Stand Up For Urban Justice with MuslimARC

Muslim Matters - 13 August, 2015 - 04:52

By Margari Hill

What does Madinah mean for Muslims in the United States? With major Muslim centers of population along the two coasts, in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit, Islam in the United States is an urban religion. In a recent Ramadan reflection, Hazel Gomez writes, “In the next 35 years, America will grow by 110 million people and nearly 100 percent of that growth will be in cities — not suburban or rural America.” She continues, “Our task, if we're to remain relevant to society at large, is to create viable, urban, multi-ethnic, Muslim-led, values-based communities.” Muslema Purmal extends the argument about the significance of Muslim institutions in urban spaces. A mosque shutting down in a suburban neighborhood may not impact the neighbors, she points out, but “… if an institution like iman or Islah LA or Ta'leef Collective is shut down, the neighborhood would certainly care.”

Reflecting on Malcolm X's legacy, Rami Nashishibi calls on our faith community to deepen our commitment to the inner city for three reasons: 1) Our roots are in the 'Hood; 2) We do a lot of “our” business in the 'Hood; and 3) Our greatest contributions to America are in the 'Hood. Nashishibi points out that the modern roots of Islam in America began in urban centers such as Detroit, Harlem, Cleveland, and Chicago. Many immigrant Muslim families have benefitted economically through gas stations, restaurants, corner stores, and services in the hood. And finally, as a community we can make the greatest contribution to addressing social and economic disparities in the inner city.

These disparities arise out of migration patterns and the economic disempowerment of inner city communities.With approximately 70% of Black and Latinos in cities or outer ring communities, urban justice is often linked to racial justice. Dawinder S. Sidhu writes:

Urban America is occupied by the 'urban underclass”–the marginalized poor in America's inner cities. Members of the urban underclass are, generally defined, those who are economically impoverished, spatially relegated to ghettos, disproportionately African-American, subjected to discriminatory policies, and lacking prospects for social or physical advancement.

Long historical processes and profound structural economic shifts, that include the decline of industry in urban America, in addition to the legacy of housing discrimination have segregated poor and minority populations in U.S. cities. Inner city poverty is a racial justice issue because of the persistence of racial and gender discrimination in employment, criminal justice system, and education disparities, which prevent communities of color in urban areas from achieving their full potential. These factors also led to complex interactions between various groups, including tensions between South Asian and Arab corner store owners and predominantly Black and Latino communities.

On the other hand, faith based initiatives and individual Muslims inspired by Islam and their hopes for bringing power to underserved communities have led to developments such as Kenny Luqman Gamble's Universal Companies. It is important for us to know what Muslim community leaders are doing in terms of Urban Justice. They can inspire us, while providing important models to follow. But we also need to think more about how we can mobilize the broader Muslim community to support these efforts.

When it comes to Urban Justice, what are Muslim community leaders with strong organizing experiences on the ground doing? What models can we follow? How can the broader Muslim community support community leaders who are addressing Urban Justice? To help answer these questions, MuslimARC is very excited to organize a live streamed online panel highlighting the work that organizations like iman, Dream of Detroit, LA-Voice, and Sahaba Initiative are doing.


Shamar Hemphill- iman

Mark Crain- Dream of Detroit

Sarah Jawaid- LA Voice

Arbazz Muhammad – Sahaba Initiative

Moderated by Namira Islam

Join us for this important conversation by viewing the livestream and tweeting your questions and reflections on the panel using the hashtag #MuslimUrbanJustice Thursday August 13 at 3:15 pm PST/ 6:15pm EST

To address these issues, MuslimARC is very excited to organize a live streamed online panel highlighting the work that organizations like iman, Dream of Detroit, LA-Voice, and Sahaba Initiative are doing to advance Urban Justice.

Here is the Facebook page for the event.

Think Like Ibrahim | The Essence of Surah Baqarah | Shaykh Akram Nadwi

Muslim Matters - 13 August, 2015 - 00:49

By Shaykh Akram Nadwi

Both Sir Isaac Newton of Cambridge University and  Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) were great thinkers and great observers. They both observed natural phenomena and came up with amazing but different discoveries. Newton observed an apple falling from a tree and discovered gravity and forces of attraction. Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) observed the sun, the moon and the stars falling (or disappearing) and discovered their Creator and Sustainer and their purpose. This is the difference between Newton and Ibrahim. They were both great thinkers but Ibrahim's thinking was far greater and deeper. This is precisely how Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to think –  like Ibrahim.

How do we train ourselves to think like Ibrahim?

Welcome to Surah Al-Baqarah.

Surat al-Baqarah is the longest and most comprehensive surah in the Qur'an. The foundation of the guidance of Surat al-Baqarah is iman/conviction, full trust in the Book and the Messenger to whom it was sent down. When this trust is securely established worship and obedience become natural, comfortable and comforting.

The Messenger has brought to us what is of benefit to us in all aspects of our lives. He has come to enlighten and purify us through the rulings and the manners of wisdom contained in his message. This message is not some strange novelty. Rather, this Messenger and all that he brought from His Lord are the answer to the supplication of our father Ibrahim, and its completed fulfillment.

This surah connects believers to Ibrahim and his family, whose iman was based on hanifiyyah, which means turning away from everything to God. The hanifiyyah of Ibrahim was gained through the most profound, determined enquiry, through reasoning and understanding, realisation and acceptance. When hanifiyyah is attained, true islam (submission) is attained. Without that effort, our islam cannot rise much above the level of a belonging and an identity. The islam of Ibrahim was not an islam of identity.

God did not promise salvation to his creatures on the basis of a belonging or identity. We learn this through the accounts of those who reject the guidance or who accept it half-heartedly: the unbelievers, the hypocrites, and some of the People of the Book. This surah enables us to aspire to salvation whole-heartedly, and it teaches us how to connect iman and din, conviction and the religious life, so that we are worthy of its guidance and fully responsive to it.


This two-year course represents a serious commitment to go through it in detail so that we understand the breadth and depth of the message of the Qur'an. The aim of tafsir is to connect inwardly and outwardly with the guidance of our Lord, so that we experience a direct relation with Him, and become fully aware of His grace and His mercy to us. A proper appreciation of His grace and mercy generates a strong resolve in our hearts and minds to worship Him and to live in this world in willing obedience to Him. This is the help and guidance that we ourselves asked our Lord to grant us in al-Fatihah, the surah of the Opening. Surat al-Baqarah is the response to that supplication. It inspires, informs, and urges us to worship God and obey Him according to the teaching and example of His Messenger. The study will be based on Shaykh Dr Muhammad Akram Nadwi's own research and thinking as well as knowledge synthesized form the Tafsir of Tabari, Zamakshari, Farahi and others.


Watch a video explaining the essence of Surah Baqarah

Click here to view the embedded video.

Muhammad Akram Nadwi

Cambridge Islamic College is offering a unique detailed Tafsir course of Surat al-Baqarah over two year tafsir.


Challenging Black British Muslim Stereotypes

Islamicate - 13 August, 2015 - 00:24

There seems to be a lacking presence of Black representation within the British Muslim community and this is something that needs to change. Being a black convert myself, I cannot help but feel a little frustrated with the lack of a Black British Muslim presence; a feeling that is shared amongst a number Muslims I know who working hard towards challenging preconceived notions and bringing about a change in attitude within the wider Muslim community towards Black Muslims. The cultural makeup of Britain is quite diverse; a fact that is increasingly being reflected amongst converts to Islam. Yet despite the fact that Black Muslims make up a significant proportion of Muslims in Britain, I am still perplexed that throughout the various mosques, Muslim organisations and Islamic educational institutions that we have in the UK, it is a rare occurrence to see Black Muslim teachers, imams, scholars or professionals playing a leading role within them.

From my own observations, it seems there are some key factors that might explain this unfortunate phenomenon, which stem both from within and outside of the Black British Muslim community. Perhaps one of the most worrying problems that many Black Muslims experience is racism from other Muslims. In my personal experience, I know of family members and non-Muslim friends who have been put off the idea of becoming Muslim due to concerns of underlying prejudice existing amongst Muslims (many of whom are South Asian) towards the Black community, as it is patently clear that Black Muslims do not get the same opportunities and exposure within the Muslim community as their non-Black counterparts do. What is even more frustrating is that most Muslims choose to remain in oblivion to this problem, claiming there is no racism in Islam and backing our point using the clichéd example of Bilal (RA). However, underneath this veneer of righteousness we also know the uncomfortable reality; that if for example, a Black Muslim man came to marry someone’s daughter, it is most likely that he would be turned away on the basis of his skin colour; or that the only way for a Black Muslim to be even remotely accepted within the wider community would be to adopt South Asian or Arab cultural practices. We simply cannot deny that racism still lurks within our community, and the wise words of our beloved Prophet in his last sermon, where he said an Arab is not more superior than a non-Arab, nor is a white man more superior than a black, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Only when we can be honest with ourselves and admit that there is a problem within the Muslim community can we take meaningful steps to try and address the issue.

However, to place the blame for the lack of a Black British Muslim presence solely on the issue of racism is too simplistic, and there needs to be some proactivity from Black Muslims to bring about change. If Black Muslims wish to see change, then they must be the drivers of that change, and I believe the principle way to do this would be if more Black Muslims went down the path of scholarship. There seems to be reluctance amongst Black Muslims to tread down the scholastic path, whether it be acquiring expertise in the Islamic sciences or excelling in Western academia. Even when it comes to small gatherings where religion is being taught, from the local classes in my mosque to weekend course at institutions, I often find myself to be the only black Muslim female present. If we are to be serious about challenging the stereotypes that many Muslims have about the Black community, pursuing the path of scholarship would most certainly be the most potent way of doing so. Take the example of Dr Sherman Jackson in the US, a very well respected scholar both amongst Muslims and non-Muslims, who is without doubt one of the leading thinkers amongst Muslims in the West. We need more black Muslims in Britain to follow in his footsteps.

Of course, the power of excelling in the Islamic sciences alongside having a firm foundation in the secular sciences cannot be underestimated. An oft used example of this potency lies in the example of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), however what we fail to acknowledge is that despite his significant contributions to the civil rights movement, most of his activism came at a time when he was part of a heretical sect, which by consensus was not regarded as part of Islam. What he did manage, however, was to popularise the Nation of Islam amongst the masses by illustrating to the Black community the Nation could relate to their struggles, and they were able to seemingly offer some solutions to them, although arguably it was the Nation’s intrusive nature and aberrant views that perhaps hindered its cause for Black rights. Had Malcom X studied Islam in its truest form in his formative years, and combined it with his knowledge in other disciplines, and had he been able to illustrate to the masses how Islam could liberate a community from the shackles of racism, one wonders how much more potent his legacy would have been. Indeed, the thought of this should provide the impetus to Black Muslims to try and achieve what Malcom X failed to.

In many respects, the issues that we see both within the Black Muslim community and the wider Muslim community in Britain mirror those of society at large; the institutionalised racism that many Black people experience, alongside the lack of Black people pursuing academia. And just as the most significant contribution of Black people seems to have been in the music and entertainment industry, we see a similar phenomenon being mirrored within the British Muslim community, where it seems that all we have to offer are spoken word and nasheed artists, who do little else than provide some ‘halal’ entertainment for Muslims, and some background ‘music’ for those very organisations which would fail in any equal opportunities and diversity assessment. Surely black Muslims have more to offer than mere entertainment?

The time has come for us to change the status quo, and to start developing a British Muslim community that stays true to orthodoxy, but reflects the diversity that exists within in. Muslims in Britain need to challenge the racial stereotypes they hold, and as Black Muslims, we must establish ourselves and be present, unapologetic and intellectual.

Asylum seeker forcibly returned to Afghanistan after appeals exhausted

The Guardian World news: Islam - 12 August, 2015 - 04:53

The man, known only as R, was told to gather his belongings and was put on a flight out of Perth on Tuesday night

A 21-year-old asylum seeker is understood to have been forcibly returned to Afghanistan, after last-ditch legal appeals for his case to be re-examined failed.

After being told to gather his belongings at Yongah Hill detention centre yesterday, the man – who can be identified only as R – was taken from the centre, and is understood to have been put on board a flight from Perth on Tuesday night.

Related: Europe must not mimic Australia's tough talk on asylum seekers | Ben Doherty

Related: Taliban suicide blast near Kabul airport

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