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Aqeedah, Allies and the Age of Islamophobia

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Part five of a six part series. See parts: I, II, III and IV.

Guest Post By Umar Lee

The Aqeedah (creed) of the Muslim is very near and dear to the believer.  Indeed it separates Islam from kufr (disbelief). Every Muslim is a takfiri in some sense of the word, for example no Muslim believes you can pray to a head of lettuce and refer to that as Islam.

Within Islam there are disagreements between scholars and different traditions and schools of Aqeedah and jurisprudence.  I studied Aqeedah with some of the best teachers America has seen. I will never claim to be the best Muslim or even a good Muslim. I’m very much a struggling Muslim and I always have been.  However, one thing I’ve always taken serious is my Aqeedah.  Even if I’ve flirted with different understandings and teachings I’ve basically always been on, and am on today, the Aqeedah I was taught by Sheikh Ali al-Timimi and the rest of my teachers.

Because of this I’ve been asked many times how can I as an activist be in the streets with and make common cause with atheists, agnostics, communists, druggies, thugs, LGBT activists and others.

For me it is a very simple matter.  Islam promotes justice and I stand with those calling for justice as long as what they call for is just and not in opposition to Islam.  Once they call for things that Islam is opposed to I no longer stand with them on those particular issues.

The same principle can be applied to electoral politics. Endorsing a Democrat or Republican candidate doesn’t mean you’re married to them and everything they stand for, voting isn’t a revolution.  It means you’ve looked at the totality of the candidates and you side with the one who is both the least harmful and has the greatest likelihood to do something good.

In America to participate in either movement politics or political party politics the Aqeedah of the Muslim can hold you back.  Meanwhile, if you take on a liberal, a conservative, or intersectional Aqeedah of non-Muslims, you can have a lot more success. This will get you more jobs, money and patronage. Unfortunately, many Muslims are making this choice. When the opportunity to advance politically arises and Muslim Aqeedah stands in the way it is the Aqeedah that goes away.

While many will see this as simply an example of weak Muslims selling out their religion to please non-Muslims it’s not that simple of a matter. There is a level of rationalization that goes along with this. The belief that yes I’m cutting some corners, and yes some of this may be dodgy from an Aqeedah standpoint, but I’m working towards the greater good.

In an age of Islamophobia Muslims are seeking allies.  There exists real enemies to Muslims and people in America who wish us harm. Therefore, it’s quite natural to grow close to those who are combating our foes and willing to be our allies. However, as my mentor Imam Mahdi Bray would say “politics is dating it isn’t marriage.” We can be allies without being one with our allies, we can stand with people in one area and not in another. We don’t have to completely take on the ideologies of our political friends and we shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice our Aqeedah for political game or more media access.

The dunya (world) is like an ocean during the time of the storm. The waters are difficult to navigate and at times it’s difficult to keep the ship afloat.  Our emaan (belief) guides us out of the rocky waters and once we get to port our Aqeedah is the anchor which will hold us steady. Take away our Aqeedah and we are just adrift at sea.

Umar Lee is an author and freelance writer from St. Louis now based out of Dallas. He may be contacted atUmarlee@gmail.com and found at Twitter @STLAbuBadu

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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  • Augustine25

    I think the more people understand about Islam they less likely they will become allies with people who sincerely practice that faith. The murder of my Armenian relatives proved to me that it isn’t safe to have Muslim neighbors. I think it will take a long period of peaceful behavior – perhaps over centuries – before Muslims can prove they are not a tremendous threat to others.

  • Shaaz Momin

    “O you who have believed, do not make allies of a people with whom Allah has become angry.” [Qur’an 60:13]

    Allah the Exalted forbids taking the disbelievers as allies in the above verse. How can we become their allies, friends and companions on whom Allah became angry with and are cursed.How can we extend to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to us of the truth.But sadly Our leaders are too much busy in pleasing Kuffars and that’s the reason we are in a awful state.

  • AJ

    Muslim’s current allies are 1) usually people that do not believe and 2) from the LGBT community. I feel that quite a few Muslim political leaders stay tight-lipped about how Islam views homosexuality. I think that is a problem since it sends a message to our youth that homosexuality is acceptable. Also, I notice that many of the atheists will be our allies if it’s related to a cause against Christians but then the moment the Christians are out of the picture, these same allies gang up against Islam in another forum. I think it’s a shaky alliance. I feel that there is more in common between the believers but greater friction with Jews (because of Israel) and with Christians (since the Evangelical type thinks we are not believers since we don’t consider Christ son of God).

  • Jekyll

    Go back to that windeful rational enlightened hole.

  • The greenmantle

    “the human faults that don’t get corrected create the faults that you just mentioned above” I accept that it can happen like that but that it does not always happen otherwise we would be in an even bigger mess than we are now . This is where free will , choice and interlect come in .

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    It might be I am open to the concept BUT let me know when all or even a majority of muslims agree in detail on what that means 😉 as I see such a vauge term as to be meaningless . Those chaps is Syria certainly dont seem to be offering the real deal .

    Sir David

  • AJ

    Ilisha, do you mind sharing what you do? Do you teach high-schoolers?

  • AJ

    the human faults that don’t get corrected create the faults that you just mentioned above. in fact it’s a vicious cycle. morally defunct individuals create chaos in society and that creates more morally corrupt people.

  • AJ

    Irrespective of whether you believe some higher power exists or doesn’t, what qualify as sins in Islam are activities that harm the natural process of human life.
    alcohol makes you drunk and do things you may regret
    adultery harms marriages
    stealing harms societies…
    etc..etc you get the gist. It’s not as if God says don’t eat vegetables or don’t exercise. In fact anything good is lawful and anything that harms humans is banned.

  • adc714

    and most certainly not you!

  • Jekyll

    God decides for everybody, irrespective of if a person believes in Him or Not. God is not figment of some monotheist person’s aspirations. he is The Ultimate Reality that exists with or with you believing in him.

  • Jekyll

    Certainly not you,

  • Hasan karim

    We muslims have experienced a lot of turmoil th

  • El Cid

    “you stated above, “all people are sinners. every last one”…but who decides what is a sin?”

    That is a manner of speaking, a way of saying that no one is perfect. A believer, a Muslim believes:
    #1. Allah’s default position, runs throughout the Qur’an: Mercy and Forgiveness. For Muslims the Law of Muhammad the Qur’an abrogates/mellows – through mercy, forgiveness, arbitration, compensation, restitution – the Law of Moses: The perfect justice no mercy of “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth”.

    #2. Allah forgives all sins except crimes/sins committed against another. For that the forgiveness must come from victim before God even considers them for mercy/forgiveness.

    The one unforgivable sin of Shirk can also easily be traced as a sin against humanity rather than against its Creator. Shirk can also be viewed as a hidden or secret sin of hypocrisy which is worse than that of non-belief/Atheism and lying. But that is a discussion beyond this one.

    #3. All past sins are essentially forgiven when a non-believer becomes a believer. Except those against others. All sins of a believer are forgiven, except against another, when Hajj is performed.

    #4. You may have noted some going round and round discussing punishments in Islam. There is something pathological and personal there that is not for me to comment here. Most sins [Homosexuality et all] are NOT given to Muslims to punish.

    These are the details, reasons in my understanding, for her brief reply to you. I could not have summarized it any better than: “For a believer, God decides.”

  • adc714

    you stated above, “all people are sinners. every last one”…but who decides what is a sin?

  • Joey Sanders

    By far my favorite article of the entire series. Keep it up. I look forward to reading the final article in the series.

  • mindy1

    Now how to intersect politics and common sense.

  • The greenmantle

    “But that doesn’t mean I can’t talk in general terms regarding aspects of social engineering.”
    OK So you think there is a conspiracy ? and who says you cannot talk about it ? Are you not free ?

    I dont expect you to change your moral/religious view thats plain nuts . God will sort them out later is a view I wish more shared 😉

    As for homosexuality being immutable I go along with the idea that folks are on a spectrum some gay some not, some change others dont . As for the whys of this I dont know its just what I have observed around me . Solve that puzzel and a noble prize awaits . Does that view make me homophobic ?

    I have never talked to a third wave femenist maybe I should be the one in a cave – is this a USA thing ?
    I dont disagree with most of what you said BUT

    My main point is that this is a distraction from the real game going on

    The economy

    The disparity of wealth

    Education system

    Legal system

    etc etc

    Sir David

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    Neither myself nor I suspect Mr U Lee are suggesting that society is perfect . Who was it said “find me a perfect man him I will follow the rest of my days ?”

    “I think everyone has a stake in what the social norms should be”

    Sounds good to me . As for me and I think it was Churchill “Democracy is the least worse system” I am open to any other suggestion that works better .

    Yes there are bad folks out there – there always have been , . But instead of doing something about it , now they generalise problems to groups and now there is more fear , fear of the other -who ever the other may be and how they express their otherness . .
    When I hear you speak about Homosexuality I hear echos of things said to me about other groups the press tell you to be scared of . Trump in particular uses fear to control people

    Have you ever met a third wave femanist and shared a cup of tea with her . and talked woman to woman about your lives, loves and the price of chocolate ?
    How do you promote homosexuality ? I was once warned about court action for telling a young man that masterbation does not make you deaf .as this promotes obviously homosexuality . ( er how ? I would be seriously interested in knowing that ) being a teacher and promoting homosexuality was a crime in the UK for many years . No one was ever tried . Teaching 14 year olds that homosexuality is a positive life style is mission impossible they are the most homophobic group I ever taught.

    Meanwhile the social conservatives such as Trump and Cruz prepare there hateful plans only this time you will have to sow your own badges.For these guys YOU -that is every muslim in the USA is the other and the govt knows where you all live . Now that is really scary . Thats a problem for now !

    Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    Best of the lot so far I think .
    Its all about living in the world . Not forcing the world to look and behave like you .
    I was told that when asked how to spread Islam , the Phophet said someing “like be a good muslim.” I like that rather than cutting yourself off from the rest of the world or insulting folks because you dont like their views or life style . Offering an alternative life style I think is a much better way to behave .

    Sir David

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    A nicely written article, intriguing and important perspective on being a part of social movements and a good message to get involved. Some comments: from what I’ve read this isn’t exactly a new view point. Muslims have had the sense of working with others, those they are even fundamentally in disagreement with as regards to worldview, creed and belief. The hilf al-fudul or Pact of Virtue and the Charter of Medina point to this very clearly, among other examples.

    Also, I think he can be more nuanced. It isn’t only that these Muslims are “rationalizing” in order to get ahead and make that bread or as the “greater good,” that sounds a bit condescending. As Lee acknowledges there is an influence but that influence may not be as malignant as he assumes. Perhaps, there is a two-way learning going on with each other. Maybe their involvement in mass movements makes them more critical of the way mainstream theology and law was crystalized historically and they find a more authentic and organic understanding that isn’t merely about reconciliation with liberalism, conservatism, etc.

    Also, the view of the Dunya needs some balance, should it be viewed simply as “turbulence?” I don’t think so. It is also a creation of God, part of the Revealed Book of the universe and so the beauty of it can and should lead to reflection and gratitude.

  • Mehdi

    Very good and very wise article, yes it’s important to think of the greater good and how to navigate best, it’s about aqeedah, Muslim’s interest (and Muslims don’t always share the same definition on this point), and it’s also about what’s the general common interest for instance on issues such as economics, foreign policy, how to fight global warming, etc. Thanks for these thought provoking pieces, well written.

    On this article it reminds me of this quote that I like: “A thinking person who happens to disagree with me is yet closer to me than a dogmatic person who happens to agree with me.” I try to apply this as a compass, not always easy but helpful.

  • HSkol

    Great article, Umar. As likely far enough as you and I might be removed from one another in ideology, I’d look very forward to an extension on paragraph four (quoted below) and engage toward that end. To me, this might encompass the very guts of the problems between not only Muslims and non-Muslims, but between any-This and any-That.

    For me it is a very simple matter. Islam promotes justice and I stand with those calling for justice as long as what they call for is just and not in opposition to Islam. Once they call for things that Islam is opposed to I no longer stand with them on those particular issues.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Another fascinating article. Congrats to the author.

    It’s also a thought-provoking piece, at least to me. For example, it says, “We can be allies without being one with our allies, we can stand with people in one area and not in another. We don’t have to completely take on the ideologies of our political friends and we shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice our Aqeedah for political game or more media access.” That’s certainly true as a principle, but it still leaves open the question of how that applies in individual situations.

    I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this: where do Muslims currently find allies and how can they find more allies, and what can non-Muslims do to be better allies for Muslims?

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