“And strive hard in God’s cause with all the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has elected you [to carry His message], and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion, [and made you follow] the creed of your forefather Abraham. It is He who has named you – in bygone times as well as in this [divine writ] – (al-muslimeen) ‘those who have surrendered themselves to God’, so that the Apostle might bear witness to the truth before you, and that you might bear witness to it before all mankind. Thus, be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and hold fast unto God. He is your Lord Supreme: and how excellent is this Lord Supreme, and how excellent this Giver of Succour!” – Holy Qur’an 22:78 (M. Asad)
Frequent questions one often gets asked these days, is whether one is Sunni or Shia, what school of thought (madhab) to which one belongs or which “methodology” one adheres to… Isn’t this a sad state of affairs? Are these really such pertinent questions? A good question would be, to which sect did Prophet Muhammad belong, peace be upon him, or any of his immediate companions? Many will then point to the fact that a political dispute arose during that first generation, over who was to be the rightful heir of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
However, while this is true, my own analysis indicates that what was understood then by the group of companions, who in later generations came to be understood as laying the foundation for Sunni Islam and the group later understood to have contributed to the foundation of Shia Islam, this was not the same as what is now meant by the terms Sunni and Shia today… Many of the earliest scholars of Islam, such as Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib and Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, may Allah bless them, are scholars relied upon by all schools of thought and sects.
“VERILY, as for those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects – thou hast nothing to do with them. Behold, their case rests with God: and in time He will make them understand what they were doing.”
- Holy Qur’an 6:159 (M. Asad)
How many Sunnis really understand the Sunni traditions in any great depth? The same likewise applies for the Shia. Before continuing these disputes over ever more generations, shouldn’t we first at least strive to be Muslims? Isn’t the foundation of Islam the pure belief in the Oneness of God? Whatever happened to the Kalima Shahada? Brothers and sisters of all different groups will state categorically in response, we haven’t forgotten the Kalima! Insha Allah, I pray this is true. However, if Muslims maintain the Kalima at the essence of their faith, how can the Ummah be divided?
La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur Rasul Allah
No god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God
At the heart of Islam lives this most profound of statements, the foundation of the beliefs of all Muslims. The only real god is God, Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the last and final Prophet. If we truly believe this, how then can we be divided? I implore all brothers and sisters to reflect deeply on this point…
The Kalima Shahada and the Holy Qur’an are accepted by all Muslims, regardless of their school of thought or sect. These pre-date all other reference material on Islam, even that compiled by the earliest scholars. During these last days of Ramadan, wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people could transcend their differences, realising that at heart we’re all one. After all, what is our primary nature, are we not all human? Every other description we adorn ourselves with, whether pertaining to our spiritual beliefs, our tribe or nationality, surely come secondary to this. First and foremost we are human beings, the children of Adam and Eve, in essence we are One Human Family. How beautiful would it be if humanity started behaving like one?
“O YOU who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and be among those who are true to their word!”
- Holy Qur’an 9:119 (M. Asad)
By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Hadith, narrations of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, can be useful supplementary material, which in some circumstances can help to clarify certain matters. However, a few things should be born in mind when referencing hadiths:
1). The only sacred scripture of Islam is the Holy Qur’an, all other texts including hadith are of a supplementary nature. Hadiths are not part of the sacred scripture of Islam, even though they do make reference to the purported words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
2). Hadiths vary in their degree of reliability, some hadith are most likely authentic, as they’re based on multiple narrations from individuals regarded as honest and trustworthy members of the community, renowned for their accurate memories; nevertheless, many hadith are no where near as reliable and some are fraudulent. The great imams of hadith themselves, threw out most of the narrations submitted to them for collation. This fact in itself indicates that fraudulent hadiths were something very common during the period in which the famous hadith collections were compiled. If this were not so, would these noble people have felt such a need to sort the wheat from the chaff, and to edit together the books which they did? Even the hadith which they did preserve have been categorised from authentic (sahih) to weak (daif). All this should make us question just how reliable these books are, and not to place too great an emphasis upon them; especially not to the extent that we end up placing more emphasis on hadith than upon the Divine revelation of Almighty God – the message of the Holy Qur’an.
3). Unlike the timeless wisdom of the Holy Qur’an, hadith are a product of their times. Through making reference to the day to day incidents during the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his noble companions, they do give us tremendous incites into the lives and culture of the Prophet and his companions. However, this is precisely the very same reason why they are encoded in time and place. In order for us to be able to extrapolate meaningful wisdom and practical guidance in completely different cultural contexts, we need to understand such things as the culture of that time, what the Prophet, peace be upon him, was striving to achieve through his words i.e. his intentions, and through understanding these points, what we are meant to take from these hadiths in present day contexts and what was simply meant for the particular situations which Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was addressing at that time.
Many times I’ve witnessed hadith being referenced without any effort being made to take these points into consideration. Yet, without taking these into consideration, we will undoubtedly take the Prophet’s noble words completely out of context and perhaps even do the very opposite to that which he would have advised, were he with us today helping us work through how we should address the various challenges we face in contemporary circumstances.
How should we address the difficulties, morally, spiritually and physically, faced by the brave souls working to contain the nuclear disaster at Fukushima? How do we approach the dilemmas faced by leaders who inherit nuclear arsenals in a post atomic age? What is the guidance in the sunnah (example of the Prophet, peace be upon him) for how astronauts should dress? What do the hadith teach about living in space? Clearly, there is guidance in the Holy Qur’an and wise words of our holy Prophet, peace be upon him, which teach us how to address such matters. But we will not derive any useful solutions through a literal reading, but only through contextual interpretation and logical deduction.
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and AOBM would like to make a small contribution to this important day. Here is a short correspondence between Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims and I, a British Muslim about LGBT people and faith, we hope it can help a spread a message of acceptance and understanding.
To Paul from I:
I also am against those posters that were put up in london. i dont see any benefit in them. i do not disagree with the content only the methodology used to preech that message. I hate the sin not the sinner
the BBC has quoted your organisation as saying that homosexuality is not forbidden in the Quran. “There is nothing in the Koran against Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) people,” said Mohammed Abbasi, co-director of the Association of British Muslims.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12526820 after reading this i began to read the articles on your website
below are quran ayats directly mentioning men having sex with men
“We also sent Lut : He said to his people : “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” Quran 7:80-81
Allah Most High says: “Do you approach the males of humanity, leaving the wives that Allah has created for you? But you are a people who transgress” Quran 26:165-66
To I from Paul:
Salaam alaikum I,
Thank you for getting in contact with us. I understand your perspective on this, it is indeed one shared by many Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. In reference to the Qur’anic ayats you’ve quoted, I have read the Qur’an and wasn’t unaware of these verses. However, the key as always is in the interpretation. If someone is already biased against LGBT people, it’s pretty obvious how they’re likely to interpret the verses. On the other hand, if one starts out with an open mind and reflects upon what the verses are actually saying, one can see there is far more to them than initially meets the eye…
Consider, “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?” – Homosexuality is not new and has been known to be around since the very earliest days. So, what could this sentence mean? Surely, the “lewdness” alluded to here, is something very much out of the ordinary, something far more strange than private relationships between LGBT people. No, this indicates something more akin to public orgies, in which it wouldn’t matter whether hetero or homosexual acts were taking place. Most people, gay or straight would find this offensive and completely unacceptable.
Another point to consider is the second part of the same ayat - would it be okay to practice our lusts on women? As in Judaism and Christianity, any kind of sex outside of marriage has traditionally been regarded as sinful in Islam. That is not to say it never happened of course, but this was the line scholars and clerics adopted in many religious traditions, not only Islam. The Qur’an doesn’t say anything specifically about “LGBT” people, the term isn’t even found in the Holy Qur’an. From what we read about the people of Lot (Lut), their society had a lot of issues… As the text implies, the people were basically having orgies in the streets, and not limiting their sexual practices in any respects – even wanting to have sex with the angels who were visiting Lot, basically wanting to rape them. I do not see how this remotely compares with civilised LGBT people today. The two scenarios are really quite different!
All the very best, wa Salaam,
From I to Paul:
The best thing for the both of us to do is to sit at the feet of a scholar of islam and learn from him. if we are unable to do that then we should use reliable (tafaseer) commentaries of the quran.
I have no bias as I used to be a athiest darwinian before becoming muslim and i hate the sin not the sinner.
Your approach of being open minded is an excellent one however we should not accept haram as halaal in this endevour.
From Paul to I:
Salaam alaikum I,
Masha Allah. I agree, we should learn from authentic scholars and reliable sources. I have myself been studying Islam for over 11 years, both sitting with scholars such as Shaykh Sufi Muhammad Abdullah Khan, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdul-Hakim Murad, Imam Abdassamad Clarke, Shaykh Abdur-Raheem Green, Shaykh Tahir-ul-Qadri and Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, as well as studying the works of Imam Malik, Imam Ali, Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Ghazali and the writings of more contemporary scholars such as the ones I mentioned previously and others like Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Shaykh Abu Muntasir etc. There is really no substitute for seeking knowledge and understanding oneself.
We should study and reflect as much as we are able, so that as far as is possible, we understand Islam ourselves and do not become overly reliant upon any particular scholars or groups. To err is human and the scholars are human. Each of these scholars also has a cultural background and has studied in particular cultural environments which may also affect their understanding of Islam. Which is why they themselves vary quite markedly in their views. A wise approach to studying the deen, is to ask Allah for guidance, study widely and always refer back to the Holy Qur’an, which is unique in being the divine, pure guidance from Allah. Everything else has been touched by human hands and is thus therefore prone to human error and other faults.
May Allah forgive me if anything I’ve said is wrong… All guidance comes only from Allah and any mistakes are my own.
All the best,
The Association of British Muslims condemns the anti-gay stickers posted in several locations in East London.
There is nothing in the Qur’an against LGBT people. Allah has honoured every son/daughter of Adam, so such a hateful message is not only morally and ethically wrong but actually unislamic.
“NOW, INDEED, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam, and borne them over land and sea, and provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life, and favoured them far above most of Our creation” Holy Quran 17:70 (M. Asad)
We call upon the police to open an immediate investigation into who put these stickers up in an attempt to spread hatred.
Islam means peace and can and did throughout history embrace and respect diversity.
Such incidents highlight the urgent need of community based education for diversity in Muslim communities across the U.K. and promoting real Islam, that respects and accepts the rights of every human being. We call upon the British government to immediately address this issue.
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims
Mohammed Abbasi, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims
Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of the Association of British Muslims
Help us save Ehsan’s life – See sample letter below
London – 11 January 2011
A 19-year-old Iranian man is facing imminent execution on charges of attempting to rape another man (sodomy or lavat), even though the allegation was withdrawn by the accuser. There is no evidence that the accused youth is gay.
Ehsan was 17-years-old when he was arrested in late 2008 in Shiraz, in the province of Fars, after a man pressed charges against him and two other youths, alleging that they attempted to rape him.
Under torture that may have lasted over a month, only Ehsan, who is the youngest of the three accused, confessed to the charges. The Fourth Branch of the Criminal Court of Fars province, in Shiraz, found him guilty of lavat and sentenced him to hang. Ehsan has since withdrawn his ‘confession’, saying that it was extracted under torture.”
The execution of Ehsan is opposed by a coalition of Muslim organisations from across the world: the Association of British Muslims (AOBM), Faith Matters, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), USA and Canada, Canadian Muslim Union (CMB), Members of The Royal Order of Noor of Buayan, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and el-Tawhid Juma Circle.
“We appeal to the Supreme Leader and Chief Justice of Iran to show mercy by revoking the death sentence and releasing Ehsan. The evidence against Ehsan is weak. The accuser has withdrawn his allegations. It is unIslamic to sentence a person without 100% proof of guilt,” said Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims.
Under Articles 108 to 113 of the Iranian penal code, lavat is proved either if a person confesses four times to having committed sodomy or by the testimony of four righteous men. Neither of these legal conditions have been met. Ehsan confessed only once and under torture. Four righteous men have not testified that they saw him commit sodomy.
Ehsan denied the charges in court in front of the judges. He mentioned that his confession was made under torture.
Furthermore, the alleged victim dropped all charges against all three boys before the trial. One out of the five judges pronounced him not guilty and asked for his immediate release. It appears that the four remaining judges used the clause “judge’s special knowledge”, or allowed the forced confession as sufficient to convict the boy to death. Either way, it seems the trial was grossly flawed.
Ehsan was detained when he was 17, a adolescent, and kept in a juvenile detention centre up until a month ago. Since his execution order was approved by the Supreme Court (Branch Thirteen) he was transferred to Aadel Abaad Jail in Shiraz, where is awaiting execution, which could happen any day now.
Saghi Ghahraman, chair of the Iranian Queer Organisation (IRQO), told the Human Rights and Press Director of the Association Of British Muslims (AOBM), Dan Littauer:
“We should urgently ask the Iranian judicial system to show sympathy to a mere minor who has been falsely accused. Either forgive and release him or have another trial and investigate the evidence more thoroughly.”
“Ehsan’s family is terrified of government and security service reprisals if their family name appears in the media, and so is Ehsan’s lawyer. This is why we are not releasing Ehsan’s full name or the name of his lawyer,” said Ms Ghahraman.
“As has happened in several cases in the past, you don’t need to be gay or lesbian in Iran to be in danger of execution for homosexuality – a simple, unfounded accusation can be enough to see you sentenced to death,” added Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of AOBM.
The Muslim coalition oppose Ehsan’s execution on religious grounds, arguing that the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was known as Rahmatulil Alimeen – Mercy unto all the Worlds. Surely, it’s better to follow the example of the Prophet and be merciful…
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “…if anyone slays a human being unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…” 5:32 (M. Asad)
This verse highlights the high priority Allah places on the sanctity of human life. Unless there is no doubt whatsoever of a person’s guilt of a very serious crime, no one is granted permission by Allah to take a human life.
In Ehsan’s case, the evidence is extremely tenuous. The Holy Qur’an strongly highlights the importance of justice and being merciful, as did Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib when he said,“God’s verdict is judicious and full of wisdom. His pleasure implies protection and mercy. He decides with knowledge and forgives with forbearance.”. (Sermon 159, Nahjul Balagha)
“And when those who believe in Our messages come unto thee, say: ‘Peace be upon you. Your Sustainer has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy – so that if any of you does a bad deed out of ignorance, and thereafter repents and lives righteously, He shall be [found] much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.’” Holy Qur’an 6:54 (M. Asad)
Further information: Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of the Association of British Muslims, firstname.lastname@example.org +44 207 193 3125 Skype: aobritishmuslims