Imam Muhammad Asim Hussain, is a graduate of Jamia Al-Karam in Nottingham and has been tirelessly serving the needs of the British Muslim community. He is renowned for his nationwide public lectures which focus on contemporary issues and his ‘down to earth’ and ‘on a level’ approach allows him to relate to all age groups.
Imam Asim is only 23 and currently lectures in Manchester Central Mosque as Jummah Khateeb. The Revival Editor, Sajid Iqbal, spoke to him about many issues including his life and what he thinks are the biggest challenges facing Muslims today.
Ed: Asalaamu Alaikum Shaykh, how are you?
Imam: Wa Alaikumus Salaam, very well.
Ed: You’re a young Imam followed by thousands of youngsters across the country, with 17,000 followers on Facebook and over 4000 on Twitter. You’re a bit of a celebrity, right?
Imam: (Big smile) I don’t know about that. Allah gives and Allah takes away.
Ed: So when you were a young lad what did you do to chill out?
Imam: I was brought up very well by my parents. I had a keen interest in football and I still do. As any typical youngster growing up in Bradford, we had a lot of negative influences surrounding us but I’m glad to say that I stayed away from most of them. I also played a lot of PlayStation 2, Pro-Evolution and Fifa back then.
Ed: You mentioned football, so I have to ask- do you support Manchester United or Liverpool?
Imam: I’m actually against United completely. (Ed shaking his head).
Ed: Come on Imam… What’s that about? Imam: (Cheeky laugh) I’m a fan of good football players and the beautiful game, rather than a particular team. If I do have allegiance with anyone, where there is money there is a Sheikh- so I would say Man City!
Ed: That’s terrible Shaykh (Imam laughs his head off)
Ed: When you were young did you not want to be a ‘Bad Boy’ and live life as a gangster as a lot of youngsters do today?
Imam: There were times in my life when I thought ‘Yes, I wanna be a bad boy. I wanna try this and that out ’. However, I had a strong brother who kept me on the straight path. My parents were very strict and especially my mother who brought me up very well. So, therefore it didn’t influence or affect me that much. I had a very sharp brain and was clued on. I did see a lot around me but it didn’t influence me to do anything bad.
Ed: A lot of youngsters nowadays are involved in a boy/girlfriend relationship which we all know is against Islam - So what is your take on this?
Imam: Young people are heavily influenced by having too much freedom, free mixing, movies , the music lifestyle and following the way the world is moving by keeping up with the latest societal trends. Some feel that if you don’t have a boy/girlfriend then you are a weirdo and that something must be wrong with you and so they are pressured into having such a relationship.
Ed: So how would you advise individuals who are involved in a boy/girlfriend relationship?
Imam: It’s not easy. You will need a lot of will power. Does one have enough strength around them to be able to curb or control this desire? It’s a problem of the ego, I say. If you are mature enough you should marry to overcome the desire of sexual feelings. If not, then we should avoid those scenarios and circumstances which we put ourselves into, in order to avoid us having half of the problems that we do.
Ed: What was the turning point in your life that made you become religious and then go onto study Islam?
Imam: I was 15, it was during Ramadhan and just before my GCSE’s in 2005. I was 10 days into Itikaaf at the masjid, and that’s what made me change. I switched then.
Ed: So what actually happened that made you change?
Shaykh: It was the company of a pious man of Allah. He had an overwhelming, profound influence and effect on me which made me connect to the Deen, practise it and then gave me the interest and motivation to study. This made me who I am today.
Ed: You’ve mentioned a few times about having good company. A lot of youngsters go astray because they hang around with the wrong guys. So how do you make sure you choose good mates?
Imam: Youngsters today set the criterion of good company as somebody who looks good, walks well, dresses well, who fights well, who has a lot of money or is popular. We base our friendship on popularity and other not very important things. We have forgotten the essence of what our friendship should be. Is that person actually good? Is he good for me? Do they have good manners and behaviours? Are they pious? Are they religious? Is that person going to take me closer to Allah or away from Allah? If we base our friendship on these principles we will get very far in life and that’s the reality.
Ed: What about those who already hang around with the wrong crowd and can’t seem to get away from them?
Imam: I would say to them that rather than roaming the streets, it will be good for them to spend some time in the masjid and learn some very good morals; and generally morals should first come from their parents. Taking this love of materialism out of us is quite difficult especially in this day and age. The key is to control it and knowing our limits. So by having that link with the masjid, one can get the right company and learn the right morals which can help them to become a better person inshaAllah.
Ed: Regarding mosques, do you think they actually cater for the youngsters of today?
Imam: Mosques are starting to change now, maybe not as quickly as we want them to, but they are changing. Mosques need to look at themselves and see how they can involve and interact the next generation to move the mosque forward.
Ed: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the youth?
Imam: The biggest challenge is identity. They really don’t know who they are. Islam for them consists of Ramadan and Friday’s only. They are facing many challenges from forced marriages to drugs and alcohol abuse. These are just a few.
Ed: You said earlier that youngsters need to overcome their desires in order to overcome issues of drugs, alcohol and so on. How do they do this?
Imam: For drugs and alcohol we need to find a new intoxicant for them and an alternative. This is the zikr/remembrance of Allah. Once they taste this and fall in love with it, it will definitely help them to overcome their materialistic desires. This is the way forward and I’ve seen many lads change like this.
Ed: So those who are being forced to marry against their will- what can they do?
Imam: It’s important to try to make your parents understand through wisdom and patience and by using positive influences to convince them. Secondly, one should give examples in the community where forced marriages have taken place and where it hasn’t worked and what damage it has caused.
Parents need to understand what the needs of the times are and try to understand what their children want. They are not living back in the village now. There has to be a compromise as we can’t go from one extreme to another in the form of fornication to forced marriage. Parents need to be clear that forcing your children to marry against their will is totally unIslamic.
Ed: Due to forced marriages some youngsters get married secretly. What do you say to that?
Imam: Well, they don’t remain secret for long do they? Are they allowed in Islam? You’ll have to ask a Mufti as it’s all circumstantial. I mean if it’s a circumstance where they can easily convince their parents then why are they secretly married?
Ed: Another big challenge today is extremism and how it is reported in the media. Regarding the Woolwich murder, what is your reaction and what should be the reactions of Muslims?
Imam: The main thing is that we shouldn’t react to it in an abusive or aggressive manner, whether that’s on social network sites or generally in the community. Also, two people don’t represent me or my religion. More facts will come out of who these people are and why they did this. Remember is that it is not Islam. It has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Remember that just because two individuals do a wrong action, it doesn’t make the religion wrong. It’s as simple as that. If the IRA or other Christian extremists do acts of terrorism it doesn’t mean Christianity is wrong or evil, now does it? So those with common sense will know that this is just an act of two people and not the entire religion.
Ed: So is it best not to do or say anything at all or should we speak out against it?
Imam: As Muslims if we see anything bad or evil then we should speak out against it with wisdom, respect and with tolerance. If we can, we should stop evil physically or the least we should do is feel bad about it in our hearts. This is the teaching of our Prophet (pbuh). Muslims and non-Muslims are one big family of humanity and we should play our role to do good and forbid evil.
Ed: Going back to the Imams (who I love with a passion…hahahaha) what is their role today? A lot don’t tackle issues we face today and a lot of them can’t even speak the language!
Imam: The Imam’s role is to guide his community, to advice and counsel his community, not to stir and create tensions. If there are differences in the community then the Imam should deal with them and resolve them. A key point is that the Imam should practise what he preaches- this is crucial. If you see Imams doing this then you will see people changing.
Ed: But if the Imam can’t speak English then how can he cater for the youth?
Imam: If he can’t speak English then he should learn. If he has lived here for 40 years then he should be able to speak English so he can communicate in English and understand the youth.
Ed: And if he doesn’t?
Imam: Well, he needs to cater for the community or otherwise allow the likes of myself to cater for the youth.
Ed: An increasing number of young practising Muslims and especially a lot of Imams I know, are very sectarian. How can we stay away from this and what is the cure?
Imam: There will always be differences and it’s important to deal with them with respect, tolerance and etiquettes. That is the key. If we did this then we will not be sectarian or have any hatred for anyone.
Ed: A lot of young people don’t have positive role models today, so who can they look up to?
Imam: Somebody who is positive and who will draw them closer to Allah.
Ed: Finally, what is your advice to the readers of The Revival magazine?
Imam: Play hard, work hard, enjoy yourself in the limits, and keep Allah happy as in the end we will have to show our face to Him. Hang around with good people, make time for Allah and look after your parents. Learn your rights and learn what Islam teaches you. Educate yourself about Islam properly from the right sources and not extremists.
IMAM ASIM’S FAVOURITES: Footballer- Zinadine Zidane
Car- Nissan Skyline GTi
Book- The Qur’an
Scholar- Too many and unfair to name a favourite.
Saying- Live in this dunya (world) but don’t let the dunya live inside you
Game console/game- PlayStation 3. Fifa 13