Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
A recent poll in USA shows that even though the perception of the Muslims has improved over the years the Muslims are still the least popular faith group among the US population. We are trailing the most popular group the Jews, almost by 20 points.
The reasons behind the success of the Jews in creating better public relations may be multi-factorial. But, it may not be that they are more charitable or altruistic than the Muslims. There is one thing they do far better than any Muslim community. They collaborate with each other much better than any Muslim community. If any one of them starts any commercial or non-profit initiative, he or she can invariably expect a significant number of fellow Jews to promote the initiative, in the best manner that they can. Contrary to this amicable response by the Jews, the common Muslim response to every venture is to focus more on the petty details than on the initiative under discussion. When we see a good initiative, before we can extend a helping hand and indirectly help the whole community, our focus is on other questions, like how would it help me? Does the person belong to my sect? Does he or she agree with every detail of my theology? Does he or she hold my set of religious scholars and religious leaders in the same highest esteem as I do? On and on, until a very small number of Muslims are left to whom their fellow Muslims will extend a helping hand. No wonder, the Muslims are not as successful as the Jews in whatever venture they pursue.
The believers are supposed to be more altruistic and co-operative with others as Allah has given us a strong incentive to promote every thing that is positive, without consideration as to who will get the worldly credit as our share, at least, in the eyes of God and in the hereafter is guaranteed. In Sura Nisa we read:
Whoso makes a righteous intercession or promotion shall have a share thereof, and whoso makes an evil intercession or promotion, shall have a like portion thereof; and Allah is Powerful over everything. (Al Quran 4:85/86)
If the Shia Muslims, the Sunni Muslims, the Ahmadi Muslims or the Muslims from the nation of Islam are engaged in any discussion on theology and talking about issues they do not share or agree, then there would of course be no need to say platitudes or express common ground, when it does not exist. But, if the subject is refuting Islamophobia among the non-Muslims or human rights of the Muslims in the West, then of course every Muslim sees eye to eye and is on same frequency and not genuinely collaborating on these issues is simply suicidal, to put it bluntly.
When the Muslims try to build common ground with the Christians and the Jews on the theme of our shared values in the Abrahamic faiths and our worshiping the same God, then our inability to help each other on common grounds speaks volumes about our mutual jealousy and prejudice and also puts the non-Muslims on high alert that if we cannot agree and collaborate on common issues with our fellow Muslims, then our presentation to non-Muslims about coexistence may merely be false pretense.
The Holy Quran instructs us: “And help one another in righteousness and pious causes; but help not one another in sin and transgression.” (Al Quran 5:2/3)
The verse does not say that cooperate with only those who belong to your denomination or those with whom you have struck a deal, “You scratch my back and I will scratch your back,” or those who agree with you on every little detail of theology or are from the same village, caste or family as yourself. It does not even say that cooperate with those whom you think are pious and do not cooperate with those whom you consider impious. It simply says cooperate in positive affairs and do not in negative affairs.
Mustafa Akyol (born 1972) is a Turkish writer and journalist. Akyol has said he would describe himself as a “Classical Liberal“. He is the author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, long-listed in 2012 for the Lionel Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world’s best non-fiction book in English. He became a contributing opinion writer for the International New York Times in 2013. He has a beautiful TED talk which indirectly promotes secularism in the Muslim countries, which is near and dear to my heart:
I have been promoting his talk in different ways in the Muslim Times, including promoting his video as a part of a post: Ted Talks: 7 fascinating talks on better understanding Islam.
However, more recently he has written a book, The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims, I do not agree with some of his ideas about the second coming of Jesus. Now, because of this disagreement, do I need a Machiavellian strategy to try to make sure that he is not successful in general, lest his ideas that I do not agree with, get some traction, or should I collaborate with him on common causes and promote his work, where I agree with him and have faith in God’s Providence and Omnipotence that He will lead humanity to the greater truths and I just need to follow His instruction: “And help one another in righteousness and pious causes; but help not one another in sin and transgression.” (Al Quran 5:2/3)
If Mehdi Hasan from Al Jazeerah makes useful contributions against Islamophobia, am I supposed to promote and endorse it in Twitter with our 42,000 followers or should ignore them given the fact that he does not belong to my sect in Islam and is not likely to promote the good work of the Muslim Times. Of course, I have no obligation to retweet him or endorse and promote his other work, when I do not agree with him or when his work is not in line with the core goals of the Muslims Times of promoting universal brotherhood, free speech, human rights and women rights and secularism and refute racism and Islamophobia.
When I write an article Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran, which has been well received in the social media, do you have to worry about me being an Ahmadi Muslim or should you, finding the title attractive just read the article, to find that there is nothing in the article that promotes one denomination over the other and it just brings out the compassionate and loving message of the holy Quran? Shouldn’t you benefit from this collection and promote and endorse it for the sake of Islam, the prophet Muhammad and to refute Islamophobia?
I know Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been making presentations promoting Islam and human rights in different forums of the world and the Muslim Times has been promoting those to the best of our ability. I am sure that other Muslims have had their share of success in this regard and many of those may have escaped my attention, given my sources and my personal biases. However, yesterday I came across a news: Canadian Ismaili-Muslim MP Arif Virani speaks in Parliament to address systemic racism, religious discrimination, and Islamophobia. Now, am I supposed to push it under the rug or realize that it is for my own good and for the sake of the causes near and dear to me, to promote it, without any reservation. When hate mongers promote Islamophobia, they do not divide us into different groups, rather promote hate and prejudice against all Muslims. So, when it comes to our common defense why cannot we join forces, regardless of our denominations or other differences?
If Harris Zafar makes a strong case against Islamophobia in the following TED talk, should the American Muslims with Pakistan heritage worry that he belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community or should they promote his good work for their own advantage and for the sake of other Muslims?
If you would like to promote his talk only in the social media and not the whole of this post you can do that by going to a different post in the Muslim Times: Refuting Islamophobia: Demystifying ‘the Other’ by Harris Zafar.
Fareed Rafiq Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. If he has become the face for intelligent and smart Muslims and is a household name in millions of homes in USA, does it make me proud or do I have to feel jealous and worry about the fact that he is not a practicing Muslim by his own admission and therefore his success is not a success for Islam or the Muslims?
Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American author, public intellectual, religious studies scholar, producer, and television host. He has written three books on religion: No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aslan is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association. He is also a professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside.
Given the fact that his parents are from Iran he is probably a Shia Muslim. Those with Sunni Muslim agenda in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may draw a line in sand against him, but I only feel proud of his achievements and see him as a strong Muslim voice for all Muslims and soon to be a poster child against Islamophobia. Believer with Reza Aslan, a new six-part CNN Original Series, will debut on Sunday, March 5, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The spiritual adventure series follows religion scholar and best-selling author Aslan as he immerses himself in customs and faith rituals around the globe, exploring Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, Scientology in the U.S., Hindu asceticism in India, Vodou in Haiti, Santa Muerte in Mexico, and an apocalyptic doomsday cult in Hawaii.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving have called him the greatest basketball player of all time.
He writes about his conversion to Islam in an article, Why I converted to Islam:
I was brought up to respect rules — and especially those who enforced the rules, such as teachers, preachers and coaches. I’d always been an exceptional student, so when I wanted to know more about Islam, I found a teacher in Hammas Abdul-Khaalis. During my years playing with the Milwaukee Bucks, Hammas’ version of Islam was a joyous revelation. Then in 1971, when I was 24, I converted to Islam and became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (meaning “the noble one, servant of the Almighty”).
The question I’m often asked is why I had to pick a religion so foreign to American culture and a name that was hard for people to pronounce. Some fans took it very personally, as if I had firebombed their church while tearing up an American flag. Actually, I was rejecting the religion that was foreign to my American culture and embracing one that was part of my black African heritage. (An estimated 15 to 30 percent of slaves brought from Africa were Muslims.) Fans thought I joined the Nation of Islam, an American Islamic movement founded in Detroit in 1930. Although I was greatly influenced by Malcolm X, a leader in the Nation of Islam, I chose not to join because I wanted to focus more on the spiritual rather than political aspects. Eventually, Malcolm rejected the group right before three of its members assassinated him.
My parents were not pleased by my conversion. Though they weren’t strict Catholics, they had raised me to believe in Christianity as the gospel. But the more I studied history, the more disillusioned I became with the role of Christianity in subjugating my people. I knew, of course, that the Second Vatican Council in 1965 declared slavery an ‘infamy’ that dishonored God and was a poison to society. But for me, it was too little, too late. The failure of the church to use its might and influence to stop slavery and instead to justify it as somehow connected to original sin made me angry. Papal bulls (e.g., ‘Dum Diversas’ and ‘Romanus Pontifex’) condoned enslaving native people and stealing their lands.
And while I realize that many Christians risked their lives and families to fight slavery and that it would not have been ended without them, I found it hard to align myself with the cultural institutions that had turned a blind eye to such outrageous behavior in direct violation of their most sacred beliefs.
When he does useful work for all Muslims, for example, Video: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s KKK Analogy Sums Up ISIS Perfectly or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Speaks Out Against Islamophobia In The U.S., do I worry about whether he is a member of the nation of Islam or which denomination he belongs to or I promote his excellent work, for the benefit of all Muslims.
When Qasim Rashid makes a good case against Islamophobia, should you worry that he is the national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community or thank him for his good work?
I may sometimes personally feel jealous of his wonderful achievements, but I have resisted the temptation to exclude him from the circle that I would promote and endorse here today. This is one way to overcome our mutual jealousy. When you feel a twinge of jealousy, it should be taken as a sign from God that you have to go out of your way to promote and endorse the good work of that person. May be it is time to pray for that person also! May be some day you may surpass the person that you are jealous of, but, in the mean while, please do not hurt yourself and your own community by holding back.
In addition to the denominational prejudice a few additional factors contribute to lack of collaboration among the Muslims. A major issue is plain old jealousy and here people are likely to be least helpful to those who are closest to them, lest they become more influential in their respective communities. So a strange phenomenon is observed, a significant number of the Muslims will not promote other Muslims because they have a prejudice against those who belong to denominations other than their own and they cannot promote those of their own denomination, because of mutual jealousy. So, the only people they can endorse or promote are non-Muslims.
Professor John Eric Adair is a British academic who is a leadership theorist and author of more than forty books on business, military and other leadership. Since 2006, he has been Honorary Professor of Leadership at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong. In 2009 he was appointed Chair of Leadership Studies United Nations System Staff College in Turin. He has written a wonderful book about the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and I have written a review of the book in 2013: Book Review: The Leadership of Muhammad by Prof. John Adair. Thankfully, his book drew wide support from all Muslims, regardless of our denomination, but if a Muslim does something useful in this dimension, we are going to be very picky in our support and first judge the author on our usual minutiae.
Craig Considine (Ph.D., 2015, Trinity College Dublin) is a Lecturer of Sociology at Rice University. Even though he is a Christian he seems to be tweeting far more often for Islam than Christianity. He frequently tweets positive ideas about the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and for the human rights of the Muslims. He is frequently retweeted by the Muslims from all walks of life, a courtesy we would not extend to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.
I know some of the people, I have promoted and endorsed above know about me and the work of the Muslim Times and have seldom endorsed our good work for whatever reasons. I do not hold it against them, for the sake of the causes that are near and dear to me, I look out for their helpful contributions. I know one day they will think about the verse of the holy Quran, “The payback or reward of goodness is nothing but goodness.” (Al Quran 55:60/61) and the Muslim Times in the same thought and start retweeting those tweets of the Muslim Times that they find useful. Or one day they will realize that the causes they support are more important than their personal reputation or agenda and what is good for Islam and the human rights of the Muslims is worthy of their attention and their endorsement.
In the recent presidential election in US, the Muslim citizens had four possible choices:
1. Vote for Hillary Clinton
2. Vote for Donald Trump
3. Vote for third party candidate
4. Abstain and not vote for anyone
A vote for the third party would have been a vote wasted as it would have no consequence and so the real choice was between Clinton and Trump. Clinton defended the human rights of the Muslims and Trump did not offer any such reassurance. The Muslims did not agree with some of the other positions of Clinton, for example she is pro-choice and majority of the Muslims are likely to prefer pro-life position and there were other issues, where they would differ with her. Even though Hillary Clinton lost the election, but, I believe the Muslims chose wisely, in their best interest. According to an exit poll conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 13 percent of Muslims voted for Trump and 74 percent voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Similarly, when we endorse and promote fellow Muslim writers and commentators in the social media, let us not be guided by our prejudices or jealousy, but by the best interest of all Muslims as regards their human rights.
Except for Mehdi Hasan, Professor John Eric Adair and Rafiq A. Tshannen all the other Muslim or Muslim ally voices that I have mentioned in this article are from USA, I am sure there are equally clear and effective voices in every country of the world that I may not know very well, at present. Let us all work together for universal brotherhood and human rights and to silence the voices by the force of arguments that want to marginalize all Muslims.