Addressing Common Issues in Muslim Communities

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An Interview with Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan:

Common Issues in Muslim Communities“We wanted to ask you, with these difficult times that muslims are going through, what is the best advice you can give Muslims to overcome these trials?”

“Going through any tough times, as a nation or an individual, is something that we should be prepared for as a believer in God. As Allah says, ‘We shall test you with moments of fear, loss of lives and property and crops, but give glad tidings to those who persevere through these trials’. This means, you take it with patience and trust in Allah. This is just a phase. We are also told in Surah Al-Ankaboot, ‘do people think they will be left alone when they say they are believers?’, Allah says he has tested those who say they are believers as well as those who do not. A test is something that we should always be prepared for.”

“When Allah talks about being patient, people who have iman and believe in the Qur’an, they can take it. However, there are many Muslims on the sidelines who still feel shaky. What is your advice to them and their feeling of inferiority?”

“Obviously, the wisdom of Allah (swt) is beyond our scope; but from the Qur’an and sunnah we have learned, people cannot think of materialism as their final goal. Muslims need to wake up and ask themselves, ‘are material possessions the most valuable things in my life?’ As the material world collapses around them, depression comes in and fear comes in. They see that the achievement of these [material] things is now in danger. The lesson they should be told is, this is the time that community involvement should be brought back into play. Often, these are the people who do not pray five times a day, even though they are proud to call themselves Muslim. The goal of life cannot be these things, it has to be something beyond… your good deeds are enduring and everlasting”

“In Islamic history, has there been a time where Muslims have hit a low; Where they were left powerless in their situation and then have rebounded?”

“There were many times, in fact; when the Moguls infiltrated the Tatars, they pretty much destroyed Baghdad, killed scholars and burned their work. Baghdad was essentially leveled to the ground in terms of destruction. There were scholars there at the time who guided the people and helped them rebound from that. Recently, in World War I, even though it was a war between Austrian-Hungarian empire and Germany, Islamic nations were dragged in. At the end, after the peace conference, the whole Muslim world was redistributed and broken up. They became helpless but Muslims rebounded for the most part. Now, we come at a time where we are in trial. It is a different time, of more technology but a lot of the outcomes are the same.”

“How much is this disunity, within Muslim communities, adding to this issue? Where do we start the process of unifying, and how do we address it in the masajid?”

“I would say all of it. In fact, in Surah Al-Anfal, Allah says,’Obey Allah and his messenger, and do not dispute amongst yourselves and become divided. You will then become losers and your strength will be gone. You must endure with patience; indeed Allah loves those who persevere with patience’. So this is the crux of the issue. Let’s recognize that what is happening at one masjid is also happening at a global level. That is, we don’t seem to tolerate somebody else’s opinion. So on any fiqhi issues, we go all out and become disunited. For example, when is ramadan or when is eid? All of a sudden, everybody jumps in; the scholars, the ordinary people all go into war with their words and ideas and call each other kafir because of which day the other person fasted. Nations before have been destroyed because of this disunity. When you get into that level, we should focus on risala, thawheed, oneness of Allah, Akhira and preparing for the hereafter. Those things are pushed aside over petty issues. Whereas, when you look at all the prophets that came, their main message was, ‘O my people, worship god’. That was their biggest challenge. So we have reduced that to attacking those who are worshipping Allah. By doing so, they push away the younger generation who cannot tolerate this kind of attitude at the masjid.”

“With this differences being so complex and common, how do you fix it?”

“Sometimes you have to beat something to get it fixed. You know, right now, when people attack Islam, they are not attacking whether they are in a certain school of thought or what your fiqhi opinion is. They are treating you as a whole. The good news I’ve been seeing, in the past year or so, there is a larger effort to unite. This may be the hiqma of Allah. There’s an old saying, ‘When you beat a rug, the beating is not for the rug, but to get the dust out’. Sometimes, we have to go through these trying times to get the dust out of our relationship and hopefully, we will realize that our fiqhi differences are minor compared to just being a Muslim.”

“You mentioned the youth; with all this going on, they see Muslims are divided and powerless. How do we reach out to them?”

“In fact, youth is not only our (Muslim’s) problem; I can tell you that for sure. I have sat in many interfaith dialogues, and for every denomination, the youth are a challenge. Remember the youth, particularly of our time, are a youth that come with a new reality that the generation before did not have. The level of communication and social media, the dot com age, the twitter age, everything else. They are in a different momentum. There is a lot of concern. One of the things we can do is, as the imam or khatib of islamic centers, focus on programs that bring the youth to the Masjid. Many masjids are like a ‘back home’ environment where you come, pray, listen to a dars (speech) and walk out. That phenomenon has to change; the youth have some empowerment and have a viewpoint, which they (the masajid) never listen to. They need to be represented and acknowledged so that they can come and get attached. One of the amazing things is that, even youth that memorize the entire Qur’an are also running away from the masjid, unfortunately. It means that the masjid has to get their act together.”

“You mentioned social media; it is true that the home has become a place for social media. What is the advice for the parents on making the house a single unit and teaching their family?”

“As parents, communicating with children and showing respect to their children is the first step. Children must feel they have some parent which oversees them, befriends them and talks to them. If we look at our generation, parents were the center of everything because they spent time with them for everything. If parents also become a part of the social media environment, how will they make their house a foundation. They need to sit together and talk about things of value; talk about something that affects all of us: What they learned at school today or something they can share with the rest of the family. Unless we can open up the conversation, the home becomes a hotel where people come to eat and drink and sleep. The home has to be rectified. Allah says, ‘O you who believe; save yourselves and your family from the hellfire whose fuel is men and stones’. So you have to do that. Parenting is not something you can outsource. If you let smartphones and social media parent your children, that is who they will listen to. Unless we get back to basics, there is nothing we can do.”

 “What would you advice to the masjid management?”

“I think the board members have to realize, it is a big responsibility to sit on the masjid board. I don’t think they realize how big of a responsibility it is. In those circumstances, the imams don’t much impact in sending that message to them. In this case, it becomes a matter of employer and employee; so they’re afraid to challenge them like that. Somehow, whether through AMJA, ICNA or ISNA, we need an overhaul of the philosophical and ideological base of the masjid. Leaders who take up the role, do you think anybody cares who president or not. Do you think it matters to anyone outside that you are president? So, we have to throw all of that off of our shoulder and work closely between the imam on how to fix the community. I have seen this and I think that, if the imam and board are working in sync, the community grows. That way you can achieve a lot, as far as youth, the community, insecurity and the alleviating fears.”

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