Archive for April, 2011

The Importance Of Good Manners

A brother approached me recently looking for advice. He said that he had gone through several phases in his development and in each stage he would add more acts of worship to his daily life. He started by getting his five prayers down, then their sunnahs, then adding the forenoon prayer (ḍuḥā), then trying to pray in the night, and finally, fasting Mondays and Thursdays. His concern was that recently, when he was trying to pray more in the night, he was having a hard time doing it and felt that he was stagnating.

As I thought about his situation and his struggle to improve himself, I remembered something that I was reading in Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn just a few days before. I was preparing for a talk that I was to give on arrogance and the chapter after it in Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn happened to be the chapter on good manners. I was overwhelmed.

I will mention some of the ahadith that were compiled in this section by Imam al-Nawawi and perhaps share a few thoughts on a couple of them. One thing that we will see is that sometimes we are not in need of increasing our acts of worship, but rather in improving the quality of our acts of worship and the quality of our interactions with people.

Anas radiAllahu `anhu (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ had the best character of anyone.”

Anas (ra) said, “I did not touch any silk brocade nor silk softer than the palm of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. I did not smell any scent sweeter than the scent of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. I served the Messenger of Allah ﷺ for ten years and he never said to me, ‘Uff‘ nor did he say about anything I had done, ‘Why did you do that?’ nor about anything I had not done, ‘Why did you not do that?’”

‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’As (ra) said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was neither obscene nor indecent. He used to say, ‘The best of you are the best in character.’”

Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The believers with the most perfect belief are the best of them in character. The best of you are the best of you towards your wives.”

‘A’isha (ra) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘By his good character a believer can reach the same rank as someone who fasts and prays at night.”

One of the commentators on this hadith said that the reason for this is because the one who prays in the night or fasts in the day struggles against his self while being disconnected from the people, but the one who deals with the people with good character struggles against himself while dealing with others, with all their differences, so they are equal to the one who prays or fasts, or maybe even better.

Abu Umama al-Bahili (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “I guarantee a house on the outskirts of the Garden to anyone who abstains from disputation, even if he is in the right, and a house in the middle of the Garden for anyone who abandons lying, even when he jests, and a house at the summit of the Garden for anyone who has good character.”

Jabir (ra) reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Those I love most and those sitting nearest to me on the Day of Rising will be those of you with the best character. Those most hateful to me and the furthest of you from me on the Day of Rising will be the pompous, the braggarts and the arrogant.’ They said, ‘Messenger of Allah, we know the pompous and the braggarts, but who are the arrogant?’ He said, ‘The proud.’”

‘A’isha (ra) reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah is kind and loves kindness and gives for gentleness what he does not give for harshness nor for anything else.”

The Prophet ﷺ said to his companions, “Shall I not tell you something that is better than fasting, and praying, and giving charity?” They said, “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Reconciling between people.”

O Allah (swt), bestow your peace and blessings upon the best man to ever walk the face of the earth, our Prophet and master, Muhammad ﷺ. May He allow us to be true inheritors of his legacy.


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Save the Sisters

 I get some interesting looks when I suggest that the physical barrier that was recently put up between brothers and sisters for Jum`ah at my school be taken down. They probably think it is odd that a bearded, refreshingly conservative, practicing Muslim brother would dare suggest that there be nothing but chairs separating the brothers and sisters during the khutbah and salah. But I have good reasons.

It began last year, when the older generation of our MSA was completely phased out when the last few students who participated in the “glory years” finished their degrees and graduated. Then, a new group of brothers and sisters took the reins and inherited the responsibility of leading one of the largest Muslim student organizations in the State, if not the country.

For the most part, the new Shura (Council) kept with tradition in most practices of the previous MSA. The prior Council’s success with establishing such a large Muslim body on campus was proof that they were doing things right. So, it was a no-brainer to stick with what they did. There were a few things, however, that changed. One of them was the issue of setting up a barrier for our Friday prayer to physically separate the men from the women. This barrier, I was told, was to protect the khateeb from seeing the women while he was speaking, so he can focus and control his gaze. This was a more intense measure than what the previous MSA Council did; they usually lined up a row of chairs to designate and distinguish the men’s section from the women’s.

“Modesty,” you say, “is an important value in Islam, AbdelRahman. Shouldn’t you be a proponent of a tall physical barrier to promote ideals of modesty?”

That’s a great question, reader. I definitely support modesty between men and women in Islam, most definitely. But this situation is a bit different.

Anyone who has taken a speech class – scratch that, anyone who has ever talked to another human being knows that not all aspects of communication are verbal. When we talk, we may or may not make facial gestures, hand motions, and other physical movements to help get our point across. In fact, studies show that 70% of communication is rooted in something called paralanguage: an auxiliary form of communication that includes everything except speech. In this specific example, the aspect of paralanguage that is most important is called kinesics — more commonly referred to as body language. Putting it in simple terms, the motions a speaker makes during his speech directly improves or worsens the delivery of his message.

Do you see where I am going with this?

When I had presented this concern to the brothers who coordinate the Jum`ah khutbahs at my school, one of their responses was a small retort that shocked my ears and saddened my heart. With an uninterested face, he replied, “it’s not even obligatory for them to come anyways.”

In an event as important and essential as the Friday khutbah, we cannot compromise the effectiveness and impact that it can have on any of the attendees, and that includes the sisters. In fact, the sisters may be more important attendees in certain cases than the brothers. The average brother, though he may not realize it, has many more opportunities to interact with Islamic scholars, teachers, and personalities than the average sister does. For most sisters, the Jum`ah khutbah is the only time they can attend a direct discourse from a respected speaker, outside of conventions and special programs that come every so often.

Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best. These same brothers who feel the need to unnecessarily force women behind a blanket are also those who complain most about the onslaught of liberalism and feminism against our sisters. If they would only realize that their unnecessary repression of Muslim women is a direct cause of the future mothers of our Ummah lashing out in rebellion. There is a balance we must achieve, however fine the line may be.

Living in America — and now more than ever – it is essential that we provide as many educational and social opportunities to our sisters as possible, and this includes the Friday khutbah. Do not let our sisters be spiritually handicapped by not allowing them to have the full heart-changing experience of a good khutbah. We need to make sure they have full access to receive the complete message on Fridays, to be able to see what is happening so their hearts are energized for the next week — whether it is at home or at work.

But more importantly, let us be careful not to reinforce the idea that sisters are second-class citizens in Islam; that a room with a garbled sound system and terrible ventilation is sufficient for their educational needs. Even more importantly, let us refrain from strengthening the notion that they should not even come to the masjid — because if we do not have strong, educated, spiritual and active sisters in this Ummah, we are in deep trouble.

May Allah guide us towards what is best, and He knows best.

Courtesy of AbdelRahman Murphy and

Reflections CNN’s “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”

The CNN Special “Unwelcome – The Muslims Next Door” premiered a few days ago and is one of the highest profile pieces in mainstream media regarding Islamophobia. At first, I was sort of squeamish about tuning into the program, because even though we have become adept at reading endless emails, columns, and talk radio commentary that highlight anti-Muslim bias – seeing this on TV really tends to be heart-wrenching.

I recorded the special on my DVR and subsequently spanned the full spectrum of emotions. From pleasantly surprised at the very human (yes Muslims are human too!) portrayal of the Murfreesboro Muslim community, to concerned when hearing of the scope of the outcry against the mosque, to finally outraged in seeing the depths that some within the opposition would sink to in order to squash this project. There was also surprise, in seeing how a personal connection existed in this mosque project as well.

From CNN’s perspective, I believe they did a fair job in attempting to not take sides – even though this is an issue of Constitutional right among the Muslim community. From a journalistic standpoint, CNN played the role of ombudsman – however this real-life morality play was truly reflected in its characters.

The Muslims of Murfreesboro did an excellent job of representing an Islamic community to the rest of America by being strong, composed and sticking to the facts. Although the documentary was filmed much earlier – it is airing in the shadows of the Peter King Radicalization hearings in Washington DC. In the current climate that the Muslim community is facing – there is a narrative that the Muslim community is playing the role of victim, prone to shedding “crocodile tears” when they get in front of the TV cameras.  Don’t believe me?  Just click here. Rather than showing respect for the Muslim’s willingness to shed tears for their faith – the script is flipped, and the anti-Islam community uses these emotions as fodder.

A Show of Solidarity

With that being said, the Murfeesboro Muslims did a wonderful job of showing a strong and determined face – such as in the case of young college student Lema Sbenaty. In witnessing her Islamic Center vandalized, her community demonized and the entire issue politicized – the sister had every reason to break down under the weight of the pressure. As I sat next to my wife watching the show, I even at times felt tears welling up into my eyes, in witnessing the level of hatred that some harbor toward Muslims as a whole – one cannot help feel emotional in these circumstances. The trolls among us in society unfortunately would have a field day.

We have seen a concerted effort in the Islamophobia business to dehumanize Muslims. Talking heads such as Brigitte Gabriel and Michele Malkin have unconscionably stated that images of Muslim parents crying, holding their dead or wounded in bombed out Arab neighborhoods – are actually just random passers –by, just faking it. The Islamophobic community also likes to state that Muslims are practicing the buzzword “taqiyya” in order to portray your smiling Muslim neighbor – as a lying, sleeper  terrorist-in-waiting.  As you see, in today’s political climate, Muslims are not allowed to express human emotions. Either way, it is likely that those who didn’t like Muslims before the special – will still feel the same way. Those who are neutral will see that this has to do with the inalienable rights that all Americans enjoy

On a personal level, I was pleasantly surprised to see the former Imam of the mosque I attended in Irving, TX – Shaykh Ossama Bahloul. When the Imam came to the U.S, he could hardly speak any English – but you could see the true effort that he has made in learning the language and in order to become a more engaged member of the Islamic clergy. He is now fluent in English, and did an excellent job of representing himself to a national audience.

Hope For Muslims – from an Unlikely Source

In recent months, there has been a concerted effort in passing anti-Shari`ah legislation in states like Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida – and the state at the epicenter of this documentary, Tennessee. With many candidates successfully running on a platform of fear-mongering, Muslims now find themselves wondering what implications that this has on them long-term. Is it possible that a Muslim meat-store owner gets 15-20 years in prison, for processing halal meat? Unlikely, however he is in effect practicing Shari`ah-law – which according to these half-brained bills would be illegal.  Needless to say, many Muslims are rightfully concerned.  That is why seeing this legal process adjudicated on the CNN documentary was especially helpful.

After the mosque opponents did everything within their power to protest the mosque’s building permit, they decided to move forward with a temporary injunction. On what basis, you ask?  For that answer, we go to Murfreesboro’s racist legal council:  Joe Brandon. Due to the fact that this house of worship is protected by the 1st Amendment, the councilor decided to attack from the angle that Islam is not a religion. Therefore, he has set forth on a quixotic adventure in delegitimizing a faith with 1.5 billion adherents.

As a human being, it is very gut-wrenching to see your faith be twisted out of context, and for it to be used as political fodder. Muslims love their faith, and to hear it being equated with suicide bombing and wife beating  – as in the case of Attorney Brandon, is completely unacceptable. But however uncomfortable this situation gets, what has unfolded rings of hope for the Muslim community. The appeal was denied. Sure there was plenty of pomp, circumstance and shout-downs. But the most telling moment came when the Department of Justice intervened in the proceedings and informed the participants that “Islam is plainly a religion,” and is therefore unequivocally protected by the 1stAmendment.

The appeal failed, so in the aftermath of the documentary – the opponents are still grasping to any legal straw that is available to them. Although this promises to be a long, arduous process – Muslims can rest assured that they cannot be denied the right to practice their religion freely, just as the case with any other faith. The same logic can be applied to what the opponents of Park 51 have attempted from a legal perspective – by trying to label the abandoned Burlington Coat Factory a “historical site” after the fact, among other last-ditch legal loopholes that they are attempting to exploit. This will also be the ultimate downfall of those states who attempt to pass anti-Shari`ah legislation – as a thinly veiled attempt to disenfranchise Muslims. Bottom line:  Muslims represent less than 2% of the entire U.S. population. In “anti-Shari`ah” states like Oklahoma, the population of Muslims is more like .02%. Please explain how buzzwords such as “creeping Shari`ah” have any precedent given these statistics.  In the end, there is absolutely no push for Shari`ah in the U.S., however the word has been politicized to foment a climate of fear/otherness of Muslims. So thank you Joe Brandon, your failure and mockery of the legal profession just lifted the spirits America’s 7 million Muslims.

In closing, the documentary turned out to be a net positive for the American Muslim community. While it may have been a bitter pill to swallow initially – in witnessing the rampant hate and fear-mongering taking place, it still highlighted many positive messages. We were able to see the principled, steadfast stand of the Murfreesboro Muslims, along with just how our faith is protected by the U.S. Constitution. As proud Americans, we will someday be able to look back and remember anti-Muslim resentment as a thing of the past, and will insha’Allah (God-willing) be accepted and respected as part of the fabric of America.

Courtesy of Imraan Siddiqi and