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Criteria For Collective Muslim Success In America

By Antar Ibn-Stanford, Ph.D.

We may deduce from the statement in the call to prayer, “come to success, come to success,” that Islam recognizes the value of success. We should ask ourselves how can we recognize success. Without criteria for success, we cannot. The criteria for collective Muslim success in America may be narrowed to five areas:, leadership, forming neighborhoods with neighborhood masajid, calling people to Islam, education and economic development.

I. Leadership

Muslims living in the U.S. must have one leader in order to be in compliance with the dictates/recommendations of the Prophet (saws).

According to the following two hadith, Muslims must have a leader for whatever activity they are engaged in and for whatever territory they are living in. The following hadith recorded by Abu Da'ud from Abu Sa'id and Abu Hurayrah is general and supports my statement. In it the Prophet (saws) said:"Whenever three people go on a journey, let one of them be the amir" (Majmu' Fatawa, 28:390). Al-Albani said: "Its chain is good" (Mishkah al-Masabih, 2:1145). In his discussion of this hadith, Ibn Taymiyah points out that it requires the choosing of one leader of a group of people even if it is a small group or a temporary group dealing with a temporary activity. This is a notification of the importance of choosing one leader for groups greater than three and for activities of a longer duration (Majmu' Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah, 28:390).

Ahmad recorded something similar from Abdullah ibn 'Amr who said that the Prophet (saws) said: "It is not permissible for three people to be (even) in an open space of land without making one among them their amir" (Majmu' Fatawa Ibn Taymiyah, 28:390).

II. Forming Neighborhoods

Until Muslims living in America form neighborhoods, we will not be in complete adherence to the dictates/ recommendations of the Prophet (saws).

Muslims, wherever they live, are obligated to form neighborhoods. In North America , very few Muslims are fulfilling this obligation. The different meanings of the Arabic word for neighborhood help us understand the meaning of neighborhood.

The word is ÇáÌæÇÑ and is translated as "neighborhood, safe-conduct, protection, and proximity" (al-Faraid Arabic-English Dictionary; The Hans Wehr Dictionary). In Arabic it is defined as ÇáÇãÇä¡ ÇáÅÞÇãÉ ÞõÑúÈó ãÓßäå "granting safe-conduct, residing in the vicinity of a residence" (al-Munjad; al-Arus). The key element of a neighborhood is the proximity of the residences and safe-conduct. By definition proximity of residences affords protection and safe-conduct.

This linguistic understanding is supported by a statement of the Prophet (saws). Jarir ibn Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (saws) sent troops to Khatam. Some people sought protection by prostrating as a sign that they were Muslim. However, the killing was so rapid that they were killed. That information reached the Prophet. So he ordered that their survivors be given half the blood money for other Muslims killed by accident. He said: “I am not responsible for any Muslim who lives among those who associate partners with Allah.” They asked: “Oh Messenger of Allah, why?” He replied: “You are not able to see each other's fire (home).” In his commentary on this hadith, al-Khattabi, (d. 388/998), a jurist and hadith scholar, said: "So it is not permissible for a Muslim to live among the non-believers in their countries until they light their fires among themselves so they can see them." This hadith was recorded by at-Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud, an-Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and at-Tabarani from Jarir ibn 'Abdullah (R) with trustworthy narrators (al-Majmu', 19:262-263; 'Awn al-Ma'bud, 2:349; and Tuhfah al-Ahwadhi, 5:229-230).

Establishing Neighborhood Masajid

In the afore-mentioned hadith, the Prophet (saws) stresses the element of proximity of residences. He even explains how close is close. Closeness is determined by eye-sight. The dweller in one residence must be able to see the residence of his closest neighbor. Another factor for determining closeness is walking distance. Muslims must live close enough to walk to the neighborhood masjid.

Until the masajid are located in a Muslim neighborhood, Muslims have not completely followed the guidelines of the Prophet (saws).

The masjid is supposed to be located in the neighborhood. The masjid should be in the neighborhood to facilitate congregational salah. This ruling is derived from the following two hadith. Abu Da'ud, at-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah recorded that 'A'ishah said: "The Messenger of Allah (saws) ordered the building of the masjid amidst the homes and that it be cleaned and perfumed." It is sahih (Mishkah al-Masabih, 1:223).

For those who are not sure how close a Muslim should be from a masjid, al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that Abu Musa al-'Ash'ari said that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: "The most prominent of people to receive a reward for the salah is the farthest of them. That is, the farthest of them who walks" (Mishkah al-Masabih, 1:220).

The Prophet (saws) also established the number of people to which the obligation to have a neighborhood place of prayer for congregational salah applies, namely, three. Ahmad, Abu Da'ud, and an-Nasa'i recorded that Abu d-Darda' said that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “If there are three men in a village or desert and the salah is not established, the devil overpowers them. So you are obligated to perform the congregational salah. The wolf only eats the remote animal." It is hasan (Mishkah al-Masabih, 1:335). So, if there are three or more Muslims living in a given village or town, they should live close enough to each other to walk to the masjid to perform the congregational salah. Also, when a person moves into a city or town, he should attempt to move near the masjid or other Muslims. This proximity results in spiritual as well as physical protection

III. Da'wah

Muslims living in America cannot adhere to the command of the Prophet (saws) or be recognized as the “best of people” without engaging in da'wah.

The Prophet Muhammad (saws) instructed Muslims traveling to countries with non-believers to undertake da'wah. Muslim recorded that Mu'adh said: "The Messenger of Allah (saws) sent me saying, 'You will come to a people of the People of the Book. Invite them to the testimony that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah and that I am the Messenger of Allah . . ." (Sahih Muslim bi Sharh an-Nawawi, 1:196).

Concerning da'wah Allah has said: “You are the best nation extracted for mankind. You insist that they do good and forbid them to do wrong and believe in Allah” (3:110). Al-Qurtubi quotes the successor, Mujahid, in his commentary on this verse. Mujahid states that the statement, “You are the best nation extracted from mankind” is based on the pre-conditions that Muslims insist on people doing what's right and forbid them to do what is wrong.

Problems and Solutions

  1. More daw'ah lectures directed towards the kuffar needed in the masajid, Islamic centers, schools, parks, and other facilities.
  2. More lectures needed using radio and TV.

IV. Education

Muslims wherever they are must put a priority on education to survive as an Islamic entity.

Muslims, wherever they are, must heed the command of Allah, the Exalted, in the Qur'an 66:6: “Oh those who believe! Guard yourselves and your families from a fire whose fuel is people and rocks . . .” Some of the commentaries on this verse are:

(1) Mujahid (d. 144/762), a successor from Kufah, said: "'Guard yourselves and your families' means 'advise yourselves and your families to fear Allah and teach them correct behavior.'"

(2) Ibn 'Ali said: It means "Teach your families what is good."

(3) Al-Qadi al-'Iyad said: It means "either you order your family to be on guard against evil, or you be on guard against evil, then they will follow your example and be on guard against evil" (Fath al-Bari, 8:659-660).

At one time jihad was first required of all able-bodied men. Later exemptions were given to those who stayed behind to study. Allah, the Exalted, revealed in 9:122, “The believers should not go out to fight altogether. It is better that some of you from each tribe form a group to study the religion and to warn their people when they return to them. Hopefully they will take heed.” All able-bodied Muslim males were required to fight because if no Muslims remained, there would be no one to practice Islam. Learning about Islam was equated with fighting for Islam so that Muslim survivors would continue to maintain and establish Islam.

V. Economic Development

Without resources and the money to purchase them, there can be no neighborhoods, no masajid, and no classes or schools.

The application of two verses in the Qur'an can lead to community economic development and put Muslims to work. “Do they distribute the mercy of your Lord? We distribute their livelihood in the life of this world among them, and We raise some above others in class in order that some may employ others. The mercy of your Lord is better than what they amass" (Q. 43:32). This verse exhorts Muslims to establish businesses in order to employ Muslims. Adherence to the second verse can sustain Muslim businesses. He, the Exalted, says in the Qur'an 4:29 , "Oh you who believe! Do not consume your possessions among yourselves in false practices. Instead, let there be amongst you commerce by mutual good-will . . ."

Another verse also emphasizes circulation of wealth among Muslims. “The abandoned and confiscated property Allah has given to His Messenger from the people of the towns belongs to Allah, His Messenger, kindred, orphans, the poor, and the traveler. In this way, it will not circulate only among the rich among you" (Q. 59:6).

Conclusion

1. Muslims living in the U.S. must have one leader in order to be in compliance with the dictates/recommendations of the Prophet (saws).
2. Until the masajid are located in a Muslim neighborhood, Muslims have not completely followed the guidelines of the Prophet (saws).
3. Muslims living in America cannot adhere to the command of the Prophet (saws) or be recognized as the “best of people” without engaging in da'wah.
4. Muslims wherever they are must put a priority on education to survive as an Islamic entity.
5. Without resources and the money to purchase them, there can be no neighborhoods, no masajid, and no classes or schools .

(Antar ibn-Stanford is a former professor of Arabic at Clark Atlanta University and he recently returned to the US after teaching English for many years in Saudi Arabia .)

Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.

Quran: 3:104
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