Faithful Foreigners


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OUR environment poses considerable challenges to our well-being. While many take this to mean physical wellness, often completely ignored is the impact that environmental influences pose to one’s spiritual health. We are constantly under pressure to conform. Society, family, friends, co-workers, businesses, governments — they all demand that we follow a certain pattern.

So we then eventually give in. In order to be accepted within one’s social circle, people undergo a change. They will let go of that which the environment does not accept and embrace the norms palatable within their circle. People will happily change their beliefs, even their names in the face of hostilities.

Immigration is a major life decision. It is not merely a logistical move to a foreign land, but by it one is also transported to a new set of ideas, beliefs and customs. Foreign migrants are under pressure to assimilate with the host culture. From certain quarters fingers are pointed at the ‘foreign’ faith that has come with the migrant. Social influence poses a considerable challenge to the faith of foreign migrants. It is a challenge that is often overlooked and underestimated.

Participation in interfaith conversations will help remove misconceptions.

As economic migrants people are motivated by the lure of a better standard of living and a comfortable lifestyle. It is the dream of greener pastures in a foreign land that drives them to move house rather than any missionary zeal. As recent arrivals, little do they realise that they have ventured into a territory in which the majority may not be sympathetic towards their foreign culture.

Religious groups that are seeking converts actively target families of foreign migrants. Evangelical preachers, religious cults and new religious movements would knock on people’s doors in migrant conurbations, introduce the household to their doctrines and raise critical questions about the faith that the family has brought with it to the country. Is the family prepared for this? There is also the role of non-believing friends and peers on young impressionable minds. Critical attitudes to the Islamic faith at school and from friends are instrumental in shaping the personality of children.

For Muslims, this issue is increasingly becoming important given the recent rise in hostilities against Islam. As a Muslim family choosing to migrate to a non-Muslim environment it is crucial to be aware of the common arguments against Islam that are posed by those critical to the faith and their responses. Also important is to know the counter-narrative to extremists that often target the young and vulnerable from migrant groups. In most cases, people are unprepared.

When their children face such interrogation, they would not have any choice but to surrender to the one-sided narrative. Subjecting children to an environment where there is constant criticism and hostility to one’s faith is detrimental to their spiritual well-being.

With fragmented communities, the problem is exacerbated. For the Muslim young, university life away from familiar surroundings can also lead them to drift from the faith taught and practised at home and expose them to unsympathetic ideas. Challenges to one’s faith and belief are manifold when living as a foreign immigrant.

Religious duties like the ability to recite the Quran properly, to perform the five daily prayers, to observe fasts during the month of Ramazan, to be able to calculate zakat applicable on one’s assets and to have knowledge of the dietary prohibitions is a basic requirement for every Muslim. No doubt that migrants are capable of this much. But given the hostile environment in which they are now raising their future generations, it is expedient that they also realise that more needs to be done. The Quranic injunction: “O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones. …” (66:6) necessitates that Muslims take appropriate steps to raise their children on revealed guidelines, and caution them against that which is detrimental to their moral well-being.

Thus Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim lands have a duty to educate the family and prepare it for the times to come. They should always remain a part of their local Muslim community and not distance themselves from it. Their religious learning, regular attendance at the local mosque and interaction with credible Islamic scholars will enable them to negotiate away from environmental pressures. Participation in interfaith conversations and outreach to non-Muslim friends will help remove misconceptions and break down barriers.

Muslim migrants need not jettison their faith or ethnicity to blend in with the wider environment. They should play a full part in society whilst retaining their values. Through their conduct they are to demonstrate the peaceful coexistence enjoined by their faith and make a positive contribution to society.

Published in DAWN, February 23, 2018


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Is it Sinful To Take The Shahadah?


INTRODUCTION: New converts to Islam often take the Shahadah when they embrace the faith to mark their formal admission into the fold of Islam. This is usually by uttering the words “I bear witness there is no God besides Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.” The Shahadah is also part of the Azaan –  the call to Prayer and is included in the wordings of the Salah, the Islamic daily prayer.

However in recent times some deviant sects are opposing converts from this practice by falsely claiming that such is an act of Shirk (polytheism). They argue that it is sinful to take the name of Allah and Muhammad in the same sentence, and that no one should be mentioned alongside the name of God. Furthermore their claim is that a believer cannot ‘bear witness’ on the messenger. Such are ridiculous claims and have no basis at all in the Qur’an. This is demonstrated briefly as per following.

1. The Qur’an itself shows that Believers bear witness over the messenger:

 

“They who disbelieve say: Thou art no messenger [of Allah]. Say: Allah, and whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you.” 13:42

The words “..whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you…” makes it clear that those who have knowledge of the Book are witnesses over the messenger, hence nullifying the claim of those that it is sinful to be a witness on the messenger.

2. “Laa Illah Iallah” and “Muhammad Ar Rasool Allah” are Qur’anic words

37:35

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

48:29

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ

If mention of these words together is shirk, then God mentions them in His Book. Is he also guilty of Shirk according to those who propose such nonsensical ideas?

3. By bearing witness over Muhammad, one by default bears witness and acknowledges ALL messengers, because it is through Muhammad that all messengers prior to him are introduced to believers.

 

“And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord – He riddeth them of their ill-deeds and improveth their state.” 47:2

The words “..that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord ..” shows that it is through Muhammad that truth is known, and this includes the truth of all previous messengers as well:

“Messengers indeed have been denied before thee, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them. There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers [We sent before].” 6:34

The words “..Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers..” shows that it is through Muhammad that messengers before him are known to us. Therefore acknowledging Muhammad is the messenger of Allah is in fact acknowledging all messengers before him, and not excluding them as some ignorant people suggest. It is ONLY through Muhammad’s revelation that messengers true personality is revealed, making it compulsory to acknowledge him as the source of their true knowledge.

4. There is no verse in the Qur’an which says do not “mention” anyone besides God. What it says is do not “call” anyone besides God:

“And cry not, beside Allah, unto that which cannot profit thee nor hurt thee, for if thou didst so then wert thou of the wrong-doers.” 10:106 Pickthall

The word in above verse is ‘Tad’uu’ which is from ‘Du’a’ and means ‘to call’, ‘to invoke’, ‘to pray’ or ‘to supplicate to’. For ‘mention’, the word used in the Qur’an is ‘Dhikr’. Whenever Qur’an issues the command ‘do not call any besides Allah’ it always uses the words derived from ‘Dua’, and never ‘Dhikr’. Sadly some are twisting these words, and not retaining them in the original. How devious of them to do this. They are playing with fire!

There is a difference between mentioning anyone and calling anyone. God Himself mentions messengers alongside His name in the Qur’an. To say otherwise is contradictory to Qur’an.

5. The theory that the Shahada with the name of Muhammad is an act of polytheism was promoted by the (late) Rashad Khalifa and his offshoots. A number of people are simply copying his ideas and using them in argumentation to assert their superiority over Muslims to deride them that they are committing Shirk while the latter are not. The fact of the matter is that it is they who are guilty of distorting words and instead of using accurate meanings they use English words to confuse and mislead people, especially new converts.

CONCLUSION: New converts to Islam are assured that they have not committed any blasphemy or act of polytheism by making the statement of the Shahadah. The words are perfectly correct and in line with Qur’anic wordings. They should dismiss the falsehood spread by deviant sects and check whether what they are told is really based on the original text of the Qur’an or not. This belief is not of their own discovery. They are simply copy and pasting things from websites of the followers of the man, Rashad Khalifa and his offshoot and splinter groups. Playing with words has been prophesied in the Qur’an and a warning has been given to those who engage in such activity:

 

“And lo! there is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly.” 3:78

We should identify those who distort the translations of the Qur’an and confirm the prophecy in the above verse about “..a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture.” Such people are amongst us who are playing with Quranic words and we should beware of them and their deviations.

 

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