Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Update

As Salaamu Alaikum Everybody

Sorry for not posting for a while, the holidays have started and I'm busy enjoying it (in a halal way of course) with my family. So don't expect much posts from me during the next few weeks. Sorry about that.

The good news is that I've been accepted by Muslim to post articles there, so you will find different articles by me, here and there. It is an honour to be able to write articles for the same blogsite as Yasir Qadhi and Tawfique Chowdhury, people who I regard as my role models and inspirations.

I wrote a three hour RPL (recognition of prior learning) Exam yesterday to get my studies recognized as a BA in Islamic Studies, it was a very long paper, wrote about sixteen pages of answers in those three hours but if I do well, it will be worth it. Please make dua for me.

Finally, I would just like to request duas from all my readers for myself and my family, we have had a very difficult year so please make dua that Allah helps secure for me a good job in Islamic work soon so I can serve Islam with peace of mind about finances and worldly matters.

Will post something next week, insha Allah.

May Allah make us all rightly guided and guides for others.
Was Salaam
Abu Muawiyah

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Young Da'ee Dilemmas

So you decided you want to study Islam and become a scholar. 'Masha Allah' some people will say. 'Extremist!' others will say and thats just the beginning. It is not easy trying to spread Islam while you are young, in fact it is very difficult. This article is not meant to put young people off Islamic work but rather to get others to understand our feelings and change their attitudes and to prepare young people like myself for the tests that lie ahead. This article is written for me first before anyone else, because Allah knows how much I need this reminder.

When a person chooses to dedicate their life to Islamic work, they should expect problems...a lot of problems. This is the sunnah of Allah, the closer you are to Allah, the harder the test of life gets and the greater the reward is in the Afterlife. Yet, it is even harder for the youth as the reward is even greater. Ever wondered why a young person who worships Allah will be under the shade of Allah's Throne on the Last Day? It's because it is the hardest time to be good, and even harder time to be active in the Dawah.

Here is a list of the most common challenges I have faced so far so you can understand what I am talking about:

1. Who is right?

I can't count the amount of times I just broke down and almost went crazy trying to figure out who is right and who I should take knowledge from. There are so many Islamic groups, sects, mazhabs, etc that young students can lose their minds trying to figure out the truth.

The Solution: Turn to Allah, Allah promised that He will never let a sincere seeker of the truth go astray, so if you turn to Him and study hard, Allah will guide you to the truth, and even if you make mistakes along that path, Insha Allah, you will be forgiven and it will be overlooked as an Ijtihad (struggling to work out the truth) error.

2. Overzealousness:

I made many mistakes as a teenager when I first started studying Islam in that I forgot how to deal with people and became a bit of a Haram Police, which led to many family ties breaking and it just lead to more problems. It is easy to get caught up in Shaytaan's trap of Self-righteousness when studying Islam and this is very dangerous as it puts other people off Islam itself.

Solution: Relax, think before you speak or act, realize you are dealing with humans and that you too have sins and mistakes, so deal with people in a nice friendly manner, it will accomplish a lot more than barking and hulking up.

3. Dealing with overzealousness of others:

So you remain calm and deal with people nicely, unfortunately many others don't deal with you the same, they bark at you and call you a hypocrite if you make the slightest mistake, this can be very discouraging.

Solution: Remain cool and calm (very hard to do), listen to what they are saying, if they are right, apologize, thank them and change. If they are wrong, apologize, thank them and don't change. Just don't tell them they are wrong because people like this normally can't accept correction and it will lead to an unnecessary fight that will waste precious time, energy and cause ill-feelings.

4. The Elders can't be wrong

Some people will not tolerate any different opinion coming from a youngster. If a youngster says something and the elders say something else, the elders have to be right, they say. This can lead to one's Dawah becoming ineffective.

Solution: Normally in these situations, it is just the elders of that area that hold to a wrong opinion so as a youngster, if you know that they won't listen to you, get an elderly person who shares your view to preach it to them, this will make it easier to digest and at the very least, they can't throw the youngster card at him.

5. You are too young to preach

This happens too often. If a person does not agree with the view of a youngster, they throw the youth card at him. Once I told a man that it is unislamic to make tribalism the criterion for marriage, his reply, "you are still young, you'll understand that you are wrong when you get older,"

My worst experience with this is an old man who I use to work for in a Dawah organization. One day he started talking very arrogantly and rudely to me in front of a new convert. I told him politely to please stop as he is making Islam look bad. He then started shouting and told me the following in front of the entire staff and the converts, "YOU ARE JUST A CHILD! I WILL NEVER ACCEPT CORRECTION FROM YOU EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT! YOU ARE JUST A CHILD, YOU MUST FOLLOW ME AND DON'T YOU EVER CORRECT ME AGAIN,"

Solution: this is reality, it might happen to you. Just stay far far away from such people and stick to dealing with nice friendly people to avoid get emotionally scarred for life.

6. How dare you change your opinion!

It will happen! As you study Islam, you will realize that you had at least a few points of Aqeedah or fiqh wrong and it is now time to change. When that happens, expect backlash from the community if they are dogmatic about those practices. The worst that happened to me in this situation? It use to be getting beat up by some classmates for questioning the Shaykh-Mureed Sufi system, but last year I got accused of being Salafi and fired from my job and was unable to find a job for many months. That is by far the worst thing that happened to me in regards to this issue.

Solution: Read the second verse of Suran Ankabut and realize that it will happen, if you change a belief for the sake of Allah, it will happen. He will test you in a variety of ways to see how strong you are in your beliefs, the only solution is to suck it in, be patient and await the help of Allah. Allah has promised that He will test us and help us out of the test if we are patient.

7. Cultural Expectations:

Different cultures have different expectations for a student of knowledge. In my community, if you are a student of knowledge, you are expected to wear a Thowb or Kurta with a Islamic hat full-time, you can not wear jeans under your Kurta, just Kurta pants. You should not have fun, have a personality or a sense of humor, etc. Non of this has any basis in Islam and all it does is cause unnecessary difficulties for young students of knowledge, leading to one of three scenarios, either the youngster submits to cultural norms and ends up living a miserable life not being himself, or he chooses to live a double life and risk being called a hypocrite, or he decided to show people that these expectations have no basis in Islam and are wrong, which leads to the community turning against him.

Solution: I don't know, each option has it's good and bad, personally I'm somewhere between the first and third, I do some of these things like wearing a thowb and hat most of the time to avoid unnecessary fights, at the same time I try to educate people that these things are not important and irrelevant.

These are just some of the problems, young Muslims face when they choose the path of Islamic work. Is it worth going through all this? Yes, because the shade of Allah's Throne, Paradise and His eternal happiness with you are all worth it.

May Allah grant us all strength to handle the tests of life and make us all rightly guided and a means of guidance for others.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dear respected Mr and Mrs Soukhater

Dear respected Mr and Mrs Soukhater, the entire soukhater clan and all their associates

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

I am sure you already know that the Souk is around the corner once again. I am sure you also have already dug up the old Anti-Souk newsletter and posted it on your Masjid board, the exact same one you have been posting for the past five or ten years despite the fact that it is not working. It seems to me that you can not understand why the majority of Muslims in Durban still go to the Souk and see nothing wrong with it, perhaps I can clear up your confusion in this letter.

I would like to begin by answering some of the points you raise in your Souk newsletters. You claim that the Souk is a place of fitnah were people go to intermingle and commit Zina. I would like to inform you that the majority of people I know who go to the Souk are decent people who do not fornicate at the Souk but are there with their spouses and families.

I would also like to inform you that those people who do go to the Souk for the wrong reasons are the same people who will commit those same sins at any time of the year and they will still do the same sins in December even if we cancel the Souk. You see sir, the Souk is not the problem, the problem is much more complex than that, and boycotting the Souk will not help, because if the good Muslims boycott the Souk then such sins will occur openly, yet if we are all there, people would be less likely to commit such sins in that place.

I would also like to inform you that it is better to have people who commit such sins coming to the Souk instead of other places, because at the Souk, they might be affected positively by the Nasheeds, lectures, Qiraat or the variety of lecture DVDs and CDs on sale. Did you ever think about that? Oh yes, I forgot, you regard Nasheeds and lecture DVDs as Haraam too, my mistake, which brings me to point number two.

You claim that the Souk is Haraam because there is entertainment there, indicating that you believe all entertainment is Haraam which is really sad and shows your lack of knowledge of Quran and Sunnah and the principles of Fiqh, I can assure you that the majority of entertainment at the Souk is Halal if you study it properly, by that I mean the Islamic cartoons, children’s rides and activities, the Nasheeds, etc. I will admit that there is some haram that occurs but that is because instead of helping people by teaching them the Fiqh of entertainment, you choose to boycott them and then blame them if they can’t distinguish between halal and haram entertainment. Remind me to send you and the Souk committee copies of the upcoming book “Entertainment in Islam” to clear up this issue so you two can unite upon a balanced understanding of this topic.

Thirdly, you claim the Souk is Haram because women go there not dressed properly. Firstly, this is not true for all the women at the Souk. Secondly such women are welcomed everywhere except the Masjid which you have banned them from. If you had allowed them to attend the Masjid and study there from a young age, they would have understood the purpose of Hijiab and would not be dressed inappropriately, but since you failed in your duty to educate them, I would encourage them to go to the Souk and buy a copy of Sheik Feiz’s “etiquettes of Hijab” on DVD from the 1Islam Production stand and insha Allah, they will benefit from this lecture and change their dress code.

I know in the Darul Uloom they don’t teach you how to deal with people because I too studied there for seven years, so let me explain a few points to you. People are human, they make mistakes and will never be perfect, understand that, embrace it and learn how to help them instead of shunning them. Boycotting, shouting, snarling and making mean faces are not effective forms of dawah and just chase people further away from you and Islam.

If you want a woman to start wearing Hijab, it will not happen overnight, it is a slow process of being kind, understanding, educating and leading by example. If such women are ignored, they continue to sin, if such women are snarled at, they continue to sin. Communication is key (unless you a man, then let your wife communicate), try it and you will see how many more people you can guide and assist compared to when you use Hulk tactics.

Finally, if you attend the Souk you will find a lot of Islamic products on sale, from Islamic DVDs (they are Halal) to Hijabs, you will find huge congregations for the daily Salah, people who don’t normally pray their Salah start praying at the Souk because of the environment. This year there will even be an Islamic Exhibition which is definitely worth checking out and can only affect people positively.

To conclude, yes bad things happen at the Souk but nothing specific that makes it the Souk’s fault, rather those sins happen everywhere, step out of your cave and you will realize that. Rather good things happen at the Souk that do not normally happen at the Beaches or Shopping Malls and in that sense I find the Souk a great alternative for Muslims to go to and enjoy themselves in a Halal manner. (yes, you can experience Halal joy)

I am sorry for the long letter but it was way overdue, if you are looking for me to kill me, I’ll be at the Souk but you want to see for yourself how you can use the Souk for good instead of evil, well I’ll still be at the Souk anyway doing just that so come and join me. I hope this letter opened your eyes to how most Muslims look at the Souk and I hope you will be willing to give it a chance this year. Who knows, maybe your presence at the Souk could change people’s lives for the better.

Your brother in Islam
Mr Eyelike Da Souk

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ten Friday Torture Talks

Having just endured another excruciatingly boring and outdated Jumah lecture, I can't feel anything but pity for the majority of Muslims in SA whose only taste of Islamic knowledge is these khutbahs, no wonder they are so apprehensive when we have Islamic lectures on other days besides Jumah, they can't imagine good speakers and relevant lectures.

Sigh, if only they allowed me to speak on Jumah platforms still, people enjoyed it but the big shots did not, maybe its because I spoke about how badly children are treated in the masjid, or that time I spoke about the haram practices of businessmen, maybe it was my analysis of the Da Vinci Code from the mimbar, or maybe it was my last khutbah were I spoke about Halal Entertainment. Whatever it was, the people in charge won't let me and my big mouth on the mimbar around here anymore

So what do we get instead, the same old every week, here are ten often repeated Jumah khutbahs with my thoughts while the khutbah is on:

1. The Salah Khutbah

"We must pray our five daily Salah. Salah is compulsory. We must pray our five daily Salah. It is Haram to miss a Salah." (repeat for half an hour with one or two points lost in between)

The crowd knows this, they've heard this talk at least twenty times this year alone, if they still not praying Salah, repeating the talk won't help, why don't you add new material, explain to them some incentives to pray, adopt a different approach because in case you did not notice, this lecture is not working!

2. The How to make Wudhu Khutbah

Seriously, anybody sitting at Jumah who can't make Wudhu? If so, is it so many people that you have to give a Jumah Khutbah about it? 99% of the crowd was taught all this in preschool. If one or two people still don't know, talk to them personally don't bore the entire crowd to death with preschool level fiqh.

3. The standard important day Khutbah

Every first day of Ramadan, we hear the same EVERY Masjid. Every Eidul Adha we hear the exact same story of Ibrahim (AS) at every Eid Gah! Is there a standard khutbah book being passed around or something? It's like if its a special day, the entire crowd has already memorized the lecture before it begins. I'm serious, I use to teach in a school were the kids would tell me the Jumah lecture before it happens because the lecturer gives the exact same lecture every year on the same date! teach us something new please, there is so much Muslims don't know about their deen yet!

4. The Wrong Language Lecture

Nothing is worse than going to a Masjid only to discover the lecture is in Urdu in a Masjid were 99% of the crowd speak English! That's when I put my head down and sleep till the lecturer sneezes loudly and gives us all a heart attack (happened once)

5. The Everything-is-Haram Khutbah

This one I heard today again, sports is haram, celebrations are haram, television is haram even if it is an Islamic station, Muslims should never be happy until they enter Jannah (his exact words). This is the lecture that nobody takes seriously and at the same time it puts a lot of people off Islam, These Moulanas need to study Fiqh again, maybe when my book "Entertainment in Islam" is published, I'll send them some copies. Then again maybe not, since they'll just burn it without reading it.

6. The written-by-someone-else Khutbah

When I was studying, my classmates would borrow my lectures and read them out Jumah time then they would wonder why people enjoy it when I said it but didn't when they did. Two reasons: 1. you read, you suppose to speak. 2. It wasn't your writing so it wasn't from your heart. I hate it when the Khateeb pulls out a page and just reads without ever looking up, probably because he is afraid to see all the sleeping faces.

7. The Muslims-are-bad Khutbah

How often have you heard a Moulana give a lecture about the state of the ummah, complaining about everyone from other Moulanas to your granny. Nobody gets spared in this Khutbah of how bad the ummah is. His solution? Nothing, he never gives one, it's just a half hour rant about how bad we all are without any practical advice. Thank you for caring!

8. The Zikr Khutbah

Everybody should hear this one at least twice a year. It's the one in which Zikr is mentioned 897 times with out any definition or practical advice on how and when to make Zikr. It goes like this, "The Sahabah made Zikr, all of the prophets made Zikr, we must all make Zikr," We get it, we all know we must Zikr, you said that before, now pleasegive a khutbah about how to sort out the drug problem in our community.

9. The My-shaykh-said Khutbah

This is the Khutbah were every line starts with, my shaykh once told me.....Yet not a single verse from the Quran or Hadith is quoted. So how do we know his Shaykh is right? Read the next Khutbah

10. The Ulema-are-always-right Khutbah

Now a standard monthly khutbah. This one says that the local Moulanas can never be wrong and we must blindly follow them in everything they say, because they were taught by their Shaykhs who are great Buzrugs and can never be wrong. Well looking at the above list, I can see that.

Its suppose to be Top Ten, but i want to throw two more I hear too often:

11. The how-to-drink-Islamicly Khutbah

An entire Khutbah dedicated to the sunnahs of drinking and eating, while nobody speaks about the marriage problems, drug problems and social problems in our community. How relevant.

12. The women-are-deficient Khutbah

I memorized this one because I heard it so many times, it's the lecture about how all our problems and fitnahs are because of the deficient women not wanting to live in their kitchens 24/7. The same Khutbah which bashes women for studying, shopping, teaching and doing social work. No need to comment, this one speaks for itself.

Remembering Ahmed Deedat (RA)

When I was seven years old, I remember watching a movie in which the main characters were very religious Christians, I was amazed at their piety and firm belief in their religion and it got me thinking, so I asked my mother, "How do we know that we are right and other religions are wrong? Because every religion believes they are going to Paradise and the others are going to Hell" My mum is a practicing Muslimah but not well-verses in comparative religion, she simply told me not to think like that or ask such questions.

These questions however continued to linger in my mind even after I started studying Islam at the local Darul Uloom. It would only be at the age of eighteen when I encountered the lecture videos of Ahmed Deedat (RA) that I would finally get my answers to these questions and my mind would be put to rest.

This is the first impact that Ahmed Deedat (RA) had in my life, but it was not the last. Deedat always emphasized that we should read the Quran with understanding, so after listening to his lectures, I started to do so and soon discovered things about Islam different from what I was raised with or taught in the Darul Uloom, this led me down the path of seeking the true understanding of Islam, again it started with Ahmed Deedat (RA).

My encounters with Deedat's videos were also my first encounter with actual Dawah to Non-Muslims. Before that, I was taught that Dawah is Tabligh Jamaat work to Muslim homes and not once in my seven years in the Darul uloom did we study Dawah methods, its importance or comparative religion. In fact, they were against Ahmed Deedat and Dawah in general, so through Deedat began my first clash with my teachers in our understanding of Islam which led to me eventually leaving that school of thought and seeking a purer version of Islam.

At the same time, these videos made me realize the importance of Dawah and the joy of being the means through which a person converted to Islam, which led to me studying comparative religion and dawah methodology through the IPCI, Dr Bilal Philips, Shaykh Kamal Mekki and privately, and also led to me making Dawah a priority in my life.

In short, Ahmed Deedat (RA) perhaps has had a bigger impact on my life than any other person I have ever met except my beloved teacher, Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. This is why it saddens me when I hear people talking bad about Ahmed Deedat (RA) and focusing on his mistakes.

No doubt about it, Deedat made mistakes, he was after all human, wasn't he? Yes, Yusuf Ali's translation has a lot of mistakes and deviations, but back in his day, Dr Muhsin Khan's translation nor Farooq-Azam's were not available so he made do with what he had. Yes, he was too aggressive at times, but he lived in different times and had to deal with arrogant white supremacists during apartheid times. Yes, He made a big mistake by supporting the Shia Iranian Revolution and Dr Rashad Khalifah's theory about the number 19, but he publicly repented from both those things.

Thats the point of Ahmed Deedat, he was not perfect, he was not the best, rather he was human and thats why people like me can relate to him. If I make a mistake in my Dawah, I learn from it and try again knowing well that greater people made mistakes in their Dawah too. Furthermore, when you look at the fact that Deedat had no formal education, he did not study at a university or a Darul Uloom, in fact he did not even finish school and did not know a word of English when he came to South Africa at the age of nine. Taking all that into consideration, what Deedat accomplished in his life and the amount of work Allah took from him seems even more amazing!

Finally there was his nine year illness in which he could not move and remained bed-ridden for nine whole years.My blood boils when I hear Muslims saying that Allah punished him for picking on other religions. My response to such people is what have you ever done for the Dawah? Besides, don't they know that Allah only tests those whom He loves and the closer you are to Allah, the harder the test of life will be, as stated in authentic Ahadith?

The final years of Deedat's life were amazing, he showed a level of patience, commitment and faith that most of us can't. Would you be able to keep your faith and persist in your dawah if you couldn't move a limb for nine years? Don't think I can, but he did. This alone deserves respect. I remember once learning that before a righteous slave leaves this world, Allah puts them through great tests to erase their sins so that when they die, they return to their Lord already purified with only their good deeds in their accounts. I pray that this was the case with Ahmed Deedat.

I remember that I discovered Deedat around 2004, during which time he was already bed-ridden. I would visit his bedside often and every time tears would form in my eyes when I would see the same charismatic man from the videos in this sad state and I would pray that Allah would end his suffering soon. When he passed away I was actually happy for him that the test was finally over and made dua to Allah forgive his mistakes and grant him a high stage in Paradise. This chapter of Deedat's life taught me to be ready to face great trials if I wish to follow in his footsteps, indeed it is the way of Allah that the prophets, du'aat and scholars have the hardest lives as their reward in the Afterlife is the greatest.

I would also like to mention that Deedat's son Yusuf took amazing care of him during these nine years which really impressed me, may Allah reward him greatly for it. Ahmed Deedat's wife Hawa (RA) also deserves mention, she is one of the sweetest old ladies I ever met and her care and love for her husband was clear for all to see. May Allah unite their souls in paradise.

I pray that Allah unites Ahmed and Hawa Deedat in a high stage in Paradise and forgives them for their shortcomings. I'd like to end by leaving you with this beautiful video tribute to this great man from the DVD "The Life and Times of Ahmed Deedat":