Synopsis of yesterday’s khutbah on unity in light of lives of Zayd & Usamah

Brief synopsis of the khutbah that I gave yesterday at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (MCWS) in Canton, Michigan:

America just finished recognizing the 50th year anniversary of the historic March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK).  In that historic speech, MLK discussed a dream of an America that would evolve to be a nation free of racism and classism.  The closest manifestation of that dream that MLK was looking for had previously taken place in Al-Madinah in the final years of the life of Prophet Muhammad (prayers & peace be upon him & his family).

A standard of the proactive work that the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) exemplified was in the public love that he showed to non-Arabs and the poor. 

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “Oh gathering of people! Love the freed-slaves with your love as you would love our family, this Zayd bin Harithah and his son Usamah are prestigious freed-slaves, so love both of them. I swear by He who sent Muhammad to with the truth that loving both of them will benefit you.”

He (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) also once took Usamah bin Zayd (may Allah be pleased with them) along with his grandson Al-Hasan bin Ali (blessings be upon them) then prayed, “Oh Allah, surely I love both of them, so love both of them.”

Allah (Glorified & High is He) commanded the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) to tell the people (42:23), “Say! I ask no reward from you except that loving my close kin.”   In effect, the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was telling the companions that after loving Allah (Glorified & High is He) and loving him and his family that these two should be loved in close proximity.

Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) was purchased by Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (may Allah be pleased with her) then freed by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family).  The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) loved him so much that he (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) used to refer to him as Zayd bin Muhammad until the ayah was revealed (33:5), “Call them by their fathers’ names.”  Thus, he was then referred to as Zayd bin Harithah.

Usamah was birthed through the union of Zayd and an Ethiopian freed-slave named Barakah also known as Umm Ayman (may Allah be pleased with her).  Umm Ayman was very much beloved to the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family).  She was the first one to hold the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) when coming out of the womb of his mother Aminah.  Umm Ayman in fact used to be referred to by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) as “My mother after my mother.”

Such public recognition of non-Arabs and freed-slaves was very important in working to purify the Arabs of the tribalistic mentality.  Those who were from weaker tribes used to be taken advantage of and the poor had no chance of being economically empowered in the Days of Ignorance in the Arabian peninsula. 

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was also very deliberate in cultivating brotherhood/sisterhood between the companions.  One of the first acts that he did when entering Al-Madinah was to start a brotherhood/sisterhood system of pairing off companions with each other to become best friends.  Hence, Zayd, a poor freed-slave, was made a brother with Hamzah bin Abdil Muttalib, a Qurayshi. Bilal bin Rabah, a poor black freed-slave, was made a brother with Abu Darda, an Arab merchant from Al-Madinah.  Such relationships cultivated the feeling of love and emphathy between the believers.

Al-Islam is based upon love, for the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “None of you believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for his own soul.”  This love is in recognition of the intrisnic dignity that Allah (Glorified & High is He) gave all souls as the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “People are equal like the teeth of a comb.”

Muslims in America cannot be haphazard in working towards cultivating brotherhood/sisterhood that transcends ethnic and class differences.  It should be deliberate just as the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) was deliberate.  This means placing community resources to cultivating relations between urban and suburban Muslims, wealthy and poor Muslims, and Muslims who are from different ethnic backgrounds.  These relations should produce both social and economic benefits.

This cultivation must also include giving equal consideration of community affairs to all groups; this needs to be done as a matter of protocol, not just every once in awhile.  The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) just did not take shura with his wives such as Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her), Ali (may Allah ennoble his face) and companions from Quraysh and wealthy.  He (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) also took shura from freed-slaves & non-Arabs.

Allah (Glorified & High is He) said (18:28), “Keep yourself content with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and evening seeking His face.”  This ayah specifically refers to a group of poor companions that slept in the masjid upon migration to Al-Madinah.  Many of them were freed-slaves and  were not Arab such as Salman the Persian (may Allah be pleased with him), Suhayb the Roman (may Allah be pleased with him) and Bilal the Ethiopian.  These companions were kept company with and were included in discussions, even given extra attention by the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family).  In fact, Al-Hasan bin Ali even kept company and slept with them in the masjid to show that the Prophet’s family empathized with the plight of the poor and non-Arabs.

Prayers must also been done, especially late at night in tahajjud, asking for the diseases of tribalism and sectarianism to be purified for Muslims abroad.  In many places in the Muslim world, the old system of the Days of Ignorance causes Muslims to fight and kill each other.  The Day of Jumu’ah, in fact, has unfortunately become the preferred day for ignorant Muslims to kill others during prayer or shortly afterwards.  This just took place in Afghanistan where Muslims were killed at the masjid.  The week before was Lebanon and before in Iraq.  As much as Muslims suffer from oppression by non-Muslims such as in Palestine and Burma, those who call themselves believers are harming other Muslims from Mali to Somalia and from Egypt to Syria at greater numbers in recent years.

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him & his family) said, “I fear the most from what I fear for my nation is a group who is sends others astray.”  There is a movement of tribalism and sectarianism among us that is being fomented by misguided Muslims; it must be robustly countered by Muslims with preaching and displaying love and empathy for others.

It’s mandatory that American Muslims cultivate unity here, so that the community can better function according to the complete Sunnah as well as serve as an example to Muslims abroad.  American Muslims are the most diverse community in the world; only at Hajj and during Umrah in Ramadan do Muslims taste the diversity that we have in America.  This places an extra responsible upon us to serve as a model in showing love and empathy towards all.  

Transparency needed in Detroit stop-and-frisk

Aug 28, 2013, 9:30 am       

Transparency needed in Detroit stop-and-frisk


A federal judge recently ruled against the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program as being unconstitutional because it indiscriminately targeted young black and Latino males. The judge correctly ruled that reasonable suspicion to detain and search young men, even in high crime neighborhoods, cannot be predicated on race.

A form of stop-and-frisk has expanded to Detroit now. The Detroit Police Department (DPD) has been working in conjunction with the Manhattan Institute and the Bratton Group – organizations that helped implement New York’s unconstitutional program. In fact, the Manhattan Institute continues to be a rigorous defender of stop-and-frisk in New York.

Given that DPD is still not in full compliance with a federal consent decree due its history of abusive practices against citizens, having a pro-profiling think tank assisting with police logistics is highly troublesome. And since DPD does not have a stellar reputation for being transparent, it’s also problematic that citizens do not have full knowledge of the full scope of cooperation and training of these New York groups with DPD. It would be nice to also know how many tax dollars are going to pay these stop-and-frisk promoters.

Improving public safety in any municipality cannot come at the expense of residents having basic civil rights – including 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Behavioral profiling of persons who display furtive movements does not coincide simply with being a young male of color who wears a hoodie, for example.

That Detroit is 80 percent black is inconsequential if tactical training is implemented that instructs police that it’s okay to stop, question and search people to preempt crime based upon race – thus harrassing residents who are not in the act of committing any crimes. Such policing is not only a violation of civil rights and human dignity but also breaks the trust between community and police.

It would be preferable if the emergency manager and police chief could answer the questions posed above. They should  explain how the police are being training by these outside groups and how much they are being paid. If not, perhaps litigation or the federal monitor, who is overseeing the police dept. consent decree, will get us the answers that we’re looking for.


Challenging internal bigotry on the anniversary of the March on Washington

By Dawud Walid
Thursday, 08.22.2013, 07:48pm
The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., should be a time of reflection for all with regard to the status of race relations in America.  Our country has progressed in the area of overt racism; not just pertaining to African-Americans, but all people of color; yet we, as a society, have quite a ways to go.
The Islamic faith has very clear teachings on the intrinsic equality of the human family.  Human rights leader Malcolm X, upon his return from Hajj, stated that the spiritual teachings of Islam could serve as a cure for the disease of white supremacy that dominated much of America during his lifetime.  Muslims have a beautiful faith tradition that can assist in bringing more racial healing to our nation.  The first oneness is upon Muslims to live the principles of empathizing with others outside of their particular ethnic groups and actively eschew racial intolerance.  Like all faith groups, Muslims do not always act in accordance with their faith teachings, and this is one issue that needs improvement within the community in America.
Due to my interactions over the years with various ethnic groups, ranging from Africans, Arabs, Balkan people and South Asians, I see and hear the reality of tribalism and racism that exists among Muslims.  Its manifestations range from ethnic-based Islamic centers, sometimes centers based upon which village the congregants are from, to parents barring marriage for their children, if potential spouses are from different countries or villages or have different skin colors.  Moreover, I’ve heard such biases even expressed by people from differing areas being referred to as “dirty” or “you know how they are.”
The difficult question then becomes how can Muslims claim moral authority over anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigots when there is internal racism that frequently goes unchallenged within the community?
Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him and his family) challenged structural tribalism and racism that existed in his society.  He did not ignore the problem by wishfully thinking that prayer alone would move people away from tribal prejudice.  He actively encouraged intertribal interactions, such as pairing off immigrants from Mecca to be best friends with indigenous persons from Medina.  Moreover, he gave his approval for several interracial marriages among his companions.  He also immediately rebuked people when they belittled others, based on tribal and skin color differences.
The improvement in race relations is a process of change, which must take place within the generality, not just among community leaders who cross ethnic divides, due to socio-political reasons.  Such change can come about through more social interactions with those outside of our particular groups and by cultivating the spiritual quality of empathy where we attempt to walk in others’ shoes, before separating ourselves from them and making judgments.
As we watch and read media coverage, remembering Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, I hope that we also can reflect on our own internal biases, with the intention of decreasing tribalism and racism among us as Muslims in America. I believe this is a good way to honor those who marched in Washington, D.C. a half a century ago and hoped for a more inclusive society.
— Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of CAIR-MI.

The error of actively or passively supporting oppressors

Relating to political engagement, Muslim activists and advocates should be clear that it is impermissible to support administrations and politicians in endeavors that are from wrong-doing and oppression known as ath-thulm in Arabic.

Ath-thulm, which is related to the word darkness, has the meaning of something being taken outside of its proper place.  Promoting forbidden (haram) activities and aggression falls under taking things outside of their natural and intended places that Allah (SWT) decreed for them to be in.

The Qur’an (5:2) states, “Cooperate with one another based upon piety (al-birr) and righteousness (at-taqwa), but do not cooperate based upon sin and enmity.”   Relating to the earlier point, Imam Zayd bin Ali (SA) said, “Al-birr is that which He [SWT] commanded, and At-taqwa is that which He [SWT] prohibited.”

Thus, assistance for any endeavor that furthers oppression whether it’s physical, monetary and/or verbal is prohibited.

Pharaoh (Fir’awn) is the one human character in the Qur’an, which symbolizes the worse of oppressors.  He fancied himself to be divine, demanded blind allegiance, exploited people economically and subjugated people by force, violence and psychological warfare. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) stated, “Surely the one who assists oppressors is like the one who assisted Fir’awn over Moses (Musa).”  In effect, the one who supports oppressors will share in some of the punishment due to oppressors.

Thus, we should beware in supporting positions without knowledge or based upon fervor; we in fact could be supporting oppression.  We need to dig deep and judge matters based upon principles not personalities that we like or dislike.  Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) also stated, “Whoever assists in hostility without knowledge, (s)he will earn the discontent of Allah until (s)he separates [from the hostility].”

Muslims live under a period of trial.  In some cases, Muslims are the primary supporters of policies and personalities that oppress people, be it in a Muslim minority nation like the United State or a Muslim majority country like Egypt.

May Allah (SWT) guide this Ummah aright and bestow upon it spiritual clarity and insight to distinguish right from wrong.  AMEEN.

Moving closer to making MLK’s dream a reality

Aug 20, 2013, 9:30 am


We are quickly approaching the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic, “I have a dream” speech that represents where most Americans would like to see our nation.

At the time of his speech Dr. King was beloved by masses of people, yet hated by many. His message of racial equality was not only met with resistance from southern state governments but was unwelcome by many whites in the north – including in Michigan. We have made significant progress since then, yet we have a ways to go.

The preamble of the U.S. Constitution speaks of our nation attempting to form “a more perfect union” in recognition that America in the era of the Founding Fathers was far from perfect. In fact, many of the Founders – including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – owned slaves, advocated cleansing of natives (or “beasts of prey” as Washington referred to them) and did not respect the right for
women to vote.

The goal of many minorities continues to be an America where the societal manifestation of the beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence is realized, not how those words were understood by the document’s framers. We live in a country where women of color make 64 cents to the dollar of white men. WE also have the highest prison population on earth – largely due to the failed War on Drugs, which disproportionately incarcerates black men despite the fact that white men use and sell drugs at the same rate as their population demographics.

These and other issues are part of the legacy of racism in America that is both structural and institutional. Societal inequities are not haphazard occurrences.
In order to realize the lofty dream in Dr. King’s speech, we have to be real with each other and not live under myths. This means having honest discussions about our national history in order to see how we can facilitate righting wrongs without collectively blaming those who live in the present.

I hope that during this historic anniversary we can have candid, kind-hearted discussions to help move our country towards realizing that more perfect union. That’s what attendees of the March on Washington prayed for 50 years ago.