Posts from April 2017

The difference between Ibn Ali and everyone else (ie The need for authentic dawa)

April 17, 2017

I’m not sure if ever interacted with Ibn Ali, I just noticed him and later his wife and kids among those sitting in an Islamic class in Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City -seeing a family learning together were reason enough to smile. Recently that man that I only happened to notice in an Islamic class became the object of nationwide attention for being the star of an unusual viral fight video. Sadly, teens now not only have to live with the consequences of their classmates knowing they got beat up in a fight -they must also deal with humiliation on the Internet. That’s exactly what Ibn Ali feared when he broke up a fight between two young men as their so called friends (as Ibn Ali cautioned them, are they your real friends?) recorded the scene on their phones. He advised the boys to think about the consequences of fighting only to become the subject of someone else’s cheap entertainment, they were men now and maybe this wasn’t the course of action they wanted to take. He not only ended the fight but made the boys shake hands. This act of leadership and humanity towards a group so often demonized (black + men + teenagers) propelled Ibn Ali to instant fame as a local hero and do-gooder.

There’s a lot of ways instant Internet fame can go wrong. So many people good, bad or otherwise become absolutely unbearable when the spotlight reaches them. So many of us have no real purpose in life or otherwise that we don’t know how to use fame if we ever achieve it. So much so that I fear for people who achieve instant fame, there’s probably few other surefire ways to lose one’s soul. But Ibn Ali clearly had a message despite his being plucked from obscurity and not asking for fame. Why did he do it? Because he’s Muslim and that’s what Muslims do. That simple line is the most honest bit of dawa I’ve heard from any Muslim in the limelight (momentary or otherwise).

Ibn Ali brought up Islam when he didn’t have to. He pointed people to Islam, he didn’t run away from it. And he gave God and Islam credit for his good deed. Does this sound familiar? No, not at all. The unwritten script amongst Muslims these days is to avoid at all costs talking about Islam and Muslims if one does talk about it be vague, if controversy comes up deflect, and make being Muslim as normal and as inconsequential as eating Apple pie -which you must insist you like a lot.

This is largely the fault of Muslim leadership in America turning away from black Muslims and toward immigrant Muslims. Despite our shared faith, we have completely different sociopolitical realities. Black Muslims could care less about being accepted by the mainstream -when you’ve been rejected from the beginning of your forced migration eventually you become indifferent to their acceptance. Immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, choose to leave their countries in search of the American dream which includes acceptance by the mainstream. A project that was going fine until 9/11. That connection to foreign terror made immigrant Muslims have to fight for acceptance in a way they never had -which explains the nauseating “I’m just like you” rhetoric. But black Muslims like Ibn Ali have a strange freedom only allowed to outcasts, to basically keep being themselves, business as usual.

My dad never stopped wearing the jalabia or Kufi after 9/11, it really had nothing to do with him and he never had to prove it didn’t.  When immigrant Muslims talk about Islam they speak from a place of fear when black Muslims speak about Islam,  we speak out of freedom. That freedom allows for an unadulterated dawa that isn’t concerned with naafsi naafsi  (how will this make me look?). It’s just concerned with truth. Ibn Ali didn’t set out to do a dawa campaign and in reality, we don’t need to. With no money,  fancy lights, or professional cameras Allah chose Ibn Ali to speak and to say “Islam is the reason why I’m on the right path”. Is that a good PR answer? Is that the kind of answer that with make Americans cozy? Was it well researched for virality? No, But it is exactly the kind of dawa that makes a real impact and changes hearts for the better.

Anybody home?

April 3, 2017

Solovki View Island Sea Beach Landscape Anzere

“Every woman has the God-given eternal right to be financially supported by her husband” I once put as a status on my Facebook page. One of our shuyukh commented, “…in order that she can fully realize her human potential through her chosen vocation as a channel for divine love in the world, serve as a spiritual anchor for her family and community, and as a guardian of the Unseen.” Most of the comments on that status desired to highlight the exceptions and put forth what they believed to be the current economic reality “that was then, this is now” rhetoric. I’m not sure why the assertion that men are maintainers of women, something so clearly stated in the Quran, bothers so many and is given so little consideration. It could be pure sexism -since I doubt those men have any problem with God asserting that women must obey their husbands, but maybe it’s far worse than that.

I don’t doubt that it’s more difficult to finance the life we’ve become used to seeing as standard than it was in the past (now we must have a month’s worth of groceries at all times, cable TVs, smartphones with data plans, etc.). We’ve grown in our consumerism and of course, women’s lib taught us that we ought to be out working just like the men.

I’ve been taking an interest in womanhood, motherhood, and wifehood for some time now. Thinking about essentialism and traditional women’s roles. Growing up, I knew my goal clearly, I wanted to be a stay at home wife and mom. As I got older, continued going to school and my interest in Islamic studies grew, that goal seemed less and less logical -how could “waste” all that knowledge and just “sit at home all day”.

Despite my personal conflict, I’ve just been thinking not simply about what’s logical or what God has so clearly pronounced in his divine book but also about what was lost. In a quote from an academic research paper comparing the shopping habits of working women to housewives, it found that “Working wives… exhibited a tendency to be less concerned with the impact of their food shopping and preparation activities on other family members.” In an essay by a woman discussing her decision to be a stay at home wife she talked about the fact that she and her husband no longer had to rush through a fast food meal, now she was able to prepare homemade food -I’ll admit, something quite embarrassing. I use to stay home sometimes when everyone went out because it felt wrong for no one to attend to the home. It seemed wrong for my parents to come home from work and not be greeted by anyone. It seemed wrong that no one should offer them tea or ask them about their day. I acknowledge it was a weird urge but it just seemed that there should be a balance.

When we talk about -in American discourse, working mother/wives vs stay at home moms/ housewives we often act as if the woman who works is doing the same job as the stay at home mom/ housewife she’s just doing less of it (and doing it in addition to her job). But the reality is the homemaking role is largely abandoned when women work. Isn’t that logical anyhow? I’d argue she shouldn’t even be expected to maintain that role if she works full-time as her husband does. As a quick side note, I deeply believe that if both a man and woman are equally working outside the home they should be equally working inside of it, but that another post… So when the homemaking role is abandoned, it is no longer being done. What do we lose when it’s no one’s full-time job is to nurture the home? When both men and women are primarily focused on providing? I opine that being a homemaker – homemaking, is desperately needed in our homes. Is it really enough to maintain the physical structure of the home but neglect the spirit?

Everyone is hustling and bustling to pay for a roof over their head who is left to “channel for divine love in the world” and “serve as a spiritual anchor” as Shaykh Mendes so graciously stated? Or is that just not important to us anymore?

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