Comments on Janazah Prayer on a Reprobate

Since the death of one of the suspected bombers pertaining to the Boston marathon tragedy, a number of Muslims online have declared that the deceased is not entitled to a funeral prayer (Salaah Al-Janaazah) because he was not a true Muslim.  Moreover, a Sunni imam declared that he would not perform the funeral prayer for him and that “there was no room for him as a Muslim.” However, Islamic jurisprudence has positions on whether or not such as person deserves a funeral prayer by the Muslim community.

Within the four Sunni schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i & Hanbali), it is a community obligation (Fard Kifaayah) to perform funeral prayers upon every Muslims, be (s)he one who is pious (Birr) or is a reprobate (Faajir).  Moreover, the funeral prayer must be given unless (s)he apostates from Islam.  In the Sunni interpretation of Islam, committing grave sins from homosexual intercourse, engaging in usury to alcohol consumption does not make one a non-Muslim.  The same holds true for a murderer.

Hence according to mainstream Sunni theology, the suspect died as a Muslim and thus is entitled to a funeral prayer; for him not to be given one would be a community sin.  The status of him dying a believer (Mu’min) is another matter.

The same holds true in two of the Shi’i schools of thought (Musta’li Isma’ili/Bohra & Ja’fari) and the Ibadi school that the funeral prayer is held for the reprobate, not just the pious.

Thus those who hold the position that follow “Sunni Islam” or one of the other three schools mentioned who say the deceased was not entitled to a funeral prayer predominately fall into two categories:

1)      They lack knowledge of the classical Islamic tradition of what scholars have ruled based upon the Qur’an & Sunnah within a legal framework. In other words, they used their own independent rationale.

2)      They lack moral courage and have taken on an opinion knowing their school of thought’s jurisprudence yet chose to abandon it out of fear or anxiety of public opinion.

Both of these positions are problematic for difference reasons.

The first is dangerous in the sense that laymen, knowing that they have little to no formal religious training, are comfortable to make such statements on issues that scholars who memorized the Qur’an, hundreds of prophetic traditions (aahadeeth) and developed or studied legal theory made.  Osama bin Laden was not trained in Islamic jurisprudence either yet gave his own verdicts, which had detrimental and deadly consequences. This is a bad principle though persons who do this are not on the level of being dangerous such as bin Laden.  In a good (hasan) narration, it’s reported that Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) said, “Whoever gives a religious opinion without knowledge, he is cursed by the angels.

The second is also dangerous, for the one who lacks moral courage sells their faith for a cheap price seeking to be accepted by public opinion.  They in turn can sell the community down the river too.  Lut (peace be upon him) did not accept same gender sexual relations just because the majority of people in Sodom believed it to be okay.  Muslims are to factor in societal sensitivities yet not subvert Islamic directives with the hopes of being accepted by the status quo.  This is an exercise in futility for the Qur’an states, “Never will all of the Jews nor all of the Christians be pleased with you until you follow their way.

The only school of thought, which has a definitive ruling of not giving the funeral prayer for one who clearly dies committing acts of treachery, murder or oppression is the Zaydi school of thought.  Also unlike the other schools who say that one can pray behind every imam even a reprobate, be one praying with the intention of following him (Sunnis) or praying in congregation behind him with intention of leading one’s self, which is a form of dissimulation (taqiyyah), followers of the Zaydi school are prohibited from such.  But again, followers of the Zaydi school of thought probably do not constitute one percent of American Muslims.  I highly doubt that most of the online comments came from Zaydis; the imam is definitely not Zaydi.

In all of the drama that is going on now, I’m reminded of a talk that Dr. Sherman Abd Al-Hakim Jackson gave at the ISNA Diversity Forum in summer of 2012 in Dearborn, Michigan. He stated what he feared for American Muslims was a lack of moral courage, that we would turn into a community that will sacrifice principles for the perceived possibility of acceptance, even but for the short term.  I concur and see this weakness manifested in other stances that some American Muslims take, including a few imams, which are clearly outside of imperative directives within the Qur’an and prophetic tradition.

May the Almighty protect us from criminals among and outside of us, and may He strengthen us to have greater moral courage. Ameen.

*Additional note as of 4/26/13 at 3:10 p.m.

I neglected to mention that in the Maliki school of thought,  there is an opinion that the imam cannot pray upon a reprobate, but that prayer upon him/her is still a community obligation.  A family member or general community member should pray on the reprobate as a sign to the Muslims that such behavior in which he/she died under is not acceptable behavior to the Muslims.  This is, however, different from saying  that the person is not a Muslim or that he/she does not deserve a funeral prayer.

Metro Detroit Muslims condemn Boston Marathon bombings

April 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Metro Detroit Muslims condemn Boston Marathon bombings

  • By Mark Hicks
  • The Detroit News

As a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was charged Monday and more details emerge about possible connections to religious extremism, Metro Detroit Muslim and community groups are condemning the crime as an act unrelated to their faith.

“Their ideology or misunderstandings of religion do not come from the mainstream Islamic scholars in Boston or in the United States of America,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — Michigan. “It’s unfortunate that one or two people with misguided views can be looked at by some as representative of who we are as American Muslims.”

Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors in his hospital room Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill — a crime that carries a possible death sentence.

Officials have said Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother set off the twin explosions at last week’s race that killed three people and wounded more than 180. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died Friday after a fierce gun battle with police.

The brothers are ethnic Chechens, said their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer and a Muslim who told friends, “I’m very religious,” according to an account by Johannes Hirn, a freelance photographer who profiled him.

Two years ago, the FBI interviewed the older brother at the request of an unnamed foreign government “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam” and preparing to join underground groups in that country, according to an agency statement. The interview and reviews of U.S. databases turned up no evidence of terror activity, the FBI said.

News of the suspected tie to extremism dismayed Muslims in Metro Detroit, who suspect the bombings could have been motivated more by political views than religious ones.

“Religion would never ever allow killing,” said Victor Begg, senior adviser and spokesman for the Michigan Muslim Community Council. “None of our faiths teach doing what they did. … It’s outrageous.”

Whatever the reason for the act, some Muslims fear the alleged connection to their religion could spark a backlash from the public — including discrimination or hate crimes.

Soon after the bombings last week, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a national advisory, warning residents to be cautious and report suspected hate crimes.

None had been reported at the Michigan chapter by Monday, but numerous calls have poured in from residents seeking tips for dealing with discrimination, regional director Imad Hamad said. “It’s the daily talk around the clock.”

But despite the possibilities, local Muslims are “not in a panic situation,” he said. “We’re not in a situation where we live in fear. We are an integral part of this American nation. We see ourselves in the heart of it.”


Don’t let the terrorists divide us

APR 16, 2013, 6:00 PM 

Don’t let the terrorists divide us

  • BY  

    We are in shock over yesterday’s horrible attack at the Boston Marathon. The purpose of such attacks is to instill fear and divide our nation.

    Though we have been blessed and not suffered the mass violence in recent decades of Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and a host of other nations, we know well the heinous effects of terror on the homeland. Our national conscience has been shaped by the Unabomber, Eric Rudolph’s 1996 attack at the Olympics in Atlanta, and Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombing of the FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City. And of course, Al-Qaeda’s attack on 9/11 is still a fresh memory.

    There are many people overseas and at home who seek to do us ill based on real and perceived grievance. The reasons range from anger against our government for being allied with foreign dictators who suppress human rights to Americans motivated by racial/religious intolerance or anti-government sentiments.

    No matter how legitimate these grievances may be, none can justify wanton violence against innocents as what took place in Boston.

    As we pray for the families that have lost loved ones and salute our first responders who continue to perform their duties with honor and courage, we should also be praying for calm in our communities. By calm I mean no finger-pointing and accusing entire communities of collective guilt – even if one or some among them are alleged offenders.

    We have a precedent of misguided people taking matters to extremes in reaction to horrendous events. This happened with the mistreatment and internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, to hate crimes including vandalism of Islamic centers and a fatal shooting of a Sikh American directly after 9/11.

    On social media, there are thousands who blamed Muslims and Arabs for what took place yesterday. Some called for violence against these two groups. I also read a few comments directed at Koreans – perhaps due to the remake of “Red Dawn” and the movie “Olympus Has Fallen” which portray Koreans as invaders. Many in our country have not learned from history, and some citizens operate from bigotry exacerbated by fear.

    If we react in this way, the perpetrator(s) of terrorism will have achieved one of their goals. Extremists seek to change our way of life and subvert our national values of inclusion and equity for all. We cannot let them win.

    As our law enforcement entities continue to investigate the tragedy in Boston, let us also investigate our hearts and our commitment to fair treatment for all while eschewing the demonization of entire communities.