Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un/”To God we belong and to God we are returning.”
It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of our dear brother, Luqman Williams. I cannot profess to have been close to Luqman, but even from a distance it was manifest that he was close to God. In his own words, “Smiles”. May God grant you Jannah Firdaws and your every desire. Amin.
Funerals. They are something we generally do not like to think about. I say this based on evidence of observation in the way in which Muslim communities tend to handle funerals (hereafter referred to as janazah). I’m not talking about the etiquette, or lack thereof, that is displayed at so many jana’iz (pl. janazah): that subject deserves its own post (forthcoming? Make du’ah for my typing skills). What I am talking about are two things: one, community obligations and two, easy deeds for one’s scale.
As for point one, let’s examine it from rom a fiqh point of view: jana’iz fall under the heading of fard al-kifayah/communal obligations. It is our responsibility as a community to bury our dead, not the state’s. What seems to frustrate this process is often times a lack of planning, admittedly on both parties: the deceased (or in this case, the formerly living) and the Muslim community at large. Part of what I feel should be incorporated into the new masjid paradigm we see trying to form in America is help in the area of life planning, or more specifically in this case, death planning (feel free to suggest some other terminology — I know this sounds awful). This is equally important for both legacy Muslims as well as so-called convert Muslims. I have seen many funerals go awry due to improper planning of wills and last testaments. Not that we want to hand every new Muslim a copy of the Qur’an, a prayer rug and then a last-will-and-testament kit (bean pie is optional), but it would be pretty good to have a will-template made up and on-hand, downloadable from a masjid’s website or obtainable from its front office. It would also help to perhaps conduct workshops on this from time to time to keep it in the community’s periphery vision. But I digress.
Point two: easy deeds. What do I mean by easy deeds? There is a well-cited hadith from Ibn Majah, narrated by Abu Hurayrah, that details the fate of those who die in a state of debt:
“The soul of the believer is attached to his debt until it is paid off.” (Hasan)
For me, this hadith illustrates the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه وسلم overarching wisdom in that he saw all sides and all aspects of his community. The Muslim community will always be made up of those who will need the help of others and that these people should not necessarily be looked down upon simply because of economic hardship. In fact, helping one’s brother or sister from a hardship is an excellent and “easy” opportunity to acquire lofty deeds for one’s scale as is noted in another hadith (also narrated by Abu Hurayrah), as recorded in Sahih Muslim:
“If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. If anyone makes it easy for the one who is indebted to him (while finding it difficult to repay), Allah will make it easy for him in this worldly life and in the Hereafter, and if anyone conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps His slave as long as he helps his brother.”
For me, I am concentrating on the first part of the hadith, “If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life…”. I cannot tell you how many notifications for jana’iz have come through brother Da’ood Nasir’s listserv: Islamic Information E-mail Network, of Muslims who have passed on. Often these Muslims who are passing, may Allah have mercy on them and grant them Jannah, have non-Muslim family who may or may not be amicable to a Muslim funeral, are in debt, or are incapable (them or their families) of paying the costs of the funeral. Our communities seem to have no issue in investing millions of dollars into buildings but commits very little to human causes. My thoughts are thus: could we, as a community, set up an emergency fund to help these Muslims alleviate their debt by removing this hardship or the hardship of the cost of the funeral. Perhaps something as simple as a weekly or monthly donation program in which members of the Muslim community could contribute to this fund which would be especially allocated to this particular effort. In the end, it would be a win-win situation for the dead as well as the living, who will be joining them shortly.
These few notes here are not meant to be taken as dictates but rather as a means of starting important conversations in our various communities across America to help facilitate the growth and maturation of the Muslim community in America. And God knows best,
For more information on Da’ood Nasir’s e-mail network you can reach him at nasir [at] nasirkeyman [dot] net.
I know it seems shocking to many Muslims, especially those who are “new” to the religion that there are Muslims who would sell liquor to other Muslims or even sell liquor at all, but it’s true. I went through this shocking revelation myself not long after I had taken shahadah. “How could another Muslim selling alcohol when s/he knows it’s haram?” The question is not why would they (though, fairly, it is a good question) but rather, why do we put them, meaning foreign or ethnic Muslims, on such high pedestals? We, as American Muslims, and here I speak for those like me, converts, have had a long history of putting “ethnic” Muslims on very high pedestals – expecting great things from them, when in fact, they’re not better or worse than any of us. The decisions that led them down the road to come to America, to hide out, or perhaps “sell out”, is akin to what led us, American Muslims, to Islam. We all wanted a better life. But before I white wash this too much, let me get down to the nitty gritty.
In an article I recently read on MSN, it spoke of Muslim on Muslim violence over the selling of alcohol in Muslims neighborhoods. Specifically, Muslims attacking, vandalizing and striking out against other Muslims who are selling liquor in their neighborhoods. As I mentioned above, this is not a new phenomenon. In my thirteen going on fourteen years of being Muslim, I have prayed, sat next to and eaten with Muslims who have or still do sell liquor. We pray at the same masajid (mosques). We attend the same janaza’ (funerals). We live and die with one another each day. As a matter of fact, many of the buildings that were used as masajid were funded by Muslims who sold liquor – they were the only Muslims with money; without them, many of the masajid may have closed down. I am by no means defending these people. Just looking at the story from all sides.
Being from Detroit, I am all too familiar with a liquor store on every corner and a church on the other. You can buy alcohol in most stores for cheaper than one could by any kind of food item. And if one does that math, it is a profitable enterprise, albeit at the cost of a community’s life. Black people in urban areas are surrounded by poison. Cigarettes. Alcohol. Fast food (should check cashing be thrown into this sycophantic group as well?). And that’s the legal stuff. Not to mention drugs and prostitution. So when you have a group of people who come into these areas only to siphon off what little remains in terms of resources, yes, it is enraging. In the article, it states, “West Oakland, a predominantly black and poor section of the city where the vandalism took place, has 69 stores selling alcohol, 28 above the maximum number acceptable under a state standard that prescribes no more than one store for every 2,500 residents, according to anti-poverty group Urban Strategies Council.” The anger of black peoples in these areas should be easily understood. Easy access to drugs and alcohol exacerbates an already epidemic problem of violence and abuse in our urban areas. So for many blacks, not just Muslims who are black, these foreigners are looked at as parasitic. But toss religion on the flames and it’s a whole new fire.
Our contention with them is and should be a moral one. As moral people, we have every right to say, “this is wrong”. “We do not want these kinds of poisons in our neighborhoods”. We must take our cause to the source, in a moral and legal way. Vigilantism will solve nothing. The young men, in the aforementioned article, attacked a storeowner with lead pipes, destroying property in his store. This will do nothing to detour the man from selling liquor. Worse comes to worse, he’ll just pick up stakes and move his shop and start over somewhere else. And while his insurance covers his damage the young men will be arrested and face possible jail time. More black youths in the penal system. A loose-loose situation.
My advice would be to work the legal channels. Boycott his stores. Try educating your people and your neighborhoods on the ills and the effects of alcohol. In other words, try some da’awah. Da’awah should not just entail Fire and Brimstone speeches about the Hellfire and Wrath of God, but “inviting to the good and forbidding of the evil”. I feel their anger and frustration but going about it in a violent way will solve nothing. Wa Allahu ‘alim.