March 24, 2009 § 3 Comments
February 13, 2008 § 2 Comments
November 26, 2007 § 8 Comments
I live in Harlem and Harlem, New York has a very unique cascade of Islamic influence that is unmistakably “Harlem”. For example, recently I asked a fellow Naks-i’bendi visiting me in Harlem if Harlem was what he expected it to be like? He told me “no”, explaining that he did not expect to receive so many “salaams“, the Islamic greeting, as he does just walking around. In fact, you will find that walking around most areas of Harlem is quite pleasant for Muslims. You receive greetings of “Peace” at nearly every block. Whether it is African-American Muslims, indigenous to Harlem or West African immigrants from Senegal to Mali. The overall presence of Muslims within the community is good and growing stronger.
I moved to Harlem in 2002 but having been a frequent visitor since 1997 and I have seen with my own eyes how much the Islamic community has grown since that time. One reason has been due to the, Mouride Sufi Association and Senegalese-American presence which make up the majority of Mourides in Harlem.
November 15, 2007 § 24 Comments
The world of Islam in West Africa has such a rich and interconnected relationship with the people and their culture that it is hard to imagine that there was ever a time Islam was not present. In fact it is hard to imagine Islam without also thinking of the distinctive characteristics of West African Islam. One of the reasons that Islam is so close to the hearts of West African people is because of Sufism. Sufism is a branch of Islamic Knowledge which concentrates on direct experience and the spiritual development of a Muslim. It is this area of knowledge that provides the social framework for Muslim communities in West Africa. This social framework can be seen in the Muslim communities from Senegal to Nigeria. According to Khadim Mbacke, author of Sufism and Religious Brotherhoods in Senegal, Sufi brotherhoods first appeared in West Africa during the 15th Century (although there are much earlier accounts). He explains that there was a natural and necessary acceptance of the Islamic Science called Sufism, which was essential to maintaining a straight path of religious purity.
Mbacke also says that Sufi associations provided a support system for Muslims to seek guidance and religious teaching. The two components which make up this essential support for the straight path are the shaykhs (“masters”) and the murids (“disciples”). The role of the shaykh is like that of a teacher however playing a much more extensive role in the a disciples life. Shaykhs advise the murids on all matters of life and have very specific obligations that they are to uphold to lead their murids in religious and private affairs. The murid likewise has responsibilities to his shaykh which includes a code of conduct. That code of conduct is typically patterned after those Believers who were closest to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (alayhi salatu wa sallim), in the way of the traditions that have been passed down from that time.
The largest groups of Sufi associations in West Africa are the Qadiri, the Tijani, the Mouride and Sammaniyya a branch of the Halveti Order. These orders were traditionally the leading resistance to social corruption, colonial rule and tyranny, such as the case with the Sanusi Sufi Order founded by Muhammad ibn Ali al-Sanusi and the Sammaniya, who led a revolt against Egyptian and British colonial rule in the Sudan.
November 7, 2007 § 5 Comments
Taking bayat means taking an oath. It is a sunnat, however a forgotten sunnat of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Peace and Blessings be upon him). When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Believers, his Companions went to Hajj, for the first time after the hijri/migration to Medina, they stopped before entering Mecca. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) sent Uthman ibn Affan (r.a.) as an emissary to the mushriks, those disbelievers of the Quraysh to draw up a treaty, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, for them to know that they are entering Mecca for pilgrimage only and are not coming to make war. And also to prevent the Quraysh from attacking them while they are defenseless and in worship on Hajj.
But when Uthman ibn Affan (r.a.) came to Mecca then words started spreading everywhere that the disbelievers have killed Uthman (r.a.). That is when Allah sent down the ayat/verse ordering those believers to give an oath, take bayat, swearing to Allah that they will not separate from the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and his sunnat, his tradition, no matter what happens,
“Lo! those who swear allegiance unto thee (Muhammad), swear allegiance only unto Allah. The Hand of Allah is above their hands. So whosoever breaketh his oath, breaketh it only to his soul’s hurt; while whosoever keepeth his covenant with Allah, on him will He bestow immense reward.” (048.010)
The Companions swore that they would not leave him and if it’s necessary they would all die for Allah and his sake. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) held out his hand and everyone placed their hands on his. Allah is saying that His hand is upon theirs, which means, “Allah’s protection is on all of you as long as you are with that Prophet”. This was their oath, their bayat to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). They swore that they are never going to betray the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and they swore that no matter what happened, they would continue this oath, this bayat until they die. This was al-bayatul-shajarah, The Pledge of the Tree, in which Allah was well pleased with those Believers saying,
October 28, 2007 § 7 Comments
There are a few things in my life that consistently offer a feeling of freshness and renewal. One is wudu’, the ritual ablution Muslims perform before prayer, its impact on the soul is a significant one. After performing the wudu’ one has a strong sense of cleanliness and purity that can be felt for long periods of time. This is real, and most Muslims would agree that this practice, wudu’, does exactly that, creates a sense of purity for the Believer. I have written about the practice of wudu’ in an earlier article called, The Beauty of Wudu’.
The second item in my life that consistently offers a feeling of renewal and freshness is the salah/namaz, the Islamic ritual prayer. This is particularly true with Fajr (the Morning Prayer). After the Morning Prayer one receives a strong sense of renewal and freshness. The crispness of the morning air is uplifting. The dim lighting that is proper protocol for this prayer is soothing for the sleepy Muslim struggling to make it through the prayer and the combination of the air, dim lighting and subtle activity in the form of postures slowly wakes the body to a state where it is functioning at its optimum capacity. And while all of this is occurring the recitation of the Qur’an is a reminder to us, a reminder of our purpose a renewal of our faith; our intention; our beginning and our end.
The third is item of renewal not only offers a sense of renewal and freshness but also brings a great satisfaction to the heart and emotions. That is the act of loud dhikr (remembrance), this practice is most commonly known in today’s society to be practiced by sufis. But loud dhikr (prounounced zee-kur) is a practice taught to the Companions of the Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) by the Prophet, Sayyidina Maulana Muhammad (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) himself. Loud dhikr was performed in the Prophet’s mosque by him and his Companions and the tradition is upheld today by those called sufis, but the practice itself is not sufi its sunnat, the tradition of the Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him).
September 25, 2007 § 47 Comments
I have on occasion come across Muslims who are sincere but ignorant of some of the finer points of Islamic lifestyle according to the traditions of the Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him). This however, is easy to do in this day and age where there are so many forgotten traditions of the Holy Prophet which if we saw today we may think they are some strange bidat! One of these forgotten traditions is one of the most basic and fundamental elements of our dear religion, the Islamic greeting. The Islamic greeting, as-salaamu ‘alaikum; God’s Peace be upon you, is an element of good Islamic manners. In the proper conduct of greetings one may find keys to good social behavior and the proprieties of friendship and exchanges in Islamic framings. God says in the Qur’an (BismillaharRahmanirRahim),
“When you are greeted with a greeting, greet with better than it or return it. Allah takes count of all things”. (004:086)
So clearly it is preferred to return a greeting by adding to it. But there have been so many times where I have greeted a Muslim and received no greeting at all! And perhaps times where a Muslim has greeted me and received only an equal greeting in return, or worse. These days we greet people we know, and only people we know. When we receive a greeting from someone we don’t know we are silent looking oddly as if someone has violated an unwritten code of ethics. But this unwritten code of ethics is un-Islamic by nature and egoistic at best.