Articles

Overcoming challenges as a new Muslim

If you a new Muslim and the challenges seems endless and nothing is working out like you hoped. What you going through is normal.

Listen to the Interview ~ Courtesy of Voice of the Cape Radio

- Moulana Zakariyah Philander

Story of a Revert

Naeemah Mbulawa.  Listen to the Interview. ~ Courtesy of Voice of the Cape Radio

Does Islam want Women to be Public and Political?

Most certainly. Islam not only promotes but charges women (and men) with the responsibility of using their minds for good, preventing evil as God’s trustees on earth.

The believing men and the believing women are protectors one of another; they enjoin good and forbid evil; they establish regular prayers; practice consistent charity;and they obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy; for God is the Powerful,the Wise.
Qur’an 9:71

Several Qur’anic verse chronicle female thinkers and doers, such as: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba who ruled justly and believed in the One God; and Aasiya, the Pharoah’s wife who saved Prophet Moses. History also wells of many great women: Aishah, the wise teacher and philosopher wife of the Prophet, who taught people daily for over 50 years; and Zubaydah, the famous builder of an aqueduct system for pilgrims.

In the first Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad asked a woman to individually pledge loyalty (one person, one vote) to Islam and to his leadership. Women were expected then, as they are expected now, to assume their rightful role in society as committed partners.

Muslim women today work for the public good as activists, artist, entrepreneurs,leaders, scholars, scientists, social workers and teachers. Muslim women excel in all fields, not in spite of their religious convictions, but because of them!

- Moulana Zakariyah Philander

Facing up to the challenges of sectarianism

Before the onset of Ramadan a silent hope springs into the heart of Muslims that conflict ridden majority Muslim countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt and other will resolve their internal disputes. The hope is that the ordinary citizen during Ramadan will be able to experience relief from the difficulties associated with violent conflict.

Ramadan is a time of spirituality, social cohesion and responsibility toward the plight of the marginalised. It is when there is a refusal to transcend differences and leave of injustice when we realise that the opportunity Ramadan presents evades many. It remains a challenge for Muslims to understand that their differences need not be destructive and need not result in polarising sectarianism.

A step in the right direction I believe would be to accept that there is diversity in the Muslim world as there is everywhere. No major religion is a grid into which all the faithful neatly fit.

In the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition that which is unambiguous and beyond speculative doubt is accepted as unchangeable and intrinsic to Islam. Yet that which is lends itself to interpretation is a matter of argument and a cause in which scholars are entitled to contend and scholars are entitled to convince and be convinced. It is when individuals or groups claim to have the monopoly in understanding the complex issues of Islam that an unfounded certainty causes such individuals to conclude that the ‘Truth’ resides with them. This ‘righteousness’ is often demonstrated in an over-arching pride for being in possession of the ‘Truth’. In such a world there is not scope for diversity within Muslim ranks only leveraging from those who are close to your Truth to oppose those who are wrong. This often only allows for a very limited self critique. For in such a reality it is everyone else who is in need of your guidance.

This in my understanding is how sectarianism is born. Saying that you are a Muslim is no longer enough; rather your interrogator needs to know about your ideological leanings in order to define you to know ‘how’ to deal with you. As a community we get stuck in identity politics. While this is not new for those of us who lived through apartheid, post 1994 has seen afresh Islamic typologies not limited to Sufi, Salafist, Shi’i being inserted into the Muslim community. It is not necessarily a bad thing to have multiple interpretations of key aspects of Islam that result in group thought. What is exceedingly unfortunate is how further afield in the middle-east, the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere different groupings (often not representative of the general Muslims populace) are not only unable to co-exist but their ‘righteousness’ leads them into violent conflict to the detriment of Islam and Muslims globally. The lesson is intolerance and violence. Often the identity politics of these groupings manifests itself locally. While the tensions are moderate, locally we should be cautious of the potential for stressful conflict whilst appreciating that disagreement is an antidote for single mindedness.

We have an opportunity in South Africa to forge a new path when it comes to identity politics. It will involve relinquishing the idea that the entire truth resides with any one grouping. It will involve acknowledging that many if not the majority of Muslims identity with the fundamentals of Islamic belief and practice and see themselves as adherents to Islam not requiring some form or the other of extra ideological representation. This new path will mean those who claim to represent Muslims should accept Muslim diversity and charter an acceptable level of sociability to combat polarization. Objectivity if we are to walk this path will have to extend to our own ideas of what it means to be Muslim. It is only when we concede the limitations of our own understanding that we will appreciate the wealth of thought that diversity brings.

The future needs to see less speculation and more open dialogue. Ramadan presented an opportunity for gaining closeness to Allah. Our proximity to Allah is linked to our responsibility toward others. If we are to succeed in the months and years that lay ahead it is vital that we carry with us the lessons of self control, patience, empathy, struggle and generosity that Ramadan has brought. I pray that the unity that this Ummah will experience on the day of Eid as millions across the globe celebrate their Islam should be the model for the unity we want to experience as an Ummah everyday.

- Moulana Zakariyah Philander