Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,
We who are informed Muslims know there’s no basis for it. A Muslim is not a terrorist, he’s not a reactionary, a Muslim is not a person who wants to drag the world back into the ages of inequity and ignorance and a primitive way of life- this is all common sense; it’s even somewhat disturbing to speak to this issue in such a way but there’s one particular area that I want you to be aware of because it seems like this is not going to go a way soon and that particular area is to try to antagonise the relationships in this world between Muslims and Christians. I think this is an area that’s going to be worked on much more than has been in the past. There’s going to be lots of efforts to try to make Muslims believe that Christians are their enemies and to make Christians believe that Muslims are their enemies. To try to diffuse this at the source, at least from the Islamic side- I can’t speak for the Christian side… I think it would have made for a very good presentation here if we had maybe an informed and an enlightened Christian who could speak to this matter with objectivity- but from an Islamic point of view let me go back to scripture and quote for you. Of course I can’t do this in an exhaustive manner because the contents on this subject in the Qur’an are almost without end. What I’m going to have to do is be selective and choose some verses from the Qur’an. I’ll quote them for you in their original Arabic wording and then I will also present you with the English equivalency of that meaning being that English is the common language that we all communicate with here. The first ayah in the Qur’an says (and) this verse delivers the following meaning
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ
Say (Oh Muhammad and therefore the rest of you Muslims) or declare the following: Oh People of Scripture… (Surah Aal Imran verse 64)
This is our address to those who follow the Old Testament and the New Testament.
تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ
… come to a common ground between us and you… (Surah Aal Imran verse 64)
What is that common ground?
أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ مُسْلِمُونَ
… that we shall conform to no one except God and that we shall not equate others with God and that none of us should overlord over others of us … (Surah Aal Imran verse 64)
This is the common ground and the common understanding that we should develop among ourselves.
فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ
… but then, if you decide to relinquish or turn down this oppurtunity or this request or this offer then bear witness that we, (meaning the committed Muslims) are subjects of God. (Surah Aal Imran verse 64)
This is we the Muslims speaking to people of Scripture (i.e.) those who consider themselves Christians and those who consider themselves Jews. This means that if you choose not to be subjects of God in this meaning we just expressed to you, then the least you can do is say we are trying our best to honour that role. That’s one verse in the Qur’an. Now I don’t know how anyone can read any hostility or any tension or any misunderstanding between Muslims on one side and People of Scripture on the other side. That defies reason. Another verse from the Holy Qur’an says, and I’m going down to the basics. I’m not saying what so-and-so says and what another person says and mortal human beings; I’m quoting God and scripture itself to which Muslims refer themselves and by which Muslims judge themselves. So another verse in the Qur’an says- now also, the English rough meaning of this ayah goes as follows
Say: ... (Surah Al Baqarah verse 136)
The command here is God’s command to His committed subjects
قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ
Say: We are committed to God and we are also committed to that which has been revealed to Abraham and to Is’ma’eel and to Isaac and to the Children of Israel and to what other Prophets have been vouchsafed aforetime and to that which has been revealed to Moses and to Jesus... (Surah Al Baqarah verse 136)
Now, if you, (meaning People of Scripture), decide otherwise and you can’t see things in this light- and this has really been a historical issue and the current political and military atmosphere has complicated the issue even more – then we declare that we are subjects to God in this meaning and with this historical depth and with this current responsibility that we bear. So what is it in all of this that raises the ire of some sick minds and souls that go around maligning the Muslims? It’s not understandable! There’s another verse in the Qur’an that says
لَتَجِدَنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَدَاوَةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا
You will find those who express the utmost hostility and belligerency to those who are committed to Allah to be Al Yahud and Alladhina Ashraku … (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 82)
This is an ayah that in some people’s minds may serve to polarise relationships between Muslims and People of Scripture. The ayah means the following
لَتَجِدَنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَدَاوَةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواَ
You will most certainly find those who are most intense in their hostility towards the committed Muslims those who are guilty of Shirk… (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 82)
Shirk is a word that refers to the multi authoritarian sources in life, meaning a person doesn’t recognise God as his authority, he wants other authorities besides Him. So those who accept other authorities besides God in their life will express intense hostility to those who only show and demonstrate that their only source of authority is God. That’s understandable. But then,
لَتَجِدَنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَدَاوَةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا َ
… in addition to that, those who also express intense hostility to the committed Muslims are the Zionists… (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 82)
This is a fact of life. We can see it in today’s world. The Zionists will do anything and then justify it on their way to virtually committing genocide against a people from whom they stole lands, territories and properties. So why does anyone get upset if we’re trying to quote a verse in the Qur’an that has it’s verification in reality? That doesn’t mean Muslims hate Jews, it means that Zionists hate Muslims! What are we supposed to do? Then, the same verse goes on to say
وَلَتَجِدَنَّ أَقْرَبَهُم مَّوَدَّةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّا نَصَارَىٰ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ مِنْهُمْ قِسِّيسِينَ وَرُهْبَانًا وَأَنَّهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ
… any you will most certainly find those who are closer to affection to the committed Muslims those who say we are Christians; that is because among these Christians you will find Priests and Rabbis who do not display any hubris, any arrogance. (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 82)
So why is the Christian world getting upset with the Muslims? Is there anything in the sources of Islam that would make a Christian hostile towards the Muslims? Besides, in our Islamic history- let me just cover three areas in which at the dawn of the Prophetic era fourteen-hundred years ago in Arabia, when the last Prophet, Muhammad, first received revelation. The first person he came in contact with after his wife was Waraqah ibn Nawfal who is known to have been influenced by Christian scripture. Then, before that when Muhammad went to Damascus once in his life, he met with a Christian Monk but Muhammad was very young at the time. After revelation and the mission of the Prophet, meaning after he was forty years of age, there was a Christian delegation that came from Najran which is currently straddling the borders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia and they visited the Prophet in his Masjid in Madinah. Besides, Muslims and Christians share the concept of Jesus as the Messiah and Mary as the virgin. As I said, I can’t exhaust all the material on this subject; but with this commonality between Muslims and Christians there should be some very serious attempts and endeavours by those who don’t like Muslims and don’t like Christians to have both of them hate each other. Can we identify who these common enemies of both Muslims and Christians are? Now when we say there is an affinity between Muslims and Christians that doesn’t mean that within the Muslim context or within the Christian context we don’t have bad governments. We have plenty of bad governments (and) tyrannical rulers- there’s an abundance of them but we can’t say just because there’s a dictator in the United States that all Christians are bad or just because there’s a despot in Saudi Arabia that all Muslims are bad. We have to weed out these spoilers and try as much as possible to identify these common enemies and not confuse the issues because much of the confusion comes where we identify Imperialism as part of the Christian context. I’m using the word Christians here in a loose sense, but where is Imperialism located? Is it located in Makkah or Madinah? Did it originate there? Or somewhere in Africa or Asia? Or did Imperialism and before it Colonialism begin in areas referred to as being Christian areas? So let us advance our thoughts a little and try to clean our internal house of these bad influences that are not only plundering other people’s lands and subjecting other people’s to policies of starvation and dislocation but are also right now threatening the nature and the ecosystem that we all share. It’s no longer only a vice that is social or political, it has become a policy in life that is threatening the globe as we know it. So we need to get together on this and we won’t be able to do anything if those trouble makers behind the scenes are busy instigating and inflaming hostile passions in our midst as they are doing and will continue to do. I know the time is running short but I will try to end it with the following observation.
This Islamofascism type of language obviously is very offensive. It’s not accurate, it’s rather a distortion of who the Muslims are and what Islam is but let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s say, if you’re a Christian or a Jew listening and if someone came and said “America is Christofascist or Americans are Christofascist people?” How would you feel if you were a Jew and someone said “Jewish people are Judeofascists?” Of course, you’ll be incensed. You wouldn’t accept that. So how come there’s not a voice of opposition to this systemic use of the word? I think even President Bush at one time used that word. Maybe he was advised better by some of those in his surroundings who told them “wait a minute- you know you can’t go on saying this word like that. Let’s stop using it.” But definitely you’ll find in what is called the right wing media over here- in the print media in the press, on TV shows, the talk shows- that the word is used commonly. It’s mainstream now. No one seems to care. Luckily we Muslims haven’t steeped that low even though if we want to look closely at it there would be more credibility in saying that Israel and the Zionist occupation of Palestine could possibly be called Judeofascism. We don’t say it but an argument can be made for it. They never can make an argument that if you look at Muslim behaviour in the world the Muslim peoples in the world are Islamofascist.
I think that I will end with that note. I hope I gave you enough mental ammunition to use when in the future these matters and these subjects are brought to your attention. A lot of work still has to be done. The air has to be cleared and the trouble makers behind the scenes have to be exposed.
Thank you for coming this afternoon. I end by greeting you once again with the greetings of peace, felicity the greetings of grace and benediction.
Asalamu aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu.
Thank you very much
We got some very, very interesting questions and I’ll be delighted if we can get to them all but we may not able to- that doesn’t mean that your question didn’t make the cut; it just means your question is competing with a lot of others and every question in my hand is deserving of a good response. We will start and we’ll try to deal with as many as possible.
Question: Could you please share the ayah, the Surah and the verse of the two quotes that you made from the Qur’an.
Imam Muhammad Al Asi: You know, as much as I’ve been soaked in the Qur’an in all of these years I’m very dislocated when it comes to the ayah number. One ayah is in Surah Al Baqarah and the other one is in Surah Aal Imran, the second and the third chapters in the Qur’an. Now they can be plucked out very easily of course if someone has a Qur’an. Maulana, I think, is trying to zero in on a numbers of these ayaat. The other ayah also that I’ve mentioned is in the fifth chapter in the Qur’an, Surah Al Maa’idah.
Question: Okay, thank you. The next two questions really are blended together. One was what should Muslims do and the other was how do Muslims build commonality with Christians and Jews in America?
Imam Muhammad Al Asi: Well, on what Muslims should do- you know a lot of things have to be done. The most important thing from my perspective is that we should have our thoughts straight on this matter. If you take a closer look at our internal thoughts they are scattered all over the parking lot. They should not be like that. We should have a more consolidated way of thinking about Muslim/Islamic relationships with those who are Christians and there’s an assortment of those who are Christians. They all don’t fit into one category and also a relationship with those who count themselves as Jews because here once again you run into different opinions and shades of thoughts. This has to be worked out. You can’t just clump everyone who says “they are Christians” in one category and everyone who says “they are Jews” in one category. There are fine and delicate (and) sometimes very pronounced differences among them so we have to take this in a strategic breath but before we do that we have to know who we’re talking to. Not many Muslims are familiar with the thoughts of particular types of Christians. I don’t know why. We’re living here in a country which is predominantly Christian or considers itself as such so being that we’re here and the information is very near to us, (i.e.) it’s not like living in a pre-dominantly Muslim country where you barely see any Christian around. Here they’re all over the place, (so to speak), so why can’t we have a better understanding of what they stand for- first of all in issues which are theological and then second of all in issues that maybe considered ideological or political. They have their view point on these issues and we have to clear the air. You’re asking about the first step- the first step is we have to clear the air in matters that pertain to us and them. I can’t imagine how Muslims can remain silent for all these years in which there has been a deliberate wedge that’s being driven between Muslims and Christians when Muslims, (as I said in the presentation), believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Mary is the virgin. It’s going to take a lot of effort to antagonise people when we share so much in common. Then, when it comes to the issue that we have- because we Muslims are justice centred (and) justice features predominantly into what we believe and there’s many issues in this world that are issues of oppression and issues of violation of justice- in this regard we are going to have to find our way with these Christians and Jews when it comes to the issue of justice. Where do they stand on this issue of justice? We have enough common grounds between us and them to work together. Can they define, (let’s say), the American government as being a government of Imperialism? Can they define the government in occupied Palestine to be a government of Zionism? How far can they go in that regard? What common grounds can we have? This is an exploration project that has to take place. This is the first step. After this we can begin to put together the common grounds and the common programs that we find that we share but before that this pontificating and this theorising, as has been going on in the past twenty or thirty years by different Islamic organisation and associations have just been running in circles. (They’re) not getting anywhere. Nothing’s being done. (Just) made for camera opportunities that they like to go through. They say “they have an interfaith meeting” (and) they just massage their egos. Each one is massaging the ego of the other and they leave (with) nothing accomplished. (There’s) no ripple affects. No one feels it in the rank and file and they think they’ve done something. We have to part from that. The world needs real action and it needs courage and determination and a reliance on God, the Creator who can deliver us from all this.
Question: One of the advantages of being where I am right now is I can take precedence over some of these questions. You bring up a very important thing. One thing- you are a member of the intra-faith orgaNisa’tion and all and in this environment of what we call Islamophobhia and persecution of Muslims, Muslims seem to have shut down into themselves. We’ve made little islands of ourselves by fact and I’m sure you are aware and we don’t reach out to non- Muslims. Now this is a very deep and very long answer I’m sure but can you in a nutshell help us understand how we can reach out amongst ourselves as Muslims and between faiths (i.e.) between Christians and Jews? How can we invite- because personally I’ve been invited and I’m sure you’ve been invited literally hundreds of times into Mosques and Synagogues but it isn’t that frequent the other way around.
Imam Muhammad Al Asi: Well. I mean charity begins at home. I don’t know if you even need an answer. If there is a discrepancy in your local Islamic Centre or Mosque in as far as it has ensconced itself in a shell then obviously you have to un-shell it. You have to open it up to the world around and not live on an island somewhere. If you live in your Mosque as if you’re moving from one world to a world that is disconnected from the one that you’re in then yeah, you are right. Many of these Islamic Centres, because they are controlled, (I don’t like to open up this subject because we can give another presentation on it), but we have in the United States a constellation of…
In the Quran we have God’s exact word- nothing more nothing less and one of the comments of this, (I like this comment because it makes a person think), if we were to destroy all books in this world (i.e.) everything that is in writing (and) everything that is right now electronically preserved, all the software (and) all the libraries- everything is gone (and) we have nothing left. This pertains to whether they’re books of scripture or not scripture- everything is gone. Now we just have a world in which we have our minds and memories. What book can we re-write in exactly the way it was before we destroyed it? I put this challenge in front of those who belong to any religion in the world and innocently and sincerely we ask you can you as a community of believers re-write that book from scratch exactly the way it was before it was destroyed? You can answer that question for yourself. When it comes to us Muslims, we have the Qur’an committed to our memories and because of that it is easy for us to bring together one individual or several individuals and tell them to re-write the Qur’an because they have committed that to their own memory. It is a book that cannot be destroyed even though it can physically wither way but not from the minds and the hearts of men. That’s how much we revere this last and final revelation and scripture from God.
Question: Would you agree that Al Qa’idah is the greatest asset for neo-cons? (Then the other question I don’t really quite understand it but I’ll ask it anyway). Who funds this orgaNisa’tion?
Imam Muhammad Al Asi: Yeah- that’s a question that needs a lot of time. I think, (let me put it this way), decades into the future, maybe fifty or sixty years when people are free to write what is called today’s classified information and top secret data (and) when people are free to bring these facts out it’s going to appear what is called Taliban and Al Qa’idah have been the most successful espionage endeavours in the annuls of human history. That is not to say that we don’t have sincere people in these organisations, it rather says there was a larger political program that made use of these sincere people to serve the policies that are being implemented now by the government of the United States and other governments to make and to give them access to the resources and to the wealth that they wouldn’t have had access to if it wasn’t for the red flag operation that began on 9/11 and have people believe that there are Muslims who can do what they did on that day. I want to just mention that there’s a lot of things that I can mention but one thing that may be interesting for you to hear is that I was watching Al Jazeerah in Arabic. This was a couple of years ago and they had on one of its programs Shaykh Ahmad Zaki Yamani. We all know that back in the 1970’s he was the Minister of petroleum in that family kingdom in Arabia. They asked him about 9/11. Zaki Yamani was saying “I was in Boston on that day and I was watching the news and listening to what’s going on. Then all of a sudden they mentioned the names of these nineteen individuals, fifteen of whom are from Saudi Arabia.” Then he says “one of the names they mentioned I know the family and as I was going through this in my mind that person himself calls me and he says they’re mentioning my name. I’m still alive. I didn’t do any of that. What’s going on? Can you explain to me what happened? He said I didn’t know what to say I know the family. I heard the name of the same individual that they mentioned and described and defined in the news.” So he said, (this is Zaki Yamani who is speaking), “I don’t know what happened on that day and I don’t think anyone knows what happened on that day and I have my serious question on the way it’s being explained.”
Host: Thank you very much. I appreciate that view. We’re kind of running short of time.
Question: Just in general there is this Islamophobia going on and it’s really hard as I’m sure you are aware. It seems that top show hosts have made great amounts of money generating hate against Islam and against Muslims. I know a lot of them here who claim to be very objective, yet most of their guests are these “experts” who just know how evil Islam is and they are very clear about that. They say, “no, no no. It’s the Quran that’s teaching them that.” How do we as individuals- small groups, as ones or twos- what on earth can we do against what everyday seems to be a growing army of people whipping up hate against Muslims.
Imam Muhammad Al Asi: You know the word of hate has an immediate alarm to it but it has a way of dying out and the word of love and compassion (and) the attitude of behaviour (and) of sincerity goes a long way. The first thing not to do is to be nervous (and) get caught up in a frenzy. You know- Muslims are not aliens. We didn’t arrive here from another planet and we’re spooking everyone out. We’re just like everyone else. If people can’t take a measured and concerned look at us they’re going to have problems. We don’t have any problems even though all of these accusations are coming our way. In a certain sense it’s a wake up call for people who have been in a slumber for a long time, (i.e.) there’s something called Islam in this world let’s see what this thing is? They said after 9/11, (and with all the questions and doubts that I have about what’s being said about 9/11), all of a sudden the interest in Islam. There was a run on Islamic books at the bookstores everywhere. Everyone is speaking about it. I mean there’s not much accuracy about what is being said but there’s some public attention about this whole thing. The ones and twos, you said- just be ourselves. Our behaviour will speak much more then the vitriolic that comes out of these types of peoples mouths.
Host: So you say just be ourselves and interact with them so they know who we are. But thank you very much. It’s been a great pleasure and honour to listen to you and I wish we had a lot more time.