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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

Hajj Is a Shift Away from Racism and Towards Social Equality

Allah has created people to be different in their living; some are rich and some poor, some well-off, affluent and high-esteemed, and others indigent, miserable and astray in life.

That is great wisdom decreed by Allah so that people would exchange work, cooperate with one another, and use one another to achieve their requirements and needs: the rich person spends his money, and the poor person exerts his effort in labor for remuneration. In confirmation of that, Allah Almighty Says (what means):

“Do they distribute the Mercy of your Lord? It is We Who Have Apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of this world and Have Raised some of them above others in degrees [of rank] that they may make use of one another for service. But the Mercy of your Lord is better than whatever they accumulate.” (Quran 43:32)

Hajj as a shift against Racism:

Indeed, the most noble of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.

Had the difference been limited to the exchange of benefits, it would have been good. But some rich people exalt themselves above the poor, and their arrogance produces hatred among the poor.

On the other hand, some poor people envy the rich, with the result that the rich boycott and neglect them; arrogance among some rich people versus hatred among some poor people, and haughtiness among some dignitaries versus envy among some of the common people.

In this way, the social classes of the same nation have mutual aversion to each other, cooperation disappears, bonds are undone, and production decreases.

A Remedy of Racism

The remedy of that disease lies in the religious acts of worship in general, and Hajj in particular, which has a practical healing and effective decisive medicine to put an end to haughtiness, and lay the foundation for equality between all people in the form of (putting on the same clothing of) Ihram, performing Tawaaf, Sa‘y, and so on.

In Hajj, no one could be distinguished from others with a particular uniform, clothing, appearance or adornment, because all of them are equal in their simple united appearance. That is indeed equality between individuals as well as between races and peoples, in compliance with what Allah Says (which means):

“O mankind, indeed We Have Created you from male and female and Made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.” (Quran 49:13)

Islamic views on piety:

Our Messenger, God bless him and grant him peace, said: “No Arab is superior to a non-Arab, nor a white-complexioned to a black-complexioned except by virtue of piety.”

Is Hajj then, from this point of view, worthy of the care of reformers, the concern of the sincere and the effort of the passionate?

We are all subject to our habits and governed by our traditions as a result of the house in which we live, the school in which we learn, and the environment surrounding us.

A lot of our customs and habits are bad and harmful, the majority of our traditions are invalid and superstitious, and the greater part of what we agree upon is false and ignorant. Worship, as they said, is a second disposition, and to be released from traditions is very difficult upon a lot of people.

When a reformer likes to straighten the crookedness of his nation, and push it towards the pathways of perfection, he encounters the rocks of habits and traditions. He may perish and die before changing his people from a familiar habit, given that “people are slaves of their traditions”.

Hajj comes to release the individual from his habitual customs, and change his familiar traditions. Hajj, in this way, enables the pilgrim to govern himself, control his deeds, give up bad customs, and come away from awful traditions to the immense field of piety, virtues and spiritual elevation.

That is because the pilgrim becomes a sovereign over his own self after having been a slave of his habits.
In confirmation of that, Allah Almighty Says (what means):

Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of Ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah Knows it.” (Quran 2:197)

The Messenger of Allah, God bless him and grant him peace, stated that Hajj brings the Muslim out of his sins, misdeeds, bad customs and habits, saying:

“Whoever performs Hajj during which he does not have sexual intercourse (with his wife) nor commit wickedness, will become (as sinless) as he was on the very day his mother gave birth to him.”

Is Hajj, in this sense, not worthy of the care of educationalists and psychologists?

What is worthier of care than a worship-based practical system that releases man from the slavery of loss, and joins him to (Allah) The Most Merciful with a strong bond of truthfulness, certainty and faith?

Countries allocate money to physical sports and military exercises, a system for which our youth in schools are preparing. Without doubt, sport is a source of strength, valor, courage and gallantry, and an important support pillar in the construction of the glory of the Ummah.

Islam was a forerunner in recognizing the virtue of sport, when it commanded people to learn racing, archery, horsemanship, swimming and sword fight to prepare for Jihaad in the way of security, truth and peace. It joined sport with acts of worship, so that the emotion and feeling would share with the heart in performing it. Thus, sport becomes a physical power and a spiritual worship which has its glorious benefits in this world, and its great reward in the Hereafter.


Source: britishhajtravel website with some modifications.

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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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His Companions New Muslims

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq: The Skinny but Great Man

By: Faisal Az-Zamil

Every Muslim owes a debt of gratitude to him!

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq

This great man managed to unify Arabia and his reign was the basis for the Islamic Ummah we see today.

In physical appearance, Abu Bakr was a slender man with a slightly bent waist that the cloth that he wore round it often slipped down before he fastens it many times. He was very gentle and tender-hearted. He used to recite the Qur’an in a sad heart-touching voice awakening the hearts of the people of Makkah when particularly reciting:

And, O my people! What ails me that I call you unto deliverance when ye call me unto the Fire? You call me to disbelieve in Allah and ascribe unto Him as partners that whereof I have no knowledge, while I call you unto the Mighty, the Forgiver. Assuredly that whereunto ye call me hath no claim in the world or in the Hereafter, and our return will be unto Allah, and the prodigals will be owners of the Fire. (Ghafir 40:41:43)

Abu Bakr (may Allah be blessed with him) was an eloquent reciter of the Qur’an. His recitation attracted the people of Makkah who were gathering around his house to listen to him. When the leaders of Quraish knew about that, they sent someone to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) to “ask his friend not to pray in public as his recitations ruined their boys” … meaning their slaves who were yearning to the call of freedom that recognizes absolute equality between humans irrespective of any distinction of color, race or tribe …

Abu Bakr fought against the forces of slavery and racism, purchasing the freedom of slaves. The first of the slaves set free by him was Bilal.

We see this soft gentle nature of Abu Bakr disappearing when the shocking great news of the Prophet’s death spread, turning the Arabian Peninsula upside down.

The Companions of Prophet Muhammad were in shock and confusion. Some of them took the corner of the Mosque in silent and grief.

Before his death, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had ordered the mobilization of a large army to march to (now) Jordan under the command of Usama Ibn Zayd.

While the army was ready for war, the Prophet began to suffer from the sickness.

The first issue that Abu Bakr as a Caliph was called upon to decide was whether army- halted outside Al-Madinah- should proceed to its destination, or should it be abandoned due to the danger to which Madinah was exposed following the death of the Prophet.

Abu Bakr saw that it was the wish of the Prophet that the army should be sent to Jordan and it should be fulfilled at all costs.

“Who am I to withhold the army that the Prophet had ordained to proceed? Come what may: let Madinah stand or fall; the Caliphate live or perish, the command of the Holy Prophet shall be carried out.”, said Abu Bakr.

The view of Abu Bakr reflected his faithfulness and loyalty with the unwavering faith that whatever the Prophet had ordered was in the best interests of the community.

Thus, on the third day after the Prophet’s death, the Caliphate Abu Bakr announced the departure of Usama’s army, as were the commands of Allah’s Messenger.

After twenty days march the army reached Palestine and fought the Romans. Usamah returned to Madinah with a great victory and no losses proving the certainty of Abu Bakr’s faith and the strength and integrity of the Muslims as well.

The victory came at the most critical time of unrest and disorder. The victory news spread around entire Peninsula. It was the powerful beginning of Abu Bakr’s caliphate and war against the apostates.

Abu Bakr’s Reign

Abu Bakr’s reign lasted for 2 years, 3 months, and 8 days. Here we will address four key features of his caliphate:

1- His War of Apostasy: A Comprehensive View of the Last Message

As Al-Aswad Al-`Ansi, Tulayha Ibn Khuwaylid, Sajah, Musaylamah claimed prophethood, turning many tribes like Muzhig followed Al-Aswad; Banu Asad, Ghatfan Tai’ and Al-Ghawth who followed Tulayha; Banu Taghlab and Banu Tamim who followed Sajah and Yemen which followed Musaylamah who canceled the ritual of Prayer. Also, Luqayt ibn Malik Al-Azdi claimed Prophethood in Oman. They all sent delegations to Abu Bakr to negotiate with him as regarding the cancellation of some of the obligation and pillars of Islam topped by zakah. Abu Bakr replied with his well-known word, “I swear by Allah that if they were to refuse me a rope of camel which they used to pay the Messenger of Allah, I will fight with them over the refusal of it.”

“`Umar said: ‘O Abu Bakr! How can you fight the people when the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) has said: ‘I have been ordered to fight the people until they say: ‘There is no God but Allah’ and whoever says this, makes himself and his property inviolable except by legal right, and his reckoning is with Allah?’ Abu Bakr replied: ‘By Allah! I will fight whoever made a distinction between salah and zakat, for zakat is a lawful right upon the property!”

This how comprehensive and firmly intact was Abu Bakr’s view of Islam as a whole.

When `Umar also asked him to go a bit slow, he taunted him: “I need your support and you let me down! Were you strong in pre-Islamic days to have become a coward now?”

2- If Apostates Had Succeeded, There Would Have Been No Islam

This firm attitude from a tender-hearted skinny man was a fence to protect the wholeness and unity of the religion and its pillars from breakdown. Following Musylamah, people began to give up the Salah, and withhold the zakah, coming up with a new religion that has nothing to do with true Islam; a religion guided by individual desires, by defaced and disintegrated beliefs and principles, and racist inclinations. The religion, then, would have been a region-based weird set of rules like that of the Mongols. But Islam is the religion of sound fitrah (natural inclinations of man) and healthy mind; a guidance for all time, addressing the whole humanity and integrating all domains of human life.

This is how Abu Bakr fought to protect the true religion of God from distortion and innovations without sacrificing the rulings of its pillars of salah and zakah.

In the hadith narrated by Bakr:

“He heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) as saying: just see, can anything of his filthiness remain (on the body of) any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washed himself five times daily? They, said: Nothing of his filthiness will remain (on his body). He said: That is like the five prayers by which Allah obliterates sins” (Muslim)

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by some of his Companions: “Is Allah near so we invoke him or is he far so we call him? so Allah revealed the verse: “When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

Where, other than Islam, can one find such guidance!

If those apostates had succeeded to spread their new invented religion, nothing of these teachings would have been reached us.

3- Majority Is Not A Precondition for Decision-Making

Another lesson we can learn is that Abu Bakr’s opinion was not a majority’s. Thus, shura (consultation) in Islam is not binding for the ruler if he has an opinion opposed to the majority. Shura, in this respect, is advisable and not strictly necessary. Almighty Allah says, “So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).” (Ash-Shura 3:159)

This is the basis of the principle of separation of powers, a term coined in modern times by these French political thinker Montesquieu and was adopted by the ancient Romans. They divided the state powers into executive power, the legislature and the judiciary. If the judiciary was clearly independent, the executive power fluctuated between the systems. Yet, the Shura principle is a criterion, and the head of state has to exercise his powers after that advice is done by Shura or consultation. This what Abu Bakr has done, to make consultation and thereafter make use of his powers even if being opposed by the majority.

4- Strategic Goal for Apostasy Wars: Unified Arabian Peninsula

At strategic level, Abu Bakr left to his successor, `Umar, a united Arabia. Without this unity, Islam would have never been spread beyond the caliphate’s borders., to West, East and North.

Abu Bakr managed to unify these rebellious factions and his reign was the basis for the Islamic Ummah we see today.

`Umar would often say that he would prefer to be a hair on the chest of Abu Bakr.

Back to the situations and words that show Abu Bakr’s firm character:

  • In the Hudaybiyah peace treaty, the decision of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the conclusion of a reconciliation with Quraysh, in which Muslims return to Madinah and do not enter Makkah to perform Umrah. The acceptance of this condition was difficult for Muslims and the most angry was Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). When Abu Bakr saw Umar reviewing with the Prophet (peace be upon him) repeatedly asking to him in a fully disciplined manner, “O `Umar, he is the Messenger of Allah. So, stop it.” He means that he has to follow the Prophet’s footsteps in full compliance, and do not overstep him.
  • Usama was riding his horse and he is the commander of the army and Abu Bakr, the Caliph, was walking on his feet. When Usama wanted to go down to walk with him, Abu Bakr said to him (Do not come down, what if my feet is covered by dust for an hour in the way of God!)
  • Make sure that death gives you life!

May Allah have mercy on this great man.

May Allah Almighty bless him and reward him for what he had done for the Muslim Ummah.

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His Character New Muslims

Prophet Muhammad on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism

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In the sight of Allah, all people are equal.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) upheld justice in his time and rejected the ignorant belief which considered some people superior to others because of their language, race, social status or ethnicity. That is because such discrimination is severely condemned in the Qur’an.

‘Racism,’ as defined in our day, is an idea Allah prohibits in the Qur’an, but which receives extensive support in ignorant societies. As mentioned in the Qur’an, one of the divine purposes in the creation of the different races is “that they should come to know each other”. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Humanity-based

In the sight of Allah, all people are equal, and the only superiority anyone can have over anyone else is his fear of Allah and faith in Him.

The Prophet Muhammad also declared to his people, who committed racism, that ethnic differences had no importance and that everyone was equal in the eyes of Allah.

He repeatedly underlined that all that mattered was having sincere faith. While summoning his people to have faith, the Prophet Muhammad commanded them not to discriminate in his last sermon:

“O people! Your Allah is One and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of Allah.” (Ahmad)

The Prophet Muhammad also told people that Allah created man from nothing, that everyone is created equal and that everyone will give account of his deeds all alone before Allah. For this reason, he added that it would be a great wrong to look for superiority in one’s descent.

The Prophet commanded thus:

(All of) you are children of Adam, and Adam is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

He (peace be upon him) stated that no criteria except for heedfulness are acceptable:

“Your descent is nothing to be proud of. Nor does it bring you superiority. O people! All of you are the children of Adam. You are like equal wheat grains in a bowl … No one has any superiority over anyone else, except in religion and heedfulness. In order to consider someone a wicked person, it suffices that he humiliates other people, is mean with money, bad-tempered and exceeds the limits.” (Ahmad)

The Formula… the Qur’an

Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad advised his people to set aside their ignorant and perverse values and to live by the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, racist attitudes are defined as “fanatical rage,” and people’s ambitious attitudes are criticized. A related verse reads:

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage- the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance- and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and obliged them to respect the formula of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Al-Fath 48:26)

Muslims who obeyed Allah‘s call in the above verse led their lives in peace and security, both during the blessed period of the first community of Islam and in succeeding ages when just administrators reigned.

In the Period of the Prophet Muhammad, contracts signed with the People of the Book and the pagans secured justice in society.

After the migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Medina, he encountered many different communities. At that period, Jews, Christians and pagans who held power were all living together.

Under such circumstances, the Prophet Muhammad united the cosmopolitan structure to secure social unity and peace by making social agreements- either by sending letters or holding face-to-face meetings- with more than a hundred communities, and thus achieved social compromise.

Prof. Thomas Arnold stresses the importance of the social unity established by the Prophet Muhammad in these words: Arabia that had never before obeyed one prince, suddenly exhibits a political unity and swears allegiance to the will of an absolute ruler. Out of the numerous tribes, big and small, of a hundred different kinds that were incessantly at feud with one another, Muhammad’s word created a nation. (Thomas Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World, Goodword Books)

Islam and Other Religions

As is related in many verses in the Qur’an, living in peace with people of other religions is perceived as good by Islam.

In one verse, Allah commands Muslims to believe in all the holy books revealed by Him and respect their beliefs:

So call and go straight as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires but say, “I believe in whatever Allah has sent down (in the form) of a Book and I am ordered to be just between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. We have our actions and you have your actions.

There is no debate between us and you. Allah will gather us all together. He is our final destination. (Ash-Shura 42:15)

The above verse describes the relations a Muslim should establish with people of other religions. Muslims are also held responsible for adopting the morality of the Prophet and being compassionate and just towards other people. This person can be anyone, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian or even an atheist.

Such honest and just attitudes will make a very positive impact on their hearts, no matter what or who they believe in- or even if they have no beliefs at all- and they will become a means to make them feel closer to Islam.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”.

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