By Br. Faisal [Just a Muslim]
Convert Muslim Bro: “Asalam u Alaykum my Bratha”
Faisal (Just a Muslim): Walaykum Asalam bro How you doing?
Then he says to me-
Convert Muslim Bro: “Bratha, you need to fear Allah!!!”
Faisal (Just a Muslim): Huh? Why what did I do?
Convert Muslim Bro: Bratha!! We need to make hijra from this filthy dirty no good kaafir society my bratha !!
Faisal (Just a Muslim): Huh? But I don’t get it? I’m an… American
Convert Muslim Bro: What!! Man… see I don’t understand the born Muslims; you all don’t know your deen!! See we’re living in “Darul Kufur” bra, and we need to go back to “Darul-Islam.”
Faisal (Just a Muslim): But… I’m just a
Convert Muslim Bro: Man, get out of my face you need to fear Allah bratha…
Faisal (Just a Muslim): I whispered to myself “Brother; we sure don’t park our cars in the same garage so to speak.” I’m out…
Ever feel like you just don’t know where you belong as a Muslim American anymore? Ever get that numb feeling of their being a void in your identity? Do you ponder on questions such as am I a Muslim, Do I fit in with the mainstream Muslim crowd? Do they think I’m not a good Muslim because I don’t follow their brand of faith or subscribe to wearing a kufi and high-water pants. But I thought I am an American, no wait, a Muslim? But…, Oooh? I’m so confused? Who am I? So worry no more, we will try and open up the can of worms that you have been dying to ask. As Muslim Americans many of us have been plagued with these questions for long and feel that we have no outlet towards dealing with these frustrations about the culture clash and identity crisis we are having as Muslim Americans. Because we are being bombarded with an overt pressure to be this way and that way. A madthabi Muslim or a Salafi Muslim. A discourse on identity in the realm of what type of sub-culture we fit into has been long over-due. In the era of post-9/11, which created a schism of an acculturation/ assimilation style insecurity with many Westerners, particularly the Muslim American crowd, which many of us have not even begun to peak into because we feel vulnerable to being attacked by our own and those outside of our faith; we feel lost about who we are and especially the youth who are already grappling with popular culture and what it means to be Muslim and American. Hopefully, this article will help to alleviate our concerns and help us to come to terms with our fears. And we just may find a common denominator entitled “American Muslim.”
Yeah, Yeah, I am an American Muslim. I think? Lately, I have been pondering about my identity as a Muslim American and how I fit into the mainstream of “this land of the free and the home of the brave.” It seems that there exists a great divide and rift of identity between our faith’s adherents and that of our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity. “Did he just say non-Muslim brothers and sisters?”
With all the varieties and flavors that Islam has to offer these days and especially amongst Western Muslims, I feel a great void existing between myself and other Muslims who may frown upon me because I may not subscribe to their type of Islam. You have your converts, your madthabis, salafis, Sufis, and your aunty (chachi) and uncles (chachas) and what have you. I don’t get it? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not a good Muslim according to them because I claim to be American as well? Man! Leave me alone! I am just an American Muslim.
Many Western Muslims today believe that it is not right to befriend our non-Muslim brothers and sisters because we may be compromising our beliefs, so we distance ourselves from them. How do you think that makes them feel? They see us and feel that we are a closed society. One non-Muslim told me once, “Your doors are closed.” However, in the tradition of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon ) who said “Non- of you truly believes until he love for his brother ( including sisters) what he love for himself; (Hadith of Anas bin Malik) and who is more authoritative than the Prophet? And this hadith according to a well-revered scholar named Imam- An Nawawi, he said that in this hadith, the concept of brotherhood includes all of humanity and a universal brotherhood of all mankind. Imam Malcolm X before his trip to Mecca, had met an orthodox Muslim named Dr. Shawarbi who related this same hadith to him in the following paraphrase. “ No man has perfectly believed until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” This left a profound and indelible mark of Iman in the heart and mind of Imam Malik X, (may God have mercy on his soul). So what does this example tell us? Imam Malcolm X wasn’t even around but, maybe one or two orthodox Muslims and he got it just right. He kept his relations with non-Muslims and didn’t differentiate and call them kafr especially after his return from Mecca. What about us, why is it so hard for us to come to terms with the idea that we are Americans, or Westerners and Muslim at the same time. Wasn’t it Allah (God) who said in the Quran chapter 49 verse 13 -The Dwellings, “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribe, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold God is all knowing, all-aware.
Hello!! There it is in plain sight that Allah (God) is promoting that we love our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity. However, us as Muslims do not even love each other so how the hek do you expect to love them or more important for non-Muslims to love us. In 1999, during the Kosovo crisis, I attended a seminar that discussed the various issues surrounding the war. I got up and questioned a Serbian speaker about the validity of their claim that Kosovo belonged to only “Christian Serbs.” After mentioning it was wrong, one audience member said in front of everyone that, “Maybe you Muslims should stop fighting each other first.” I was stunned and shocked to hear this and embarrassed. We don’t get along with each other and today we have an American cultural trend amongst some dummy Muslim Americans who think they are the sole heirs to the keys of correct Islam. Lets take a look at another scenario.
“Hard-core Mahdthabi Muslim”- So Faisal, what type of “fiqh” do you follow.
Faisal (Just a Muslim): Ah, well, I’m not quite sure what that means, but I believe that as a Muslim I should consult a local trusted scholar when ever I have an issue.
“Hard-core Mahdthabi Muslim”- Oh, so you don’t believe in taqleed huh? Why not?
Faisal (Just a Muslim): Uh, I’m not quite sure what that is, but I pray five times a day and fast and believe in all the great rules of Allah, yup I sure do. Smiling.
“Hard-core Mahdthabi Muslim”- What!! Who are you to discern issues of Shariah? You are a peon and must follow an Imam blindly!!! Without any questioning!! Get out of my face you disgrace for a Muslim!!!
Faisal (Just a Muslim): huh? What did I say? Whispering under my breath I say, “but I thought it was good to think for yourself.” I’m out…
Does that sound familiar? Hmm? I think it does. And this brings us to the discourse on the “Us Vs. Them” mentality that most Muslims hold today. In my opinion, these people do not understand how the world works and are not down to earth. I grew up around non-Muslims all my life and I was the only Muslim American in my high-school in Los Angeles. I didn’t even know how to pray back then or let alone think in the terms of what madthab to follow or whether my friend Brian and Jeremiah were “infidels.” I never thought that way and after learning my deen years later, I still did not think that way until some elements began to poison my mind, however, I never bought into it. So where did this “Us vs. Them” mentality come from? I have no idea, perhaps Imam Suhaib William Webb can explain.
Our parents made a difficult time on us as well with their cultural baggage dumping, for instance, I nearly married a non-Muslim girl many years back however, my parents caused such a fuss that it was a lose-lose situation. However, I remember, my non-Muslim aunt who stepped in and said to my parents that, “at least he is not gay and wants to marry a women.” Didn’t happen. I had a cousin who had a child with a non-Muslim girl who he cares for very deeply and he was pressured to divorce his new wife to the point he had to move to another city and be away from his parents. Many of the new Muslim immigrants who migrated in the early 60s and 70s married non-Muslims including my uncles, thus resulting in having children that are mixed. And their children, my half-white, half-Mexican cousins married non-Muslims as well. Now, as a practicing Muslim, am I going to shun them and not visit them because they are deemed infidels by some? I don’t think so, and as a matter of fact, I love them for Allah (God) and hope that one day they will practice Islam without it being forced-fed to them.
“Hardcore Uncle”- Beta!! I am your fathdar and you are my son, do as I say, baas ( that’s it).
“Hardcore Aunti”- Beti!! You vill wear shalwar kameez to ischool today becauze you are trying to be too Amircan (American).
Wowah!! Yeah, that is a true story, my cousin lilly was ordered by her mom to wear the traditional Pakistani/Indian dress to high school because she was acting American and talking to boys. That was along time ago but I suspect it still happens today. Is this problem going to persist with our generation? I can see it happening today as well because of all the flavors of Islam that the new generation is adapting. Hek, even the converts start acting and dressing like my Pakistani chacha. What are we to do? So the moral of the story is that our scholars must address this disease of culture clash and identity crisis because I don’t have a clue where to begin to fix it. Oh by the way, I am an American Muslim and as John Cougar Mellencamp sang, “This is our country, little pink houses for you and me.” As the sun sets slowly to the West, I bid you a fine American Muslim fair well.
Faisal [justamuslim] currently resides in the state of California where he works as an educator. He is activley engaged in trying to become engaged.