Bonding with America…..
Akhlaq e Amrikiye-A Manual for the Survival of Muslims in America (7 of 7)
Professor Nazeer Ahmed
The Islamic world is at cross roads. Internally, it is ravaged by civil wars driven by sectarian, tribal, political and ideological rivalries. Externally it is bombarded, invaded and destroyed by foreign powers determined to take the natural resources of the third world. Vast swath of earth extending from the Indus River in Pakistan to Lebanon on the Mediterranean Sea are in ruins. The civil wars and the external invasions act like a gristmill, grinding a huge mass of humanity into utter destitution, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, and spewing forth millions of refugees who move like waves across the Eurasian continent.
In this comprehensive article consisting of seven chapters, we focused on American Muslims. This nascent Islamic community is not immune to the storms raging across the Middle East and South-Central Asia. Indeed, it is now caught in the eye of the storm. The hatreds which were hidden for decades in the American body politic have now surfaced openly. It is kosher for presidential candidates to openly call for restrictions on Muslims or for buses in major cities to carry advertisements in which Muslims are called savages. Islamophobia has not spared even the Prophet or the Qur’an. The attack is frontal. If it is not contained, it could lead to a great tragedy similar to the tragedy faced by Japanese Americans during WWII.
We asked ourselves: Given the context of the times, how can American Muslims survive and prosper? We surveyed the fourteen hundred years of Islamic history to examine alternative strategies. The one that offered the greatest intellectual promise is the development of an Islamic ethic in America, Akhlaq e Amrikeye. It is taken after the masterpiece, Akhlaq e Nasiri of Nasiruddin al Tusi (d 1274) from the era of Mongol devastations. This trend setting work became a template for similar works in succeeding centuries in places as far away as India and Pakistan.
The edifice of Akhlaq e Amrikeye (the ethics of an American Muslim) stands on four pillars: Faith, Law, Justice and Ehsan.
The central pillar of Akhlaq is Faith. It is Iman, our belief systems as enjoined by the Divine word. Faith is the propulsive force of a civilization and the basis for its renewal. Where there is no faith, there is no civilization. For the American Muslim, faith must also include faith in America, for without it, life in America is untenable.
The Law is the second pillar of Akhlaq. “Obey Allah, obey the Prophet and those among you endowed with authority”, declares the Qur’an. Although multiple explanations are possible for this injunction, we choose to interpret the last part of this injunction as obedience to the laws of the United States based on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Justice is the arbitrator of interaction between diverse groups in a pluralistic society. It is the third pillar of Aklaq. Throughout its history, Muslims have had a strong tradition of liberty and justice. For the Muslims, liberty meant the freedom of belief and freedom of worship. They enforced justice irrespective of who the plaintiff was and who the defendant. Wherever they went, whether it was Spain or India or Africa, Muslims championed due process and equality before law. It was this resolute enforcement of justice that attracted people as diverse as the Egyptians, the Iranians, the Central Asians and the Indonesians to Islam. America, too, has a strong tradition of liberty and justice, enshrined in the pledge of allegiance. American Muslims have a historic opportunity to stand up for justice for all, whether they be black or white, Native American or immigrant, rich or poor.
The fourth pillar of Akhlaq is Ehsan. It connotes excellence, beauty and perfection in service with no expectation of a reward. It is the guiding principle of a civil society.
In a nutshell, Akhlaq e Amrikeye is the guidance of the Qur’an and the Seerah of the Prophet filtered through the sieve of the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Acronyms enable the packaging of complex ideas so that they are understood and remembered by everyone. We will package Akhlaq e Amrikeye as FALAH where Fa stands for Faith (Iman), L stands for Law (of the land), A stands for Adl (justice) and H stands for Hasana (beautiful works).
The Falah (well-being, safety, security) of the American Muslim is to be staunch in his faith, practice it within American laws, stand firmly for justice for all, and engage in works of excellence, beauty and perfection that are an example to the whole world.
A Muslim, by definition, is always optimistic. He never despairs of Divine Grace. The attainment of Falah is not the work of a single individual or a single organization. It is the work of every individual, each locality, each masjid and each township. I doubt if there will emerge a grand leader who will somehow bring about a revolution and change the social conditions in America. Rather, it will be small changes in perception brought about through person to person contacts and the grassroots work of local organizations. America is a great civilization with remarkable resilience and a capacity for renewal. It is like a mighty river that changes its direction ever so lightly with the terrain. America will evolve; it will not bend.
The positive impact of Islamophobia is that it has awakened the Muslim community. Mosques and Islamic centers alike are reaching out to their neighbors. Educated, articulate and passionate young men and women are taking the lead. The focus of the Muslim community is shifting from politics to civil society. These trends must be reinforced, the young must be supported and the generational effort must continue.
In conclusion, I submit for our distinguished readers references to a few selected quotations from the Qur’an for Akhlaq e Amrikeye.
Guidance from the Qur’an for FALAH (Faith, Adl, Law, Hasana) in the American context
What Allah loves
- Indeed, for those who have certainty of faith,
And engage in righteous deeds,
For them, the All-Compassionate
Will bring forth love. (19:96)
- Those who have certainty of faith
Are stronger in the love of Allah. (2:165)
- Verily, Allah loves those who are just. (60:8)
- Indeed, Allah loves those whose decision is just. (5:45)
- Indeed, Allah loves those who are equitable.(49:9)
- Indeed, Allah loves those
Who are conscious of Him (and honor their covenants). (9:4)
- O you who believe!
Honor your contracts. (5:1)
- Obey Allah and obey the Messenger
And those among you who are endowed with responsibility. (3.59)
- Lo! Allah loves the mohsineen
(those who worship (serve)
As if they witness Him). (3:148)
- Verily, Allah loves those who are excellent (in forgiveness) (5:14)
- Lo! Allah loves those who are excellent (in righteousness) (5:96)
- Lo! Allah loves those who do beautiful deeds. (3:134)
- Purification (of the heart)
Lo! Allah loves those who purify themselves (9:108)
Lo! Allah loves those who repent,
And He loves those who purify themselves (2:222)
Then indeed, (know that) Allah loves those
Who have Taqwa (who are conscious of Him). (3:76)
Indeed, Allah loves those who have trust in Him. (3:159)
Lo! Allah loves those who persevere (3: 146)
- Social Responsibility
And they feed, for the love of Him,
The mendicant, and the orphan, and the prisoner (Saying) we feed you not
Except to witness the omnipresence of Allah,
We ask not a recompense for it from you,
And no gratitude. (76:8)
What Allah Does Not Love
Lack of faith
- Indeed, He does not love those who disbelieve (30:45)
- Lo! Allah does not love the rejecters (3,32)
- Allah does not love the ungrateful sinner (2,276)
- Indeed, Allah does not love the transgressors (3,57)
- Lo! Allah does not love the unjust. (2, 190)
- Indeed, He does not love the oppressors (42:40)
- Verily, He does not love the extremists (14:55)
Breaking Social Contract and the Law
- Lo! Allah does not love the deceivers (8:58)
- Verily, Allah does not love those
Who foster division and rancor (28:77)
- Lo! Allah does not love those
Who cause discord and convulsions (2, 205)
Absence of Akhlaq
- Verily! He does not love the arrogant (16:23)
- Lo! Allah does not love those who indulge (28:76)
- Allah does not love those who waste (8,141)
- Verily! Allah does not love any deceitful ingrate (22:38)
- Indeed, Allah does not love the boastful braggart. (4:36)
Guidance for the Individual
- Do not be arrogant
And I will turn away those who are arrogant on earth,
Violating justice, from My Signs. (7:146)
- Speak with humility
“Go forth, both of you, to the Pharaoh
He has indeed become arrogant.
And speak to him with words of humility,
Perchance he may be admonished and be fearful.” (20:43-44)
- Do not ridicule
O you who have certainty of faith!
Let not one group make fun of another. (49:11)
Would it be surprising that they are better than themselves?
- Be charitable
Those who set aside in charity
Whether they have plenty or face scarcity,
Who control their anger and forgive their fellow human beings –
Lo! Allah loves those who do beautiful deeds. (3:134)
- Do not be envious
And whoever saves himself from envy,
Then, such is the one who attains felicity. (59:9)
- You are responsible for your deeds
Lo! No bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another (17:15)
- Do not be proud and haughty
And do not walk on earth haughty –
Verily, Allah does not like anyone proud and boastful! (31:18)
- Do not despair of divine Grace (12:87)
And do not despair
Of the Grace of Allah. (12:87)
- Purify your soul
And those who act to purify themselves (23:4)
- Be forgiving
Be forgiving and invite them to what is good
And excuse yourself from the ignorant. (7:199)
- Be humble
And the servants of the All Compassionate are those
Who walk humbly on earth,
And when the ignorant speak to them,
Say: “Peace be with you!” (25:63)
- Avoid drinking and gambling
O you who have certainty of faith!
Drinking, gambling, idolatry and arrow betting
Are obscene and the works of Satan.
Therefore, avoid them so that you attain felicity. (5:90)
Guidance for the Family
- Mutuality of honor between men and women
They are your covering (spiritual garment)
And you are their covering (2:187)
- Do not go near unlawful sexual intercourse
And do not go near fornication,
It is indeed an abomination and an evil path. (17:32)
- Do not kill children
And do not kill your children for fear of poverty,
We provide for them, and for you;
Indeed, killing them is a great sin. (17:31)
- Be kind to your parents
And your Rabb has ordained that you worship none but Him,
And be excellent in your treatment of your parents,
If one or both of them reach old age before your eyes,
Do not say to them “ugh”,
And do not scold them,
And say to them words of kindness. (17:23)
- Women have rights similar to their responsibilities
For the women (are rights)
Similar to (responsibilities) upon them (2:228)
Guidance for the community
- Avoid extremism
Call your Rabb with utter humility and in secret.
Verily, He does not love the extremists! (7:55)
- Honor your Contracts
O you who have certainty of faith!
Fulfill your contracts! (5:1)
- Integrate faith and deed
And they integrate (faith and righteous deeds)
As Allah has commanded them to be integrated,
And they fear their Rabb,
And are fearful of the ordeal of Reckoning.(13:21)
- Build bridges with other communities
Verily, Allah does not forbid you
From making friends and constructing a just order,
With those who did not fight you in (matters of) Faith,
And those who did not expel you from your homes;
Indeed Allah loves those who are just. (60:8)
- Cultivate knowledge
Allah will elevate in ranks those among you
Who have certainty of faith;
And those who are endowed with knowledge.
Lo! Allah is aware of what you do! (58:11)
- The purpose of human creation is to serve
And I created not beings of fire and beings of clay
Except that they worship (serve) Me. (51:56)
Serve Allah and do not associate partners with Him;
And serve your parents with excellent conduct,
And (serve) the near ones and the orphans and the needy
And (serve) the neighbors who are close And the neighbors who are strangers
And (serve) the people who associate with you
And the wayfarer
And those who are under your protection.
Indeed, Allah does not love the boastful braggart (4:36)
- Avoid Corruption
And do not squander your wealth
Among yourselves, in false pretenses,
Or to influence judges (those in authority),
So that you criminally devour a portion of other people’s wealth,
And you know it. (2:188)
- Work with one another with patience to establish Justice
By (the Sign that is the passage of) time,
Verily, humankind is indeed at a loss,
Except such as those who have certainty of faith,
And perform righteous deeds,
And enjoin upon one another Justice (Truth),
And enjoin upon one another Patience (Constancy and Perseverance). (103:1-3)
- Brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind
O humankind! Be aware of your Rabb Who created you from a single soul
And created from it its mate
And from the two of them spread out countless men and women.
Be aware of Him in whose Name you ask
(Your mutual rights and responsibilities)
And (be aware of) the wombs
(Reminding you of your common origin).
Lo! Allah is watchful over you! (4:1)
- Created you into groups so that you know one another
We did indeed create you from a male and a female,
And made you into groups and tribes (of lineage),
So that you recognize each other.(49:13)
- Uphold justice
O you who have certainty of faith!
Be upholders of justice as witnesses before Allah
Even if it be against your own Selves
Or your parents
Or those near to you
Whether it be rich or poor,
For Allah wills goodness for both.
And follow not your desires, if you are just.(4:135)
- Enjoin good, forbid evil
He (the Messenger) commands them what is good and forbids what is evil,
And permits for them things pure and forbids for them things impure,
And removes from them their burden
And their yokes that shackled them.
So those who believe in him and support him and help him
And follow the Light that came down with him,
Such are the one who will attain felicity (7:157)
- Engage in trade and commerce, avoid Riba
And what you give by way of Riba on the wealth of people,
Gains no increase in the sight of Allah;
But what you give by way of charity in the way of Allah,
Such are the ones who shall increase (their wealth) many fold. (30:39)
- Apply Reason
Did We not provide guidance
To many a people before them whom We destroyed?
They walk around amidst their (destroyed) dwellings –
Indeed in them are Signs for a people who reason. (20:128)
And He has subjected to you the night and the day,
And the sun and the moon,
And the stars He has subjected to His laws,
Indeed, in these are Signs for a people who apply reason. (16:12)