Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Leadership revisited - Eid prayer in our community

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to pick on any of our local St. Louis religious leadership in this post. I know several - if not all - of them to some extent, and I do have great respect for all of them. I am not saying anything here that I would not say to any of them to their face. If any of them reads this post, their response will be posted as as - no editing and no censorship.

Salaam and Peace to you all:

As I alluded to in my last post leadership, especially in a minority community, should aim as creating some sense of unity and common destiny in its followers. With the diversity we see in the Muslim community: ethnic, generational, economic, religious practices (jurisprudence schools, adherence , etc) it is mandated on any figure in leadership position to reach out to other and ‘different' groups to try to work out obstacles in the way of creating a sense of common destiny. This does not mean compromising core beliefs, but it means having enough religious and practical knowledge to bridge gaps and create a feeling that we are one body - if a limb is sick, the rest of the body responds with fever and aches. After all, out Prophet, peace be upon him, has taught us that explicitly.

Their religious knowledge should also let them prioritize issues properly. Unity of the community should take precedence over minor jurisprudence issues that do not tarnish core beliefs.

Now, we move to the Eid prayer issue. In this city (St. Louis), our last Eid (Feast of Sacrifice, at the end of Pilgrimage) was celebrated on 3 different days. Those who celebrated it on the same day, did that in total isolation from many others celebrating on the same day. It felt that we have absolutely no sense that there is one Muslim community in this city- what a horrible symbol we set for ourselves, and our children.

Many young Muslims cerebrated with their families, while their closest friends celebrated on a different day altogether. The number of the congregants was smaller than it should have been. What is worse, each congregation had a strong 'ethnic' tint - another blow to our prestige and self respect. I have not talked to any Muslim since then that did not have some bad taste regarding what happened on one of our two only Muslim festivities.

I am sure all the decision-making religious leadership has acted in good intentions, and had some good reasons, in their own mind at least. But the bad taste in my mouth tells me that good intentions and religious knowledge did not help achieve the ultimate goal of Muslims: feeling like one.

Good leadership does not only need knowledge. More importantly, it needs the ability to use the knowledge to know what and when to compromise. It needs the ability to go to its followers and tell them that we need to compromise a minor issue that we may be comfortable with, for a greater goal - unity of the area Muslims in this case. The clergy in this town need to get together and help promote the feeling of our oneness regardless of race, economics, Sunnah/Shi'a affiliations, etc.

If the religiously-knowledgeable educated leadership cannot bring itself to do that, how on God's earth could the rest of us do it ????



  1. As Salaamu Alaikum

    What a wonderful topic inshallah we can come to collective solution. Im based out of Cleveland Ohio which was at one point a nice place for a muslim to live wheather by him/herself or with a family. The Islamic community was extremely unified, you see I said WAS. What I find to be most interesting is that we have the same leadership in place, and now they promote dis-unifacation not with there words but there actions. We have not had a unified Idul-fitr or Idul-’adha in years and there is No sign of change. May Allah have mercy on us and show us that this deen of Islam does not belong to any of us and the invite to this beautiful way of live if truely appreciated would keep you in a state of humility which is near to Allah(SWT)

  2. As 'Anonumous from Ohio' mentioned, the same 'leadership' has behaved differently at different times. That brings probably the most crucial of issues: Why aren't the members of the community doing something about it. Leadership in most cases is nobody other than those that has the time to run for a positions, or are appointed (e,.g., Sheiks or Imams in paid positions). Eitherway, this is not true leadership (see the post below) unless those individuals transforms their positions by activism, possibly facing a lot of obstacle from the community majority in favor of 'not making waves' or or even charges of inciting 'Fitnah'. . Many community members resign to the idea of 'submitting' to anyone up in the hierarchy for fear of triggering a so-called 'Fitnah' . It is difficult to find a definitive equivalent to 'Fitna' in english, but, in the Quran, it has been used with different meanings: temptation to evil, confusion, trial, committing apostasy, oppression; depending on the context). The breadth of the possible meanings and uses - all of them have negative connotations - instill fear in the hearts of anyone being accused of causing 'Fitnah' so that we have become so afraid of criticizing another Muslim under any circumstance. Most of us are afraid of even public discussion not to mention public dissent. I am not sure if it is the legacy of non-democratic cultures many of us grew up in or not (e.g., Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, etc). The sad part is that I see the same fear of a good debate in many American born Muslims. That is scary, considering that they are the likely ones to run the show in 20-30 years.