Tag Archives: Islam

Remaking Our World Calendar 2014…A Reminder of a Great Responsibility

“Every man created is entitled to what G-d has created. No man is to be discriminated against. Entitlement is not to be based upon anything but justice. Go on and build a great life for yourself, as much as any man in the United States of America.” (Imam W. Deen Mohammed, front cover 2014 Remaking Our World Islamic Calendar)

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’m very happy to announce the release of the 2014 Remaking Our World Calendar. As the project’s editor-in-chief, I’m proud of the writers, editors, and reviewers who made the project possible. We believe we’ve produced one of the most concise, yet comprehensive publications on Islam in America; it’s written to inform every American about what Islam is and is not and what its presence means.

All my life, people have asked me questions about my faith, my name and where I was born, under the assumption I must not have been born here because of my name. But I believe we’re in a time now as a citizenry where we realize more than ever that “American” is not a single cloth where one size fits all. It never has been.

We are rather a quilt of ethnicities, cultures, and religions and each of us as citizens bear the duty to create the best environment for the human spirit such that we become a standard of excellence for the whole world. Every nation should be seeking to cultivate their best. The President, Congress, nor the Military can take on the burden alone…it’s all of our collective responsibility as the late President Kennedy exhorted, “…Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”

Now I want to relate that in early 2001, I was honored to be on Hajj pilgrimage to the sacred precincts of Mecca. While in Madinah, a city about 250 miles from Mecca, I was asked by groups of Muslims from several countries what it was like to be Muslim in America. Specifically, they were curious about whether I was able to practice my faith freely.

My response was perhaps as surprising to them as their question was to me. I said, “yes I can live my religion freely…that there are perhaps as many as 8 million Muslims or more in the U.S., and that there are mosques and schools all over the country; that Muslims were basically in all sectors of American life…that Islam is the fastest growing faith in America and predicted to be the second largest religion early in this century.”

My fellow hajjis were astounded and it’s one example of the misconceptions most Muslims probably have about America, just as many Americans have misconceptions about Islam.

On the one hand, there I was performing Hajj and dispelling false notions among fellow Muslims about what it means to be American, while only a few months later following the tragedy of 9-11, I was addressing fellow Americans about what it means to be Muslim; such a position I believe means that American Muslims may be in the best position to bridge divisions separating East and West.

It’s important to me as an American citizen, as an African American, as a Muslim American and as one who has taken the oath to protect the Constitution of our land as a veteran of our Armed Forces, to fight for the best our Country offers to all its citizens regardless of religion.

Our best includes not allowing extremists to tear us asunder as they sought to do on that fateful September 11. I pray Remaking Our World helps us to know one another better and that it will be a powerful tool in the arsenal against both Islamophobia and extremism. After all, it’s ultimately in the realm of ideas and not on the battlefield that the real victory will be won.

My publisher is distributing the 2014 limited collector’s edition of the Calendar and I invite you to purchase your copy as part of an effort to share 25,000 calendars with our fellow citizens. Your purchase also supports the Words Make People Literary Excellence & Scholarship Award open to students of all faiths…“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools…”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wish each of you a Safe, Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!
Left open for further thought and research.

Peace until next time…Mukhtar

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Model Communities Are Built First Upon Model Citizenship

“We have indeed created man in the best of molds. Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low, except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.”The Noble Qur’an, 95: 1-8.

On the authority of Abu Abdul Rahmaan Abdullah (r), the son of Umar ibn al-Kattaab (r) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say: “Islam is built upon five [pillars]: testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah (the Creator of the heavens and the earth) and that Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayers, giving charity, making pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadan.”

“We can’t rise up in the eyes of the world as a civilized Community, and a productive people while carrying chinchilla coats, Super-Fly pimps, sissies, dope peddlers, wine drinkers and vulgar talkers who are just satisfied to stand on the corner and talk nasty for 16 hours, go home and sleep eight hours, get up and get right back on the job again and talk nasty for another 16 hours. Dear beloved people, we can’t get up like that. And I’m telling you, we can’t accept the responsibility to change until we know how we got in this shape…We talk about the cruelty of the slave-master, years ago, and we don’t want our people to forget that cruelty but some of us are meting out cruelty to each other that equals the cruelty that the slave-master was meting out to us in those days of physical bondage. How are we going to rise? We can’t rise until we strip off this kind of self-inflicting ignorance and filth that we have on us that’s maiming us physically, morally and spiritually.”—Imam Dr. W. Deen Mohammed (ra)

“When we consider the ten million American Negroes from the standpoint of their daily conduct and personal morality, what sort of folk are they?”Morals and Manners among Negro Americans by Augustus Dill and W. E. Burghardt Du Bois

Is there more than one way to build a model community? The answer is likely yes, since there is usually more than one acceptable way to accomplish the same desired outcome. This week we examine how model citizenship can be a fundamental strategy and an interim step to building a model community.

For many persons, the model community evokes physical infrastructure like buildings and streets and the bustling activity that characterizes a successful community. Moreover, the vision of the model community extends even to ownership of the physical infrastructure. But for the purpose of this discussion, I’d like us to focus on the more fundamental component of the model community and it is of course the model citizen which I propose is a prerequisite to model community. That is the person who has to live, thrive and help support a model community and in turn be supported by that model community, must first invest in the concept of model citizenship.

To more fully appreciate the idea of model citizenship as a prerequisite, we have to expand the concept of model community.

If we embrace the notion that the “potential” model community extends beyond just our faith community, but in fact is much broader and encompasses our neighborhood and city, then we begin to see the power in the concept of model citizenship as a stepping stone to model communities.

Let me give a practical example. Let’s say as far as your faith is concerned, you are the only person or family in a defined geographical area of a particular community or town. How would you go about building the model community there? And what do you envision by the term “model community?” If it means faith-based, ethnic or other identity-based ownership of the buildings and streets and personal operation of the major centers of productivity are the attributes or tell-tell signs that you have attained the model community, then how would you accomplish that given your available human and material resources? How much time would it take you to reach your goal of establishing the model community?

Now paradigm shift…what if the model community was already there, but just lying dormant in the status quo? In other words, is it possible that by your influence as a productive citizen modeling high standards in:

family life, business and employment relations, educational commitment and achievement, cultural expression, interfaith relations, volunteerism and civic commitment, personal financial management, health and wellness, and
other aspects of an “individual” community life, that you could usher in the model community?

What might “high standards” resemble for the above referenced model citizenship?

Well in family life for example, our commitment to our marriages and parenting would be viewed by others in the broader community as a model of excellence. There is no infidelity and domestic violence. No out of wedlock pregnancy. Our children wouldn’t be in the criminal justice system or involved with drugs, or absent from the academic rigors of school life, and they wouldn’t be teenage single parents with their own at risk children headed for statistical failure and a generational cycle of learned helplessness. We’d look out for our elderly, sick and disabled…that’s just for starters.

In business or employment relations, we would be a productive member of our community, gainfully employed or employing others in an honest day’s work. There would be no criminal activity for the purpose of earning a living. There would be a demonstrated commitment to career development.

In the educational arena, as parents we would be committed to constant and continuous self-improvement in any area of learning including self-help, faith-based curriculum, and enrollment in community college to doctoral programs for educational attainment. As parents we would in turn be modeling to our children the importance of learning and self-improvement. Our children would in turn be striving for excellence in the classroom and developing a life-long commitment to learning.

Our faith would be reflected in our cultural expression in what we say, how we dress, what entertainment venues we frequent. There would obviously be no profanity and ethnic disparagement of our own or another’s ethnic group or gender; we wouldn’t wear our pants below the buttocks or our skirt line nearly to our waist and there would obviously be no loud profane music thumping at the most extreme decibel from our ride or living room window; we wouldn’t be at nightclubs and consuming alcohol or drugs and potentially subjecting ourselves to the legal issues of intoxicated driving or drug use and the consequent system of criminal justice and corrections. Others would view our cultural expression as a model and they would want to see, hear, and read our poems, music, literature, plays, and rap and they’d want to sample our cuisine free of poor food choices and be in our entertainment environment free of cigarettes and other health robbing practices.

Our circle of friends (not wali) would include people of other faiths and ethnicities because we realize that in reality, we’re all part of the model community. And the more we know one another and can empathize with one another, the more special and considerate the model community would be for everyone. We would also have the greater potential benefit of hearing perhaps first hand from someone with beyond-our-national-borders-experience share what it’s really like “over there” as compared to the nightly news broadcast here.

Our civic involvement would be sought from the school board to the Mayor’s office because of the goals and standards we have set and live by in other areas of our life. Others would appreciate our participation and leadership because of how we accept responsibility for our personal and community life.

On the personal financial front, we would be neither niggardly nor ostentatious. We’d live modestly appreciating: homeownership over fancy cars, designer clothes and renting; delayed gratification and saving over instant “have to have now” buying habits with usurious interest; saving for the succeeding generation’s college expenses while they’re teething; and planning for emergency savings and long term goals including our last rites and the welfare of our family in the event of our unexpected loss.

Now remember, standards set the ideal state. If I haven’t reached my ideal, then I shouldn’t lower the standard. I should just admit I have not met my ideal standard and I should keep working for the ideal and improving upon the status quo every day, every week, every month and every year.

Imagine the model citizenship envisioned above in any community setting–that type of citizenship has the power to influence the existing standard. In fact, by the record of history, one model citizen can change an entire village, town, country, nation, and the world.

So I don’t have to own every brick, factory, and store to accomplish building the model community from the ground up. In fact, if I did wind up owning the bricks, factory and the store, but in the process I lose my children and family life to the same negative influences affecting many in the broader society…you know crime, drugs, divorce, domestic violence, teen and out of wedlock pregnancy, and poor education, etc., while I was sharply focused on building the model community, then what good would the model community be?

What’s the trend in your area while you’ve been working on building the model community? Have you been able to establish and sustain model citizenship while you’re trying to bring into existence the model community?

Islam is built on five pillars. The model community is also built on pillars–you and me. Let us be pillars in our existing community first…it’ll then be easier to build that model community. I’m just saying, first things first.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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On the Importance of Sending Greetings to Other Faith Communities…

“…And We have not sent you, [O Muhammed], except as a mercy to the worlds.”
(Quran: 21:106-107)

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.”
(Qur’an 16:125)

“This is a message from Muhammed ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are declared to be protected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
–The Agreement of the Noble Messenger, Prophet Muhammed (S) with the religious leaders of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai who has sought the protection of the Muslims
(Madinah, 628 A.D.)

We should seek diligently to reflect the best of our faith in our relations with one another as religious communities, as believers, and the children of Adam (AS). For some, the issue of sending greetings to persons of other faiths is met with ambivalence or sometimes more severely with…”that’s bidah!”

But in the context of extending a greeting of peace to others, I believe the word bidah is grossly misapplied. I believe that with just a cursory review of the history of our Prophet (S) and the Rightly Guided Caliphs (RA), one would immediately see that greetings of peace on any occasion is not an innovation, but is in keeping with the manner and kindness of our Prophet (SAW) in respecting other People of the Book that he showed during his mission and that the Rightly Guided Sahaba (RA) showed during their missions.

Muslims may wish to consider the very same verses the Prophet (S) instructed his emissaries to share with the Negus of Abyssinia in their greetings to our Abrahamic brethren around this time of year. We may enjoy similar consequences of such an approach as our earliest Muslim predecessors enjoyed when they were a minority amongst Christian benefactors.

To assume without any nusus, and in light of the demonstrated compassion of the Prophet (S), that the Qur’an and wishes of peace cannot be shared at anytime with anyone during, before, or after their holiday is itself bidah.

Imagine for a moment if more leaders today would take the time to send greetings to one another on such occasions, we might see less hatred, bloodshed, strife, and confusion. Allahu-Alim. Our leaders must begin teaching the people as our Prophet (S) taught the people…to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with those who have not ridiculed your faith, neither attacked you, nor fought you for your religion.

We should ask ourselves, how would a Muslim governor behave if he had Muslim, Christian and Jewish citizens under his authority and their holidays approached? Asking such a question can help demonstrate that the less responsibility we have for global concerns and leadership, the more parochial and narrow our visions and concerns can be. The less interaction we have as a citizen of the world, the more insolated we can be and the more liberty we have to only think about ourselves and how appreciative we feel when someone not Muslim goes out of their way to say “Id Mubabrak” or “As-Salaamu-Alaikum” with the wrong pronunciation but with nevertheless the best of intentions to spread peace.

Dearest believers, let us not be misled by some among our so-called ulema who will cause us to barter guidance for extremism.

“We want to make it very clear to you what this mission is all about. We are here to Remake the World, not just the world of mosques, but the World of America and the World outside of America…The future of American Muslims will be well-served when we serve the best interests of humanity. We must work for a productive mind that will enter and affect a change of the soul not just for one people, but for the benefit of all people.“
–Imam Dr. W.D Mohammed (ra)

Prayers and condolences to our fellow citizens of Newtown, Connecticut. May Allah (SWT) guide us to a better tomorrow.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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