Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ten Things Every Muslim Should Do: Community Reform Ideas

Salaam alaikum brothers and sisters,

When watching the news, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper, it can be very trying for us Muslims. The world is filled with corruption and despair. Innocent people suffer at the hands of tyrants and sometimes you can feel just helpless against its onslaught. This doesn’t even begin to encompass the problems that the umma faces here in the West. Some of our masajid are unorganized and ill equipped to handle the media savvy environment of America. Though we are united under “La ilaha il Allah, Muhammadan Rasul Allah,” we are divided into gross sectarianism where every sect is glorifying in the virtues of its own. There is racial tension amongst immigrants and African-American Muslims (a weakness that many are happy to exploit) and some of us have still not given Muslim women the rightful place in the community that we deserve.

But this is not an entry of despair. Yahiya Emerick has written an essay entitled Ten Things Every Muslim Must Do in the West that gives ten simple ideas to help promote and strengthen Islam. Most of us can only do so much but these tips are easy and involve less commitment and I hope that each of us can take on two or three of these helpful tips, insha’Allah. As stated in the original essay, our fellow Muslims need us and these small tasks can help us grow and are pleasing in the sight of Allah (subhana wa ta'ala).

#1 Sponsor an Orphan

YE: Before anything else, there are hungry Muslim children everywhere who have needs right now. There are several reputable relief agencies who offer orphan sponsorship programs that only cost from $20-$40 a month. You and I know that's nothing expensive on your part - so do it. Some agencies even offer automated withdrawal so you can send a letter once with a voided check and never have to fill anything out again. Doing this can make you close to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Paradise.

RIS: For those of us who can afford it, this is a great way to follow the commandment given to us by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to take care of orphans. We must remember that our beloved Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam) was an orphan. The recent tsunami disaster has left many Muslim children parent-less and for only a few dollars a day, you can support their educational and religious needs.

#2 Subscribe to at least three Muslim magazines

YE: This is practically the only way you can keep abreast of issues important to the Muslims in the West. It also supports the budding Muslim media. Even if you don't intend to read the magazines, subscribe anyway. Someone around you will read or you can leave them with others. Make it at least three and try to subscribe for 2-3 years at a time.

RIS: Okay, this is a very fun tip and there are a multitude of Islamic magazines out there to suit your taste. We personally recommend Q-News, Islamica News and the Seasons Journal of the Zaytuna Institute. We also should support the budding Muslim media. The reason why we take such a beating in the news is because we don't have a viable platform to make our voices heard. By subscribing to a particular newsapaper or magazine, we can help put Islamic magazines into mainstream bookstores.

LT: I wanted to add that while I think this is a great idea, for many Muslims, three isn't feasible. Take Yahya Emerick's suggestions as just that - a suggestion. For those of us in the United States, the cost of subscribing to magazines coming from England or elsewhere may be high, particularly if you're a blue collar or even "middle class" family. It's true that we have magazines published right here in the States, but I wouldn't subscribe to a magazine that you disagree with politically or philosophically just to subscribe to it. Another idea is this: many of the bigger cities have one or two Muslim newspapers that report on local and national events. If you can, subscribe to one of them, and advertise your business in them. Even if you pick up the free issue distributed at the masjid, you're supporting them in some way.

#3 Go to the Masjid at least once a week for Salah

YE: In the West today, nearly all of us have a Masjid within driving distance. Even if you don't go to the local Masjid for Jumu'ah because of your job, then go for at least one Maghrib a week or for Zuhr on Sunday. Whatever, just go at least once a week- WITH YOUR FAMILY. It's the only way that you and your family will consider the Masjid to be your place.

RIS: I know it’s hard to find the right masjid. We all have our particular needs and differences when it comes to Islam. But if we can’t go for jumu’ah, we can always go for Maghrib or Isha on Fridays. In fact, the more we go to the masjid during times other than Friday afternoon, the more active our masjid community will be. A masjid should be bustling with life and energy, not private clubs for certain groups or fitnah-centers.

LT: In conjunction with this suggestion, I would say that those who are already active or known in the community should do what they can to make sure the masjid is welcoming to women and mothers with young children. In NY, the masajid near me simply were not "safe" for my son -- doors going into the streets left open, electrical outlets uncovered, bathrooms with slippery, wet floors.

#4 Give your children an Islamic Education

YE: If your children go to public school, and there is no Islamic school nearby, then make sure they either get into some Sunday school program, or, if the local Masjid doesn't run it right, then pool together with some like-minded families and run your own program at somebody's house every Saturday or Sunday and conduct it the way you think it should be done. This is the minimum requirement for not losing your children to secular Christianity.

RIS: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Our children need a strong Islamic education to help them weather the trials of living as a religious minority in the West. We have a wonderful legacy of religion, art, science, music, architecture, etc. While learning about the Sahaba (may God be pleased with them), they can learn about Islamic art or the famous Muslim mathematicians and scientists. It’s not as if they are going to learn about in a public school.

LT: Brother Yahya forgot one option, and that is that you can homeschool your children. Many states now have Muslim homeschooling groups or discussion lists, but even if there isn't one near you, there are online support groups for Muslim homeschoolers. Not only that, but we now have Kinza Academy (in add'n to several other programs) which will give your children a solid curriculum with diyn teachings rooted in classical understandings of Islam.

#5 Buy books, cassettes and videos on Islam

YE: Buy at least one book, audio or video produced by a Muslim company or author per month. Have you ever wished that there were better items for you and your family's pleasure? Unfortunately, Muslims don't support their own writers and artists very well. No one can make even a decent living if they want to write or produce for the Muslim market. That must change if you want to see wonderful products for you and your children. Just buy one thing per month. Either out of a catalog or from your local Muslim bookstore. For you it's only $5-$10 bucks, but collectively, it can encourage our creative and talented brothers and sisters to do more.

RIS: This is another tip that I really like because it is especially suited for us bookworms and lecture lovers. I also make the recommendation that the purchases come from a Muslim owned company. The reasons are obvious. Most mainstream bookstores have a poor selection of books on Islam. The selection usually contains works written by non-Muslims who either have their own Orientalist issues or dry, boring writers who treat Islam like an academic subject rather than a living faith. Why give your money to them when you can give your money to those struggling Muslim publishers that need it the most?

#6 "Adopt" a convert

YE: If you see any new Muslims at your Masjid, then partially "adopt" them into your family. The convert experience is basically one of isolation and loneliness. You'd be surprised to know that most converts are outright ignored by the people in the Masjid. Beyond a few pleasantries and handshakes, they are usually never made to feel welcome or accepted. They are often cut off from their non-Muslim friends and relatives so they are doubly vulnerable. A new convert should be invited into various peoples home for dinner a minimum of six times a month. Get together with others and make sure you all put the new convert on your guest list for any sort of gathering.

RIS: If there is a new Muslim at your masjid, please take them in. Give them your phone number. Invite them to a halaqa. Invite them to dinner. Give them books, hijabs, prayer beads, prayer rugs or anything that can further along their education. Some Muslims seem to think that new converts learn Islam by simply coming to Friday prayers. They don’t understand that converts may come from hostile environments where friends and family are upset and angered by their decision to convert. It’s a very vulnerable state to be in so new Muslims need that warmth and care to give them the support until they are confident in their new life as Muslims.

LT: This is something the Lubavitcher community has done for years, and as far as I can tell, it's strengthened their community and helped make the transition to the Orthodox lifestyle easier for converts or returnees to observant life.

#7 Give the gift of the Quran

YE: Keep three extra Qur'an translations and some literature in your home at all times. You never know when you'll find someone interested who wants to know more. Besides, your children read only and understand only English. (You wouldn't believe how many Muslim families don't have an English Qur'an translation in their homes! How will the child read it if they don't understand Arabic, and they never understand Arabic, even if their parents are Arabic speaking!)

RIS: Some companies have Qur’ans for a dollar. They are quite easy to come by and very inexpensive. You never know when a co-worker, family member or friend may ask you for more information about Islam. Why not start with the best source of information that money can buy?

#8 Go to one convention a year

YE: Even if you have given up on them, you have to go. It's the only way your children will feel a part of a greater community of believers. Think about it and realize that you don't just go to a convention for your personal enrichment. It's about Muslim solidarity. Go to at least one every year. Couple it with your vacation plans or something. Just go.

RIS: Insha’allah, I hope to do this one day, when I get the funds. The convention circuit is growing so that meetings and events are more localized. Every major city has some kind of Islamic event so why not check it out? It’s a way of bonding with Muslims across the country and staying on top of important issues within the larger community.

LT: I would guess that Brother Yahya wrote this before we had regular Rihlas, Deen Intensives, Zaytuna events, Ni'ma programs, the Nawawi Foundation, the Rawdah, and so on. If the convention scene is not your style, well, Alhamdulillah, in the US and Canada, we are now at the stage where at least once a year, there is a weekend, week-long, or month-long program in traditional, classical learning taking place in many regions throughout the country. Plan ahead, save up your money or vacation time, and do it. Several of these programs do welcome children.
#9 Eat only Halal or Kosher Food

YE: Besides all the religious aspects I could mention, which are the most important, by the way, there is another advantage. You solidify your identity and introduce to your family the concept that animals should not die cruelly (like they do in all American slaughterhouses) and that Muslims eat cleaner food. If there are no Halal meat stores nearby, you'll probably find a Kosher store. At least many of the Jews are not shy about Allah's commandment there and have established kosher markets everywhere.

RIS: Alhamdulilllah, animal rights activism is embedded into our religion. Many of us can use help in this area. Muslims can pool together some funds and make one trip to the local halal butcher and get some good meat. In these days of mad-cow disease and the twisted torture of animals in slaughterhouses, halal meat is the Godly, healthy and most kind way to go.

LT: Drawing on some of the comments, I would add a few things. I would say that rather than eat only kosher or zabiha, one should become more vigilant about one's diet, period. It's not just meat, it's the way you approach food as a whole. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has spoken about this several times, including in the lecture "Food For Thought." Kosher is fine when it comes to meat and some grocery products, but alcohol can be kosher, so Muslims should not be lulled into a sense of security about every product with an OU or Star-K on it, which we sometimes are.

There is a growing market of organic kosher and halal meats in this country, and there are several farms where you can go out and slaughter or choose and pay for your animal to be slaughtered. Not only is vegetarianism or semi-vegetarianism an option, but so is choosing to replace red meats and poultry with seafood products if you like.

#10 Create an Islamic environment in your home

YE: Lastly, make sure you and your family have cultural-type items in your home in abundance that are associated with Islam or Islamic culture. Everyone in your home should have prayer beads, prayer rugs, kufis, Hijabs, (even if they're worn only for prayer), gowns, posters, wall plaques, stickers, logo-shirts, Islamic screen-savers on the computer, and on and on. You want to establish an identity in your home. Everything outside is totally un-Islamic. At least let the Islamic flavor be present inside.

RIS: When people walk into your home, do they think Muslims live there? If not then maybe we need to get to work on that. There are so many beautiful Islamic items that you can put in your home. Having these things will create a strong Muslim identity for the young ones and beautify your home as well.

7 Comments:

Blogger Yusuf Smith said...

#2 Subscribe to at least three Muslim magazinesUh, not so simple when the magazines don't release issues reliably. This was particularly so with Q-News a few years ago during one of its periods of financial difficulty. I don't want to pay for twelve issues and get six "double issues".

#9 Eat only Halal or Kosher FoodKosher meat is halal, but other kosher food is not always so. They regard many ingredients as kosher that we don't consider halal.

5:37 PM  
Blogger meryum said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:55 PM  
Blogger meryum said...

"RIS: Alhamdulilllah, animal rights activism is embedded into our religion. Many of us can use help in this area. Muslims can pool together some funds and make one trip to the local halal butcher and get some good meat. In these days of mad-cow disease and the twisted torture of animals in slaughterhouses, halal meat is the Godly, healthy and most kind way to go."

Unfortunately even animals that are slaughtered the halal way are bought from factory farms that inject them with all types of hormones and give them feed with animal products in it. I personally think Muslims should sway towards being vegitarian for this reason (more info at islamveg.com), but of course thats a difficult commitment, and halal/kosher meat is definitly the best alternative.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Omar said...

Islamic bookstores which sell traditional Sunni Islamic stuff:

www.whitethreadpress.com
www.al-rashad.com
www.alhambraproductions.com
www.astrolabe.com
www.rumibookstore.com
www.guidancemedia.com
www.faqirpublications.com
www.waobooks.co.uk
www.its.org.uk

Jazakallahu Khayrun

2:44 PM  
Blogger blagdiblah said...

Meryum,

You can get organic halal in some places. If not, most places have organic ranches and farms that aren't too far and you could buy the animal and have someone do the zabiha.

2:51 PM  
Blogger altaf said...

re: halaal meat, where i live - the store has organic chicken, and grain fed beef, and goat... so i'm grateful in that respect...

The other thing is that some of the halaal meat places are just not clean, or ventilated --- some are very clean, and the one i go to is excellent in that respect.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Staff said...

I think everything suggested in this article is possible to implement. It must be used as a guideline and Allah (s.w.t.) knows well what our intentions may be. He will see our struggle and inshAllah forgive our shortcomings.

Salams.

P.S.

To ajsuhail:

Please add a link on your blog that leads to our blog (www.voiceforislam.com). We just launched a couple weeks ago and need all the support we can to help us get off to a good start. I just added a link on our blog for your site as well. It is essential for us Muslims to spread the Truth. May Allah protect and guide us all.

Shakieb

6:01 PM  

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