Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),
So, I thought I would attend the Friday-prayer( Salatul Jumu’ah) with another Muslim-woman that lives around the corner from me. In being indoors for the last few days, I invited my dear friend to attend the khutba(lecture) with me. She accepted my invitation. So, we departed from our apartments, got into the car and was on our way. We were definitely excited about this. In going to the mosque, we found ourselves in a long line of cars awaiting for a chance at a parking-spot. In our short wait, we giggled and chatted about trivial matters. Once we were able to get a parking-spot, we quickly jumped out the car and headed towards the women’s entrance. We finally made it removed our shoes.
Once the lecture started, we sat quietly in anticipation for an enlightening afternoon. However, this quickly changed. The lecturer began with a narration by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating that:
“A Muslim community will stop being on the straight path once the: youth go astray, rebellious women appear, and men stop going out to perform jihad”
So, my dear friend and I sat flabbergasted and in awe. This particular lecturer went on and on about ‘astray youth, rebellious women, and men going out to perform jihad’. However, he failed in refusing to discuss the causes of the youth going astray or the reason(s) behind rebellious women appearin. I’m still not sure what ‘rebellious’ women are. Also, jihad in the context he spoke of was inappropriate. Jihad is Arabic for struggling for the sake of Allah (God). The biggest struggle we can undergo in battling is our own individual selves, our desires. We struggle everyday in being upright people. We struggle everyday in giving everyone their due rights. This is true jihad. This is more of an appropriate form of jihad that should’ve been dealt with, instead of talking about going out to fight.
I’m sorry, but some of these lecturers need to get themselves together because American Muslims are living in a different culture that is distinct from other places. The problems that an American Muslim will face will probably be different than an Afghani or Pakistani Muslim and vice versa. It is this constant rhetoric from these lecturers that throws me and others for a loop. Why don’t these men understand that second, third, and fourth-generation American Muslims do not hold the same cultural-baggage as recent immigrants. The happenings of now should be attended to. There must be a new look at how Islam is practiced in America. We cannot continuously bring along cultural-baggage to a country that is different than ‘back home’. So, many American Muslims continuously sit through countless lectures hearing things that they can’t relate to due to this cultural-barrier. The youth isn’t going to listen to some random person that is ranting about things they can’t relate to in their daily lives.
Also, we must turn away from this obsession over obedience. Submission belongs to God and God alone. A fruitful and well-grounded relationship is rooted deeply in mutual partnership. If a relationship is built upon tyranny, obedience, and a power-struggle then it may not last long. There should be equality between the two individuals. If not, then you may have someone within the relationship rebel against the other. It is rather absurd to believe that someone rebels for no reason. No, there is a reason behind this. Instead of ranting on and on about rebellious women, why not talk about why a person would want to rebel in the first place. Let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff that occurs. I’ve heard some dynamic lectures from some great imams discussing: domestic violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, marital love, and etc. However, there aren’t enough of these lectures happening. Unfortunately, there are many communities that are firmly rooted in compliance. Compliance doesn’t cut it for me. It isn’t about blindly obeying or submitting to anything or anyone. One must ask questions and seek for those answers in order to be at one with themselves. If an answer isn’t satisfactory then you continue on in your search. You don’t just sit back and accept something. Oh no, never that. The first word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘iqra’. Iqra means to read in Arabic. So, we must move away from this blind-following of individuals, no matter what their title may be. In Islam, one turns to the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Islam, there isn’t a central authority. The Qur’an legislates for one to use their reasoning, their logic, the example of the prophet Muhammad and the ayats(evidences) from the Qur’an to live a satisfying life. Islam doesn’t restrict one from being an active learner or from asking questions. No, you are told to bring your questions. You are told to reflect and to ponder. You shouldn’t just sit back and listen. You must not be like heedless cattle in a herd. No, you use what God has given you- your intellect. So, I am saying right now that we have to move away from simply complying to lectures that aren’t applicable to right now.
As an American Muslim, my experience(s) are centered on my daily life in America. It isn’t dependent upon anything else other than my experience(s) as a Black Muslim American woman. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone’s cultural-baggage from elsewhere as being my baggage. This can’t be the case for me. I just hope that some of these imams and lecturers will begin to understand that the American Muslim experience is different from a Muslim’s experience(s) in another country. American Muslims have their own problems and qualms to deal with on a daily basis. It is time to allow for American Muslims to create their own narrative. There’s nothing wrong with being an American-Muslim. It is just problematic when American Muslims are being told as a collective body to abide by cultural-norms that aren’t applicable to right now. This is America and American Muslims are trying to find their way. The last thing we need to hear is how things are ‘back home’. I’m sorry, but your cultural-baggage doesn’t cut it here. So, don’t try to spin Islam to make your cultural-baggage legitimate. Islam doesn’t oppress. Islam liberates. So, take that crap you think is Islam and throw it in the trash.
Anyways, I will go back to the hadith that he selected for the lecture. If he really wanted to do something beneficial, he should’ve elaborated on this issue of youth going astray, women becoming rebellious and men going out for jihad. In too many lectures, I hear about problems, but I rarely hear about solutions. Or I hear about consequences of actions, but never the causes. We shouldn’t dance around issues, but we should have a well-rounded talk about them. Instead of constantly complaining about this, that and the other, we need to just cut to the chase. We need to develop better ways of handling issues instead of giving things a cultural-slant. Why can’t we just focus on being good people? Islam is a full way of life, but someone too many lecturers focus on these trivial things. And too many times, people walk out of mosques not learning anything because the lecturer was so far from the reality of the people. Let’s get things in check the next time we want to go to the minbar to speak about something. Let’s have a real conversation that talks about causes and effects. Let’s discuss how we can help alleviate these problems and how this is apart of Islam. Islam is about being a mercy to the people. Islam shouldn’t be a burden. Islam should never be burden or else we’re doing something wrong.
So, our Friday-prayer experience was interesting. It was only one experience out of several, but hopefully from this one experience someone can think about the importance of connecting to their audience before speaking to them. It is very important to understand the reality of your audience before delivering a message. I mean…what good is a message if you’re not conveying it and your audience is unable to connect to it? So, let’s look at Islam as a way to alleviate burdens instead of being a burden. Islam is a way of life that is beautiful, but when a man/woman takes it upon him/herself to educate a group he/she should think twice about the message he/she intends to deliver.