There is something I have been thinking about for a very long time and just have not been able to put into words. Finally, as two men from different camps within Sunni Islam make the news I am led to write about this issue. Imam Luqman Ahmad is a Philadelphia native, generational American-Muslim with a classical understanding and currently the imam of Masjid Ibrahim in Sacramento, CA. Over the past few years he has built up a large online following from those, including myself, who seek his words of wisdom and examination of the social and religious issues within the indigenous American-Muslim community. Imam Luqman represents a Sunni mathabi viewpoint which will often be associated with Sufism. Recently he has written a book titled The Devils Deception of the Modern Day Salafi Sect which I plan to purchase.
The second man is Imam Shadeed Muhammad the east coast Salafi imam in Philly who has been put “off the minhaj” by the likes of Imam Ike Dawud Adib and the Golden Child Abdul-Hasan Malik and was forced to take his talents to South Philly bolstered by his base of niqaabi supporters. (When I pay attention to him and Dawud Adib it reminds me of the LL Cool J-Canibus beef. Canibus said to LL “99% of your fans in high-heels” and that’s our brother Shadeed but LL responded to Canibus “99% of your fans don’t exist” and that’s Imam Ike and his ilk). Imam Shadeed Muhammad has recently penned an expose of the foolishness and predatory behavior amongst Salafi leaders in a piece called The Elephant in the Room.
As most of my readers know I was educated by Salafi teachers and identified with that Dawah for years. I chronicled my experiences in that movement in the award-winning Rise and Fall of The Salafi Movement series. In thirty years of strong Dawah in America it is safe to say Salafeeyah has built nothing. No schools, no institutions, no strong communities, few strong families and few masjids that haven’t split over petty issues. The only Salafai leader to establish a strong community on a real mission is Abu Muslima in East Orange, NJ and out of hatred and petty jealousy he was torn down by the same type of morons who are attacking Shadeed Muhammad today.
It is safe to say that amongst indigenous American-Muslims salafeeyah to a large extent has become a movement dominated by dreams of hijrah that never happen, predatory sex perverts as imams, the highest divorce-rate in America, broken homes, criminality, pissed-off niqaabis headed to the pole, and rebellious kids who grew up in the drama with brothers fighting and dividing over “who is on it”. This is a movement that holds very little attraction to educated people, the middle-class or those who just want to live a drama-free life. Anytime I enter such a masjid I feel like I am entering a penal environment and the socialization skills are equivalent to that of a prison rec room and I don’t advise brothers to attend such spots unarmed.
I do not want people to counter with “Salafis in Saudi Arabia are not like this” or “look at the Almaghrib Institute”. I do not live in Saudi Arabia or any other foreign country and the likes of Yasir Qadhi and Omar Suleiman do not know the plight of the grassroots indigenous, do not know the community, and have nothing to do with it. Their mission is in the suburbs with Desi and Arab kids and may Allah grant them success. The fact of the matter is what I described above is the culture that dominates Salafeeyah in America amongst the indigenous Muslim community (and that is not even the offshoots like the takfiri jihadi drug-delaers we have in St. Louis).
So, is this an anti-Salafi rant? No, it is not, because I have dear friends that are Salafi who are raising good children and are valuable assets to our community. I would go to battle for them in a minute. Nor was the Rise and Fall an anti-Salafi rant as some portrayed it. However, I did fall into such talk years later after being slandered, threatened and seeing the damage many Salafis have done. Whether I like it though, or anyone else does, the Salafi Dawah is not going anywhere, so those of us not “on the Dawah” have to learn to make some sort of peace with it.
For me personally I am not caught up on whether someone is Salafi or Sufi and the whole Bloods and Crips debate. That is a foreign debate Arabs brought to Islam in America which will never result in a positive outcome and only keep the fitnah up. If someone can benefit from Salafi imams like Shadeed Muhammad and Abu Muslima I say alhamdulilah if it makes them a better Muslim and strengthens our community. My opposition to the likes of Dawud Adib and others is not that they are Salafis: but rather they stir fitnah, drive people out of the deen, and ruin lives. If someone can be Salafi without those negative traits then I have no problem with that. Allah is all-Knowing, He knows where He is, I do not need to argue about it. I know Abu Muslima is sincere and has built a strong community and it seems as if Shadeed Muhammad is doing this same thing.
Personally I have a great love in my heart for Imam Luqman Ahmad, Imam Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, Suhaib Webb and most especially the young talent and a real treasure of our ummah Ubaydullah Evans. These imams have their finger on the pulse and don’t just have book knowledge: but also know the people and have the ability to connect with the masses. If people can read their writing and follow their naseeha this community could dramatically improve.
Why is this not happening? Most of us are looking in the wrong direction. These collectives, institutes, and celebrity imams are not set up to address the needs of the grassroots indigenous. They are designed for the middle and upper classes and for immigrant Muslims and their children. These organizations and imams are not applicable to indigenous Islam in America. They do not share our mission. Therefore instead of being mesmerized by people who don’t know you and where you are from look towards those who know your struggle, who can sit down and give Dawah to your uncle, who can talk to the brothers at college and those in prison. They do not teach this in al-Azhar, Mecca or Medinah. You have to be from the people to know the people. This is not a Salafi thing, a Sufi thing, a Taabliqui thing; it is a Muslim thing and a human thing.
All of our children are facing the same struggles. WE have youth rebelling and leaving the deen and fitnah in all segments of the community. What is most important is not whether we should follow a mathab or do we follow a Saudi or Pakistani sheikh: but can we address the social and cultural needs of the community and build viable communities that last into the future? For me I lean towards Sunni Islam and some aspects of tasawaf and follow a mathab: but if you don’t we still Muslim brothers and sisters. What is the difference on these issues in the grand scheme of things? Whether you go to the WD masjid, the Salafi masjid, or a Sufi Masjid, we are all in this together.
With all of the wise words of our imams whether it be Luqman Ahmad, Abdullah Ali or Shadeed Muhammad one thing is certain: without establishing organizations and institutions nothing will be able to get done in a systematic manner. Indigenous Muslims don’t have tribes, we don’t come from Muslim countries, we don’t have strong networks of support, we need to establish jamaats that can become our tribes and extended families. Jamaats so we can marry one another and bury one another. Jamaats so discipline can be instilled and to end fatwa-shopping and freelancing. With any jamaat there is bayah and our major imams need to step to the plate and answer the call of history and call for bayah. And what is bayah without establishing Muslim neighborhoods and villages? The call will be coupled with the call for Muslims to leave small and weak communities and make migration to emerging Muslim communities where you can walk to the masjid and live within the jamaat. You don’t live in a good neighborhood if you can’t walk to a masjid. That suburban cul-de-sac is worthless if you are the only Muslim on the block and you have to drive 15, 20 or 30 minutes to a masjid. Jamaat, bayayh, and population-clustering leads to communities that can nurture our children and future generations.
The Dar al Islam, Islamic Party and later the Muslims of the Americas and Community of Imam Jamil al-Amin knew this and that is why those have been the most successful organizations in American-Muslim history. We have a young generation of educated Muslims, Salafi and Sufi, who got a lot of book knowledge but can’t build nothing. They are looking for some Saudi or Egyptian sheikh to tell them how to create a successful community in Florida or Georgia and often using that book knowledge to attack the pioneers of Islam in America as proponents of “liberation theology”. That is madness.
Younger converts are entering Islam through foreign doors. Especially in the smaller communities. With that they are taking on some of the pathologies and deviance within the immigrant Muslim community and often seek to imitate Arabs or Desis. I say the immigrant Muslim mission is different. Like every immigrant they seek the mainstream (often at all costs). The indigenous Muslim mission is one of standing on the sideline and calling the mainstream to the haqq with no need to enter it. Yes, we are all Muslim, but we have different needs and different missions.
So, I join the call of my respected brother Akil Fahd in Detroit, and call to bayah and jammat. Less bickering and fighting over stuff that doesn’t matter and more community-building and supporting those imams who can address our social and cultural needs without forsaking the beliefs of Quran and Sunnah. Because, make no mistake about it, we are at a critical stage and our community is in intensive care.