Beginning of Blogging
Before I began blogging in 2005 I had periodically written for a number of Muslim publications. However, after 9-11, when I felt so much personal stress due to the ordeals of good friends of mine like Ismail Royer and my beloved Sheikh Ali al-Timimi I focused more on writing for boxing sites and doing some media work for some fighters.
Once Allah’ SWT puts the love for the Muslim community in your heart though it is hard to ignore the issues in our community ( especially when you see many important issues being ignored by the major Muslim leaders and organizations). So, in 2005 I began blogging in order to discuss the issues that I felt were being ignored such as the class-divide in the community, racial division in the community, Muslim organizations and mosques not addressing our needs, and the pro Takfiri Jihadi sentiment that was prevalent amongst many in our community, crazy anti-Jewish conspiracies, and other things.
I soon realized that very few bloggers came from the parts of the Muslim community I came from. While my experience has been diverse having attended hundreds of mosques throughout America from liberal affluent suburban masjids to hardcore taabliqui masjids in immigrant neighborhoods to “hood” masjids throught the country; it is a fact that the brothers I was closest to were always those brothers, mostly African-American, who were adherents to the Salafi Dawah, and with Arabs who were either Salafi or had a MAS-oriented approach to the deen in America.
This came after I had been educated in the deen by my teacher Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Basir who taught us from the traditional books of fiqh and aqeedah, the books of Sheikh Abu Ameena Bilal Phillips, the books of Syed Qutb, the speeches of Malcolm X and the political works of Frantz Fanon.
The Sheikh would say ” Islam is a movement..so you have to move” and carry the dawah with you. Almost all of the brothers I was educated with at that time were black, from the inner-city, and had criminal pasts and the Sheikh saw it as his calling to bring the dawah to the hood and on many occasions he said in every city he has been in he has looked for the “gang-bangers” to give dawah to.These were young men who were on a one-way path to prison or the graveyard and the Sheikh worked to transform their lives. I saw young men go from the corners and within 6 months be well-schooled in aqeedah, basic fiqh, know the salat, and read Quran in Arabic. A lot of Muslims would turn their backs on such men, look down on them, refer to them as ” low-lying fruit in the ghetto”, and a lot of non-Muslims would rather see them in dead or in jail than being Muslim ( a good friend of mine from the Bronx remarked that guys who he grew up who were Latin Kings had dealt drugs, menaced, fought and killed since Junior High and had never been sweated by the FBI and he lived an upright life not breaking any laws but because he is a Muslim has been constantly harassed). The story of these brothers and this segment of the community I came from did not have a home in the blogosphere just as these brothers have no place, or welcome, from the Institutes and “Suburban Capitalist” Islam Brother Yursil Kidwai has written of.
The strength of the teachings of the Sheikh was based on some very basic principals; we, our families, our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world is in a bad way because we have no Islam and have lost touch with Allah. No political movement, philosophy, or organization, can help humanity if it is not rooted in the Quran and the Sunnah. All secular knowledge and thought, and indeed our culture, must be filtered through the Quran and Sunnah. The Sheikh was “movement oriented” having been raised in Brooklyn in the 1940′s and being a part of the Black Power movement of the 1960′s. Like Imam Jamil al-Amin ( who I also spent a little bit of time with) and Imam Abdul-Alim Musa, who had come from similar backgrounds, he realized that Nationalism was not the way and being caught up in Western political and thought paradigms was not the way and that the only way to change a corrupt and oppressive Western-dominated world was through the Islamic Movement which sought to replace the secular order in Muslim countries with a Shariah-based Islamic system that could be a light of truth in a world of kufr.
Another white guy around at this time was Suhaib Webb who I used to sleep on the floor with at a storefront mosque in North St. Louis and have conversations about hip-hop and Islam over Mother’s Fish ( Suhaib had been given shahadah by the Sheikh in Oklahoma). He would go on to become a prominent Imam and famous. I do not agree with him on all things and I think he is dealing with a lot of pressures; but at the end of the day I always give Brother Suhaib the benefit of the doubt because I know in his heart he has a love for the Islamic Movement. He has a voice amongst those whose ears are deaf to people like the Sheikh and any other grassroots figures and I pray that Allah uses him as a force for good. Today, he is in the blogosphere, and I think he can shed light on many of the issues that I have talked about in the past with much more knowledge.
Tariq Nelson, Rise and Fall, and “Traditional Feuds”
When my old friend Tariq Nelson ( who I met at the IANA Convention in Detroit in 1995) began blogging I rushed to contact him. I told him ” look, blogging in the Muslim community is overwhelmingly Sufi, liberal, and there are very few blacks…so do not be too hard on the people”. I told him then what I will say today; blogs are not reflective of our community.
It was a blessing having him blog because we often bounced ideas off of each other. More often than not I would agree to write something and take on the role of bad guy while he would sit back and laugh.
The Rise and Fall of the Salafi Movement could not have been written without Tariq. We were both around in those times and he reminded me of things I had forgotten.
That series was probably read by over 100,000 people and was copied onto dozens of other websites and was even printed as a booklet by someone I don’t even know. It was written because it needed to be written. A lot of people knew more than me but remained silent; but as I saw more and more people suffering and depressed I knew it was time to open that discussion.
Some good came from it in that people who were suffering could openly talk about their pain and get help. People with the same ideas could come out of the closet. But, many bad things came from it. Those whose motives were not pure used it to advance their partisan agenda when they had skeletons in their own closet.
After writing the Rise and Fall my blog grew in popularity and I became exposed to segments of the community I had previously ignored; Traditionalists, Sufis, Liberals, Progressives, Modernists, Green Muslims, Gay Muslims, Vegetarian Muslims, Anarchist Muslims, Neo-Con Muslims, people who say they are Muslims but do not believe in the Quran and Sunnah, etc.
Now, I am not lumping all of these different groups together. A Traditionalist Muslim or a legit Sufi is obviously better than the rest of those groups; but all of these groups tend to hang together, support one another, and defend one another. A lot of this could be because they are internet-oriented groups and are familiar with one another and a lot of it could be class in the sense that they all tend to come from the suburban middle to upper class, are well-educated, are generally more in favor of secular political thought and social thought than Islamic thought, and have those ways and mannerisms about them.
After being revolted by a lot of what I saw and read I decided to take on the issues that I saw on that side of the spectrum just as I had argued with Muslims in 2000 over voting for Bush and getting too close to conservatives. Islam is a way of its own, we do not need the Left, the Right or the Greens, we need the Book and the Sunnah and the knowledge of the rightly-guided ulama.
I took on their pet issues; a softened position or an outright support for homosexuality, rewriting Islam to be compliant with atheistic feminism, and the list goes on and on.
I wasted a lot of time and energy on this until one day Brother Tariq told me ” Look man, these people do not care about Islam or what the correct Islamic opinion is. What is real to them is what they learn in their secular education not what is in the Quran and Sunnah. ” I knew he was right. They were creating a made-up version of Islam, based on their own opinions, that would be compliant with the Western Secular Humanism they were being taught at school and those who clung to the Quran and Sunnah were seen by them as ignorant peasants.
It was also a mistake to get sidetracked into some kind of a fued with the followers of Nu Ha Mim Keller and Hamza Yusuf. Although, I think I was right for the most part and those ideas do not seem too controversial amongst the brothers I know in real life, the internet is their domain and it was pointless to argue with people who do not listen in a format where they make up the majority ( unlike in the vast majority of masjids in America) and I did not present my opinions in the best of manners.
I just saw a brother at jumma who just got back from a Sufi school in Yemen. I invited him to dinner and he said ” maybe we can have a mawlid” and we both started laughing. He knows he has his way and I have mine and there would be a mawlid in my home over my dead body; but at the end of the day we are still brothers and can be friends.
Digital Divide: The Masjid and the Bloggers and Online Community
It is important to note that, as I said before, the Muslim blogosphere and online community does not reflect the Muslim community of America. In city after city that I go the masjids are largely controlled by fairly conservative Muslims. It is very hard for me to find a masjid with an Imam or group of brothers who are Green or Progressive or what not but those ideas are prominent online. When was the last time you have been to a Taqwacore masjid? A Quranist masjid? Now how many masjids do you find with Deobandi educated brothers, al-Azhar educated brothers, and Medina and Mecca educated brothers? African-American brothers from the American movements? There are even, by far, more imams educated in places like Yemen and Sudan in very conservative Salafi or Sufi schools than self-proclaimed progressive Imams.
What has happened online is that those marginalized groups, some who are Muslims others that are apostate and claiming to be Muslim without belief, have found a sanctuary online in blogs and Muslim group discussions. But, you will not find them in the lines of the masjid at salat-ul-fajr, or waiting for the adhan for maghrib . Nor will you find them struggling to raise righteous Muslim children.
Post 9-11: Intelligence Services, Selling Out, The Rise of Modernist Muslims and the Neo-Colonialists
9-11 dramatically changed our community. Imams stopped giving fiery khutbas, many people stopped saying what they really believed, and in many ways we became a community of deceivers. A brother would tell you he would give his right arm for Hamas over lunch on Tuesday and then be at a lunch at a synagogue on Wednesday.
Brothers like me became isolated. I belived in an Islamic Revival and the Islamic Movement before 9-11 and I believed in it after 9-11. I loved Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiya, Syed Qutb, and those groups fighting to establish Islam before 9-11 and I loved them after 9-11.
There are many brothers like me; but most are now silent. Others have sold out and changed their opinions on Islamic matters not based on daleel; but based on the fear of the power of the kafir.
We also have to deal with the issue of the FBI and other intelligence services in our community in the post 9-11 era. I will not deny that you have some fools in our community who need to be watched; but those same fools can be found in every community.
What we have today is a climate of fear in our community. People are scared to voice their opinion because if they say the wrong thing they will have the FBI knocking at their door. There is no freedom of speech for the Muslim in America. As an example; a Muslim is free to support the US-Sanctioned Fatah Party in Palestine, but voicing support for Hamas can get you put in prison. Pat Robertson can get on TV and advocate assassinations and and say that bad things are happening in America because our sinful ways and Sheikh Ali al-Timimi says the same things and gets a life-sentence. An Imam gives a fiery heartfelt khutbah on Friday and on Monday he has an FBI agent calling him to see if they can have lunch to talk about what he meant. How many Christian preachers get that call?
If you or your masjid is Salafi, MAS controlled, Deobandi, or any conservative strain of Islam you can be guaranteed that you and your masjid will be monitored and harassed. If you are an immigrant and a Muslim do not be surprised if you are pressured to keep an eye on your brothers if you want to keep your legal status. What will these brothers do? Most will be scared away from the Muslim community and keep their families from the masjid and that is what they want.
These are complicated matters. The FBI, which is overwhelmingly white and right, does not understand the community and many times are dealing with bad information. Muslims trying to use the FBI to take out their competitors, neo-con think-tanks and groups dedicated to perpetuating warfare between America and the Muslim World have the ear of the FBI and many times more responsible voices do not.
There are a few terrorists in the community, this is true and May Allah Guide them not to moderation but to more constructive means of achieving their goals. But I would argue that the real terrorist threat in America from the days of the Confederacy, to the days of the Klan, to lynchings and jury nullification, to J. Edgar Hoover and Bull Connor, to Timothy McVeigh, to the Tea Party of today to the guy who just flew a plane into a federal building in Texas, has always been from the White Right. And, if you never read anything from me again, mark my word that in the future of these United States will be a violent backlash from the White Right ( fueled by Evangelical Protestantism and Racism) as they become a minority in this nation that may even split the Republic. You could take 95% of the agents dedicated to harassing Muslims off the case and let them police their own people and it would be a much more valuable use of resources.
One response to the post 9-11 community has been to sell out. Some who had been advocates for suffering Muslims in the ummah have now turned their backs on them. Some who believed in the Sunnah now mock the Sunnah for fear of being called a misogynist or a homophobe by the kafir. They turned from being men to being cowards.
While the FBI and the other sellouts in the community have attacked the people of the Sunnah it has allowed fringe progressive and modernist groups to rise. But, alhamdudilah, while these leaders are propped up, and sometimes even funded by those hostile to Islam, we have seen in America that they have gained very little traction outside of the bourgeois set.
The Neo-Colonial groups such as the Progressives , Taqwacore and Green Muslims have failed due to their own deeds. If someone does not like Islam, does not like the Sunnah, and does not like the Shariah, most will just not be a Muslim. Those who do not like the Quran and Sunnah but are looking for some group to join and could not find a home at the Kabala Center, Zen Buddhist Center, or Church of Scientology, we often see now coming to Islam because being a Muslim seems cooler. But, instead of embracing the deen, they just take the label Muslim say they are “spiritual not religious” as some kind of a group label and do not submit to the Quran and Sunnah or believe in it and try and influence the Muslims based on Western Secular Humanist principals and ideologies. These mostly white converts and their Desi and few other cohorts they have are just the latest in a long line of Darwinian ( “white mans burden”) neo-colonialists trying to subdue a movement and people they feel threatened by using the tactic of deception.
The deviants can have a home on the internet; but the people of the Sunnah will have the masjid. The believers in Quran and Sunnah will be those who wake for fajir, who seek the blessings of the jamaa in the masjid, who will sit and read Quran with their children, and who will strive and struggle for the deen. They will teach the next generation the Quran, the Sira of the Messenger of Allah ( s.a.s.) , the stories of the Salaf, aqeedah, fiqh, will find a Muslim school for them or start one, will help them find good Muslim spouse, and die as old people in the lines of salat. All others will fade away because deviance cannot trump faith and the non-observant will never have the fervor of the observant.
The People of the Sunnah Will Cling to Being Strangers
We have to thank those who came before us in America. The Muslim slaves who kept their deen as the white Christian slave master tried to beat them into a love for the Church. The early Muslim immigrant groups from Poland, Turkey, Albania, Yemen and other places who established masjids in places such as Iowa and Michigan. The brothers, many from the Muslim Brotherhood, who founded many of the institutions of our community such as Dr. Jamal Badawi and the early Islamic Centers. The Islamic Movements such as the Dar al Islam Movement, the Islamic Party, Imam W.D. Mohammad, the Community of Jamil al-Amin, the Muslims of America, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Basir and others. Thank Allah for those such as Sheikh Muhammad Syed Adly who later brought ilm to our community along with the likes of Imam Zaid Shakir, Abu Muslima, Imam Siraj Wahhaj,and others. These are our forefathers.
In the future we will have success if we cling to the Quran and the Sunnah and if we want to maintain our purity from the kufr we are surrounded in and maintain our children in this deen we must constantly strive to be Strangers and being strange is the key to our survival in America. Assimilation, moderation, and the mainstream are nothing but tools for the Shaytan to lead us astray. Our place is on the outside calling to the Haqq, giving the dawah of this blessed deen, and not watering it down to gain the favor of non-Muslims. Islam must remain, not the mainstream, but as Imam Zaid once said ” a radical alternative to the mainstream”.
Most of the best blogs are already gone. Umm Zaid, the best of all the bloggers, shut her blog down a while back. Tariq Nelson shut his blog down. Amir Sahib shut his down and I have heard that Marc Manley may be shutting his down. Izzy Mo and so many others are also gone. So, I must do so myself.
I will continue to write occasionally for MQ Magazine and sometimes Islamonline and to work on books; but I think the blogging format is dead in the community after having been very vibrant. It is also a fact that I am very busy. With four children in my home and a stay at home wife I have to stay focused on money. Making money at my job now and looking for bigger and better things to earn more money for my family insha’Allah. The time I spend blogging I could be working. There is also the fact that what is a better use of time; blogging or spending more time in the masjid with the believers? Reading the Quran or reading Twitter? Reading Ibn Kathir or the Daily Beast? Bilal Phillips or the Huffington Post? Watching a Youtube video or listening to an Islamic lecture?
We spend way too much time reading blogs, wasting time on Facebook, watching TV and not enough time in the masjid or studying the knowledge of this deen. We should be in the masjid not just in Friday, but everyday, and be trying to make as many salat as possible in the masjid. More time on dhikr ( according to the sunnah) and less time chatting. If you watch four hours of TV a day why not just cut that in half and give two hours to Allah’ SWT and spend it in the masjid? We are being corrupted by the TV and internet. Muslim brothers don’t want to let their beards flow because they want to look like some geek on The Office. Sisters do not want to cover properly because they want to look like some floosie they saw on Tyra Banks. Young people want to wear their pants hanging off their butts like the birdbrains on BET videos.
This deen is simple. Stick to the Quran and Sunnah and you will not go astray and if what you learn does not conform to Quran and Sunnah then it can only lead you astray.