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Acts of Worship New Muslims

Islam’s Anti-racist Message from the 7th Century Still Resonates Today

By Asma Afsaruddin

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad (God bless him and grant him peace) dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Challenging kinship

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares:

“O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.

The Quran said personal piety and deeds were the basis for merit, not tribal affiliation – an alien and potentially destabilizing message in a society built on nasab.

Give me your tired, your poor

As is often the case with revolutionary movements, early Islam encountered fierce opposition from many elites.

The Quraysh, for example, who controlled trade in Mecca – a business from which they profited greatly – had no intention of giving up the comfortable lifestyles they’d built on the backs of others, especially their slaves brought over from Africa.

The Prophet’s message of egalitarianism tended to attract the “undesirables” –people from the margins of society. Early Muslims included young men from less influential tribes escaping that stigma and slaves who were promised emancipation by embracing Islam.

Women, declared to be the equal of men by the Quran, also found Muhammad’s message appealing. However, the potential of gender equality in Islam would become compromised by the rise of patriarchal societies.

By Muhammad’s death, in 632, Islam had brought about a fundamental transformation of Arab society, though it never fully erased the region’s old reverence for kinship.

I can’t breathe

Early Islam also attracted non-Arabs, outsiders with little standing in traditional Arab society. These included Salman the Persian, who traveled to the Arabian peninsula seeking religious truth, Suhayb the Greek, a trader, and an enslaved Ethiopian named Bilal.

All three would rise to prominence in Islam during Muhammad’s lifetime. Bilal’s much-improved fortunes, in particular, illustrate how the egalitarianism preached by Islam changed Arab society.

An enslaved servant of a Meccan aristocrat named Umayya, Bilal was persecuted by his owner for embracing the new faith. Umayya would place a rock on Bilal’s chest, trying to choke the air out of his body so that he would abandon Islam.

Moved by Bilal’s suffering, Muhammad’s friend and confidant Abu Bakr, who would go on to rule the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death, set him free.

Bilal was exceptionally close to Muhammad, too. In 622, the Prophet appointed him the first person to give the public call to prayer in recognition of his powerful, pleasing voice and personal piety. Bilal would later marry an Arab woman from a respectable tribe – unthinkable for an enslaved African in the pre-Islamic period.

Black lives matter

For many modern Muslims, Bilal is the symbol of Islam’s egalitarian message, which in its ideal application recognizes no difference among humans on the basis of ethnicity or race but rather is more concerned with personal integrity. One of the United States’ leading Black Muslim newspaper, published between 1975 and 1981, was called The Bilalian News.

More recently Yasir Qadhi, dean of the Islamic Seminary of America, in Texas, invoked Islam’s egalitarian roots. In a June 5 public address, he said American Muslims, a population familiar with discrimination, “must fight racism, whether it is by education or by other means.”

Many Muslims in the U.S. are taking action, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and protesting police brutality and systemic racism. Their actions reflect the revolutionary – and still unrealized – egalitarian message that Prophet Muhammad set down over 1,400 years ago as a cornerstone of the Muslim faith.


About the Author:

Asma Afsaruddin

Professor of Islamic Studies and former Chairperson, Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University.


Source: theconversation.com

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Categories
Family New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad: The Perfect Family Man

Prophet’s Family Life: It’s Peace and Harmony

While the Prophet carried out his mission of Islam, he never shirked his duties as a household member.

The Qur’an is full of wonderful stories that revolve around fatherhood. It is probably one of the most overlooked thematic messages in the Qur’an. Repeatedly, Allah bears witness to prophets who are recognized as great fathers.

Chapter four of the Qur’an (an-Nisaa) tells us how humanity sprung forth from the first prophet and father, Adam, and the womb of our mother, Hawwa (Eve).

Prophet Nuh (Noah) pleaded with his son to believe in the oneness of God before calamity hit.

Prophet Lut (Lot) valiantly protected his children from the surrounding lewdness and temptation in his community.

Prophet Yaqub (Jacob) dealt with the heartbreaking abduction of his young son, Yusuf (Joseph) by his older brothers.

Then there was the epic du’a of the father of the Abrahamaic faiths, Ibrahim (AS),as he took upon the task of building the Ka’abah with his wonderful son, Ismail. By way that Allah had commanded the dynamic father and son duo to build the Ka’abah is testament to how important the role of the father is in Islam.

After all, Allah (SWT) could have commanded Ibrahim to build the House of Allah on his own, but he had a little helper, an assistant, and the final prophet, Muhammad, came from the direct lineage of Ismail.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Prophet Muhammad himself was the ultimate family man of all times.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sternly advised his followers:”The best of you is he who is best to his family and I am the best among you to my family” (Tirmidhi). By saying this, he reminded the ummah (Muslim community) to emulate his behavior when dealing with their own families.

The cornerstone of a strong Muslim ummah lies within the family unit. Many problems that arise today is really due to the disrupted relationship between spouses, between parent and child, and even between siblings. In addition, this could be very well a function of poor leadership by the father, although there are always other factors involved.

If all, or a majority of family units were held on sturdy grounds, then members of the same would have better outward relations with others, whether they are neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and other families in the community in general. So, it is no wonder that the Prophet (PBUH) took time to remind us of the importance of leadership within a family.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) embodied the importance of a strong family unit in his own family life. He loved his first wife Khadijah so much that even years after her passing he kept good relations with her family. The Prophet’s young wife Aisha felt the devotion he had toward Khadijah even though she passed away years before her own marriage to prophet Muhammad.

The Good Husband

The Prophet was, of course, good with Aisha too. He raced with her and took her on excursions. He taught her the Qur’an and his sunnah (his teachings and practices); especially those matters relating to women and intimacy. His young wife made sure to carefully record those teachings.

The Prophet spent a lot of time with Aisha. He accompanied her when she wanted to spend a laid-back afternoon watching sports.

He was good to his other wives as well. Many of the Prophet’s sayings mention their contributions to society. This could only surface through a husband who recognized them as iconic women of their time.

Umar ibn Khattab was shocked to see how the Prophet’s wives would speak back to their husband. They would rush to hide when Umar entered the Prophet’s household telling him – from behind a veil –that he was stern and harsh while Prophet Muhammad was kind and understanding toward them.

While the Prophet carried out his mission of Islam, he never shirked his duties as a household member – often tidying up and mending torn clothes.

While many men nowadays would struggle with one wife, Prophet Muhammad kept good relations with all of his wives. There was, sometimes, enmity between them (as human as they were). But he would deal with the problems justly and without causing harm. He never once raised a hand towards them even when relationships in his household were strained.

The Kind Father

The Prophet raised four daughters in a culture where baby girls were considered cursed. He educated them and married them to pious Muslim husbands. The Prophet still rushed to his daughter Fatimah’s house when he missed her even after she became a mother to many children herself. He was known for letting her boys ride on his back during congregational prayer.

The companions of the Prophet often commented that his daughter Fatimah was the person who resembled him most in appearance and behavior. When Fatimah entered a room where the Prophet was, he would rise, kiss her and lead her to his seat. She would do the same when he stopped by to see her.

Fatimah was so attached to her father that she was happy to hear from the Prophet that she would be the first of his family to follow him in death.

Arguably, there is no stronger bond between father and daughter than the relationship of these two remarkable people.

Among the many adversities faced by the Prophet, he also lost children; two sons in Makkah and one in Madinah. The Prophet naturally wept at their deaths. His archenemy and uncle, Abu Lahab, on the other hand, celebrated their deaths. Allah sent the Prophet a special gift in Chapter 108 (al-Kawthar) of the Qur’an, promising eternal happiness to calm the heavy heart of the bereaved father.

Spouses’ Mutual Rights

In his farewell sermon to believers, the Prophet reminded men to be gentle with their wives. He also told them that wives and husbands both had rights and responsibilities towards each other.

He said,

“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”

The Prophet was sent to perfect a faith that supported (among other things) women’s rights: elevating their status in society, honoring them as mothers, and garnering their values, knowledge and expertise to enrich the development of a thriving ummah.

The Qur’an is full of messages about fatherhood and good leadership within a family. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) demonstrated through his own behavior –in outstanding leaps and bounds –how to be the perfect family man.


Source: aboutislam.net

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