealth with those less fortunate. A 2.5% voluntary but compulsory tax is applicable to all who have the means.

Those who have a claim on Zakat are;

1. The poor or those whose income does not permit them to enjoy the bare essentials of life.
2. The destitute or those who possess nothing at all.
3. Converts to Islam who need to get established and stand on their own feet.
4. Slaves, in order that they may get their freedom and set themselves up.
5. Those who are indebted because of their poverty.
6.For work to be done to improve the lot of the community.
7.The refugee. The wayfarer or traveler who is away from home or has been made homeless by others.
8. The orphan and those that take care of the orphan.

Zakat is the minimum standard of wealth redistribution. If the practice of Zakat does not alleviate economic hardship, then both the wealthy and the more fortunate and the Government must find the means to fill the gap.
Islam disapproved of the existence of class distinction where some live on a standard of luxury and others on a standard of hardship. 9

6. Belief in all the prophets preceding Mohmmed and all that was revealed to them.

"The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one of them believes in God, His angels, His books, and His Messengers. They say: 'We make no distinction between one and another of His Messengers.' And they say: 'We hear, and we obey. We seek Thy forgiveness, Our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.'" (Al-Baqarah, 2:285)

There is great emphasis in Islam about the continuity that Islam represents with the other two religions. The so called Judeo Christian tradition excludes Islam and Islam was strongly resisted by the Christians in their Crusades against it. It was seen by the Church as being a threat to Christiandom.

7.Neccessary Rituals

Muslims are obligated to pursue certain acts which are called the five pillars of Islam. These are;
1. Belief in One God and the message conveyed through Mohammed.
2. Performing prayers 5 times a day,
3. The Giving of Zakat, charity for the poor and needy.
4. Performing Hadj once in a life time,
5. Observance of fasting during the month of Ramdhan,

If there was just the observance of these pillars, a Muslim would not pass the test of goodness. The form is the means to an end. The practice of the form is intended to create the spirit within you, to be virtuous.
“ It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces toward East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him for your kin for orphans for the needy for the wayfarer for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth the Allah-fearing.” ( 2/177)

1. Martin Ling, Muhammed
2. Martin Ling, Muhammed
3. Martin Ling, Muhammed
4. Raza Aslan,
5. Raza Aslan, No God but God.
6. Quran, Surah al Iqra.
7. Quran, Surah Al Baqara.
8. Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam.
9. Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam

Marriage Khutba

Marriage Khutba-Oct 16, 2008

The primary reason for Marriage is forming a unit to bring forth the next generation.
Our children are the legacy that we will leave behind. What we pass on to them will be the only thing of value that we will leave behind.
Companionship is a secondary but critical reason. Without companionship, there will be friction and unpleasantness.
Companionship comes from sharing each others worlds, psychologically since physically is not possible. Where it is possible to do so physically then that is best.

Both parties come to the marriage with different expectations. Some of these are based on what they have seen in their own families. Most of these are based on one being male and the other female.
Female expectations revolve around the need for security (physical, financial and moral) and male expectations revolve around the need for Intimacy
(mostly sex).

Islam, which functions as a Patriarchal Society, insists that the male take care of the physical and financial security. The female has limitless freedom within these boundaries. There is no prohibition on the economic contribution of the female but it is understood that there will be times that she has to focus 100% on the upbringing of the children.
During such times the man has to be extra sensitive and supportive to the woman. The man can never give enough respect and allowances to the woman for her role in child rearing.

Communications styles of both male and female differ. Females traditionally over communicate while males under communicate. Female communication is designed to constantly confirm the mans commitment to the marriage. Male Communication is designed to maintain his independence.
Men tend to be logical and the women emotional in their communications.

Dispute resolution
Listening is key to all dispute resolution. When both parties talk at the same time, no one is listening.
There needs to be a conscious dispute resolution mechanism which incorporates the concept of listening and the concept of time off for meditation. There should be room and allowance for both emotional and logical communication.
It is a bad idea to go into the accounting of who is contributing more to the marriage. The formula has not been invented which will convert intangible contributions into tangible measures. The success of the marriage depends on the mutual appreciation of what each party is able to bring to the marriage.

Speaking up against Injustice

Khutba 5 Speaking up against Injustice.

I came to the US in 1980. I came not to take advantage of this great country but because my work brought me here. In the years that I have been here, I have benefited from the opportunities and facilities provided by this country and I now call it my own. Although I have paid my taxes and therefore made an economic contribution but I have contributed my time more towards building my own Muslim community than anything else. With the years the US has declined economically and politically specially of late and I now feel that it is becoming more important for me to contribute my time to the larger community as well.

I feel that the US has in many ways lost its way and that the skills and values that I have can help it to restore some of the glory of its past. Wherever I have gone, people have been welcoming and encouraging. I believe that this is a unique opportunity for all of us to become part of and contribute to a larger community.

The upcoming elections on Tuesday are the most important elections in the History of this country since the great depression. This is as good a starting point as any to have an impact by making our wishes known through the power of the vote but November 4 is not and should not be when we take a decision to make our presence felt. We make our presence felt in two ways, firstly by conducting ourselves as good Muslims. Being kind, honest and helpful and the other is to speak up against injustice, intolerance and exploitation.

When we do this we will get resistance, specially, if injustice is being committed by powerful and well connected people. We will face opposition and will have to chose by lining up with people who believe the same as we do. Whether we live in Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey or Europe, we will face exploiters and injustices. The difference may be that in this country it has become a tradition to fight oppression and injustice and to root it out of Society. In this country, you will stand shoulder to shoulder with others who believe in fighting injustice. In this country it is easier for us to do our Islamic duty then from where ever we came from.

If all we do is to enjoy the economic benefits from the opportunities that are here, send our children to good schools and pay our taxes then we will not have begun to contribute to the continued betterment of this society. A fair and just society was not built here because all people did was to work hard. It was also built by people who spoke up against unfairness. It could not have been built, had not the country gone to war against itself in order to make sure that there would be no slavery and no racial discrimination.

As Muslims we must abide by the laws of the land. Patriotism is not prohibited in Islam. In fact, you are encouraged to dedicate your life to serve your nation and its citizens whether or not the country you live in is a Muslim country. But, patriotism too has its limits. Blind patriotism, for example, is not allowed in Islam. Blind patriotism here means that you keep supporting your country at all costs with no consideration whatsoever of right or wrong. A true Muslim citizen loves his country and fellow citizens and residents, and at the same time, whenever he sees that any injustice is being committed, he raises the voice. Not speaking against injustice is not the part of true patriotism according to dictates of Islam.
“Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [bytaking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if hecannot, then with his heart [by hating it and feeling that it is wrong] – andthat is the weakest of faith” (Narrated by Muslim, 49)
Activism is defined as a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action. There should be little doubt in any one's mind that has studied the Quran or the biography (Seera) of the Prophet Muhammad that Islam is a religion that requires activism from its followers. The Quran repeatedly exhorts its readers to be proactive in establishing good and preventing evil (Amr bil maruf wa nahi anal munkar)

Religious Activism. Muslim communities in the US have been vigorous in religious activism. Building Mosques (Masaajids), religious schools, proselytizing (Dawa), organizing rituals and events around the two major festivals are some examples. There has been a fair amount of inter-faith activity as well.

Social Activism.

Social activism is seen in the Muslim community but to lesser extent than religious activism. Muslim community's social activism is concentrated on helping its own with only rare examples of efforts that are designed to help the marginalized non-Muslim in the society. There are two recent efforts of starting food pantries to help the poor. ISNA is teaming up with the temperance society to tackle the issue of alcohol abuse. When compared to religious activism there is a deficit of social activism.

Political activism. Political activism has also been attempted three different areas. Muslims have stood for election as candidates. With rare exception these have been failures. For most part the Muslim candidates appear to have been driven by personal ego and the established political parties have given them seats where no one else is interested to run. The other strategy used is to support a candidate who may have made an overture to the Muslim community by mouthing a Muslim phrase like insha-Allah or making a vague promise on an issue of particular interest to the Muslim community. This strategy hasn't been very successful because politicians calculate a disadvantage to them in identifying with Muslims. Politicians act out of self interest and unless they feel they have a strong constituency to as in the Ann Arbor district of Michigan, the promises do not necessarily translate into action. Muslim communities support to candidates has to be more realistic and selective and should come from the strength of an organized voter base.

Muslims can also influence candidates by joining forces with NGOs on issues of common interest like supporting ACLU in their fight to preserve civil rights. This alternative approach would be the natural corollary of intellectual activism.

Intellectual activism. What is most lacking in the Muslim community is intellectual activism. A thoughtful Friday sermon and I quote is as common as a 'neo-con' critical of the Patriot act. Thoughtful news and views journals in print or on the web struggle to survive. Sales of books other than religious texts like the Quran, Hadith and Fiqh are abysmally low.

The burden and rewards of being an activist. An inevitable price of being an activist is frustration and disappointment. Activists should remember this saying (Hadith) of the Prophet r where he advised: "If the end of the world approaches and one of you has a seedling (or plant) in his hand and if he can plant it before the end comes, let him do it." (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith no. 12512)

Nov 4, is therefore an occasion, not just to cast your vote but to have participated enough in Society to be intimately familiar with the issues that interest you. Today Economic Injustice is going to be an even bigger issue than have been the injustices against Muslims. The Muslims in this country are in a fortunate position to be amongst the more stable, economically and therefore in a position to have a bigger say in the affairs of this society.

I am urging you not only to vote but to become an activist. In order to become an activist, you do not have to reinvent the wheel, there are many organizations around which you can join or support. In fact there are a lot of organizations around peopled by non Muslims that are fighting for Muslim causes. It is true that right now the same objections raised by non Muslims will be more accepted than if they were to be raised by Muslims. There is too much disinformation about Muslims and certain segments of the society are inclined and even urged to believe them. Criticizing Obama by calling him a Muslim is just one example.

It is true that for those reasons Muslims are inclined to keep a low profile but the time has come when the line of low profile has to be redefined. I believe that America needs Islamic values and Islamic ethics and Muslim people more than at any time before. We will be doing Islam ourselves and our country a disservice by not becoming part of the mainstream of America. I know we all believe that but are uncertain as to how to proceed. It is not until we make it a mission that that uncertainty will be overcome. The time I believe is now.

Javeed Akhter executive director of a Muslim think tank the International Strategy and Policy Institute (ISPI) based in Oak Brook, IL. He is the author of several articles published previously in TAM as well as the well-regarded book on the Seera of the Prophet e "The Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad's Life". His article debunking the myth that the Quran promotes violence is published in high school reference books both in the US and UK.
Paper written by him in 2004.