Marc Manley — Imam At Large

Words, Thoughts, & Insights For The Rest of Us - Religious Director of ICIE

Dunya – A Khutbah By George Carlin

There used to be a certain brand of comic in America, vulgarity aside, that was able to speak a witty word of truth to power. George Carlin was one such comic. I am tempted, at some point in the future, to use this, verbatim, as a dars or khatirah.

Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Inland Empire

Marc Manley It is with great honor and privilege that I announce my acceptance of the position as Religious Director at the Islamic Center of Inland Empire, in southern California. The warmth and hospitality shown to myself and my family by the Rancho community has been truly inspiring and I eagerly look forward to serving the community in this capacity and all of the great things we can do together, God willing.

For the past fifteen years, I have worked as a professional in the information technology sector. In addition, I have been involved in the creation and implementation of two Muslim chaplaincies, at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University respectively. Through nearly a decade that Philadelphia has been my home, I have been blessed to make the acquaintance of so many wonderful individuals. It also gave me a chance to serve my community with dignity, at a time when Muslims in America face daunting challenges. It is my intention to bring the breadth of these experiences to the new task at hand at ICIE. My departure from Philadelphia will be bittersweet, a city whose inhabitants, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have had such a lasting impression upon me. For all of you I am truly grateful.

I wish to thank a few individuals and organizations who’ve made this journey (a) tenable and (b) possible:

  • The Quba Masjid community: Imams Anwar and Anas Muhaimin: simply put, you both put me on a path and inspired me through quiet leadership and resolve. I am in your debt.
  • The Reverend Charles L. Howard, Ph.D.: as UPenn’s chaplain, you were willing to take a chance and believe in an unknown. I am grateful for that opportunity. I will miss our very candid and “keepin’ it real!” conversations. God bless.
  • Adnan Zulfiqar: I could not have asked for a better confidant and supporter. My only regret is how little time we had with each other. Come and visit sunny SoCal, ock!
  • Mohsin Ali: your quiet support and character have and continue to be a confidence booster for me. Jazak’Allahu khayran.
  • Wasim Rahman: who knew where this would go when you invited me to your wedding! May Allah bless you and your family always.
  • Abdul-Kareem al-Amry: I am grateful to God for having met you (in a Starbucks of all places!). Your religious knowledge and willingness to help and engage me to make me a better Muslim and a better leader is a debt I cannot repay! Thank you.
  • The collective of the Drexel and UPenn Muslim Student Organizations, for whom I will truly miss! I cut my teeth as a khatib on these two campuses. You are a wonderful group of young Muslims – may Allah bless your paths always.
  • Imam Suhaib Webb: if there was a brother from another mother, you’d be it. In addition for being a coach in my corner, you are also a real inspiration for me and I will continue to draw upon your support and example.
  • Dr. Sherman Jackson: it is no secret that you have been one of the most influential forces in my adult life. Now is not the time or forum, but only I say thank you and may Allah reward you for your selfless support.
  • Dr. Ali Suleiman Ali: in the words of my mentor, Dr. Jackson, “Shaykh Ali is shaykh.” My first Qur’an teacher, I hope I can be half the teacher you’ve been.
  • Dr. Mukhtar Curtis: your encouragment has been a source of strength. Jazaka’Allah, shaykh.
  • Khidr Naeem: simply put, you are family. You have been a rock in my life and I pray that Allah will continue to bless you and your family. Amin.
  • Dr. Muhammad Khalifa: I thank you for your genuine brotherhood. Come visit!
  • Rashid Abdur-Raheem: you and your father were the first to teach me how to pray (and I taught you how to drive a stick!). I am eternally grateful.
  • Shakeer Bakari: you and I have proven that you can take a brother out of Detroit, but you can’t take the “D” out of a brother! God bless.
  • Malik Shaw: another kindred Detroit spirit. I am in your debt for your selfless brotherhood and constant encouragement.
  • Dr. Jerry Hionis: sadly, we’ve had little time together but you’ve been a good brother and an even better friend. “Darmok, and Jalad … on the ocean.”
  • Moutasem Atiya: you continue to show me what brotherhood, based on the Sunnah of Our Beloved, is all about. Jazak’Allah.

And of course last, but not least, my family: my wife, Margari, who simply put, is the one who has allowed me to do this. She’s the one who has put up with a grumpy, tired, travel worn husband. My Allah reward you for making me a better man. My daughter, Ziyan, who despite not quite being three, is a major inspiration for why I am doing this: the future of Islam in America. To my parents, who’ve given me unconditional love for over forty years. I will always be a momma’s boy! To my brothers, who I know from time to time look at their little brother with a healthy dose of suspicion!, I thank you both for your love and support. And of course all praise belongs to God – Allah in the Arabic language, the Fashioner of the Heavens and the Earth. There is no god but You!, and Muhammad is your slave and Messenger.

I look forward to seeing you all in sunny southern California.

Support The Sahaba Initiative

In my last post, I asked if we are delivering the goods. Sahaba Initiative clearly demonstrates that this generation of young Muslims is firmly dedicated to the ideals of Islam; they want to deliver the goods. Simply put, they need our support. Please take a moment to watch this short video and I highly recommend supporting their work.

Sahaba Initiative is dedicated to providing the tools to nurture healthy families and individuals of all backgrounds.

Can We Deliver The Goods?

marc-bowtie In a 2009 article, Becoming Sinless: Converting to Islam in the Christian Solomon Islands, Debra McDougall investigates the nature of conversion to Islam in the Solomon Islands. Aside from merely being an interesting article to read, McDougall brings to light via citing Scott Flower, a query we here in America should stop and ask ourselves: are we, on an institutional level, a service-based community? Should we be?

In one of the few scholarly works on the topic (namely, Islam being inextricably linked with political violence and terrorism), Scott Flower (2008) argues that such speculations (on the part of the Melanesian government) are unfounded. He suggests that indigenous converts are drawn to the goods and services that Islamic organizations provide and are attracted to Islam because it resonates with indigenous cultural practices1 (parentheses and emphasis mine).

When I reflect back on my own conversion and admittance into the Muslim community, I would concur that I was indeed drawn to perceived goods and services in the Muslim community. For myself, this amounted mainly to socializing and fraternity. However, I clearly see that our community is having ever greater demands placed on it to provide all manner of services (for convert and non-convert alike) such as family counseling, mental health counseling to financial planning. But what I’m most curious about is McDougall’s last statement: Islam’s resonance “with indigenous cultural practices”. I wonder, is this the case? While attending a khutbah today, I heard a sermon whose theme centered around the notion of silah al-rahm, or the maintaining of kinship, taken from the hadith:

ليس الواصل بالمكافئ ولكن الواصل الذي إذا قَطَعت رحمُه وصلها

“The person who perfectly maintains the ties of kinship is not the one who does it because he gets recompensed by his relatives (for being kind and good to them), but the one who truly maintains the bonds of kinship is the one who persists in doing so even though the latter has severed the ties of kinship with him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, hadith 322)

The khatib delivered an excellent khutbah but when it came to referencing maintaining family ties, his only reference was to Muslims who need to work on maintaining ties with families overseas. The idea or notion of converts, who often have much more delicate and complicated familial relations, failed to come to mind. This is indicative of how our community thinks of converts: reverent yet remote. I say this not in condemnation of any personal khatib or speaker but to raise awareness of persistent and enduring issues in our community that sadly, continue to fall short of notions that draw people to Islam. What is illuminating here is that the services that one segment needs (i.e., converts), will often resonate and find need in its counterpart (i.e., non-converts). And while our community will never be a utopia, we can, God willing, take steps to make it better and come closer to delivering the goods.

1. McDougall, Debra. “American Anthropologist Volume 111 Index.” American Anthropologist 111.4 (2009): 480-91. Web. 27 June 2014.

Between Hope and Hell: Ramadan Advice

marc-bowtie My inbox has been peppered with a number of requests for advice for those seeking to turn a new corner this Ramadan. In some of those letters, folks spoke of frustration, even a hopelessness, in their ability to overcome their souls’ desires and return to a God-pleasing lifestyle.

The first step is to know, as I wrote on Twitter, is to think of it like this:

It is very difficult to treat malaria in a swamp. The sincerity of tawbah (repentance) is similar.

The success of one’s tawbah will be greatly affected by one’s environment, thus, one should take every possible step to remove oneself from environments that are not conducive to achieving this goal. But beyond the condemnation of impermissible acts lies an important theological point in our religious tradition that is not accentuated enough. Namely, that is God’s mercy. While I do not wish to impart false hope for those engaged in grievous actions, nor do I wish to perpetuate a psychology of defeat. So these words of advice are an attempt to fall between these two.

The main point is to know that God has no need of us to go to hell. To be explicit, this is not the same as God not putting one in the Fire if one has earned it. That being said, the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said eloquently:

كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ وَخَيْرُ الْخَطَّائِينَ التَّوَّابُونَ

“Every son of Adam sins and the best of those who commit sins are those who repent.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, hadith# 4251)

You (and Shaytan!) may say to yourself “why bother repenting?” You may feel that you are caught in a cycle: sin and repent. Over and over again. All the while, Shaytan will try and trick you into breaking this cycle. For it is better to be stuck in this cycle than to be mired in ceaseless disobedience. If you die while running from disobedience to repentance, then you have won. And if you die while running from repentance, do not lose hope: the emphasis should be placed on where you just came from, and not on what you’re running to. And your Lord is infinitely merciful.

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَسَاءَ فَعَلَيْهَا ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

“Whoever acts rightly, it is to their own good and whoever does evil, it is to their own detriment. Either way, you will be returned to your Lord.” (Qur’an, 45: 15)

And with God is all success. Ramadan mubarak.

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