Islamic Studies

The Current Lapse of Muslim Leadership in the West and Malcolm: A Conversation with Sh. Abu al-Hussein

He bro,  El Hajj (r) sparked for a good many the hope that aims to see the realization of justice and fuels the very struggle for justice. The Muslim legacy in North America (USA) was concerned with the oppressed -contextualized enough- to understand the need for self determination on the part of the marginalized. It was a legacy concerned with the cultivation of virtues that would uphold the dignity of the downtrodden. Bro, El Hajj built men and women as he worked for justice and died for the materialization of practical justice which would ensure a dignified existence for the oppressed. In light of this robust legacy one questions the sincerity of those who run Americas mosques as they hide behind the mask of authenticity, and cover themselves with the robe of Islamic Orthodoxy. While the flag of Orthodoxy flies in the Mosques of America my people die of thirst. Who is there to care for them, not to save them but to stand with them as brothers? Bro, the struggle of the poor in America means little to those who empty out the “Zakat coffers” to care for far off lands. In the face of bad management and absence of concern the poor of the United States are left to fight with the poor of other lands for Zakat resources. In the end the poor of America go unrecognized by the immigrant Muslim leadership who have fled to the suburbs away from the so called Blacks and Spanish “savages” who are dismissed as thugs and paupers incapable of being good Muslims. So, Zakat never empowers the Muslim American but rather is sent “back home” to the real needy to aid the real Muslims and Muslim lands. Malcolm cared for us though. The Civil Rights movement was not long ago brother, long before the term Orthodoxy came into fashion, there was care for the people now the Muslims are stuck on who is Orthodox.

Akhi, our community had issues too, we must be fair in our analysis and critique.

Yes we did bro. On the other hand,  we understood some degree of brotherhood back then and the struggle for justice made taught us to be righteous. So, bro, tell me if caring for the oppressed here at home makes me a heretic as I am made to feel so when I bring this issue up in among immigrant Muslims?

No, akhi, it does not.

Well, if it does, then let the judgment be passed. I am sick of being marginalized and silent. How can you stand silent before the destruction of indigenous poor Muslims in America, Imam? Are you not concerned with their slow death?

Well the problem is that we are caught in the Nationalist struggles of the Muslim world transported to the US by the immigrant. It it is not enough to will for good action but rather we need a fiqh of priorities to govern our actions. In addition, to cultivating a sense of  justice we need management and organization skills so we are capable of confronting the  the problems we face as Muslims systematically. But what we need more so is to first develop a concept of brotherhood which is inclusive and extends beyond one’s ethnic group. Do not worry, akhi , that you stand for the poor and oppressed of America and demand that something be done on their behalf to transform their condition is not heresy nor does it vitiate your loyalty to Islam. In fact, you are looking after your responsibility towards the Muslims in America and that is part of having a fiqh of priorities. On the other hand, do not be exclusive you must be concerned with the whole Ummah while working with the people in your community. Once you ensure the well-being of your community then it will be able to stand on its own and aid others.

Bro, I tell you, give me an Imam in the legacy of Malcolm X with a sound Islamic education instead of Ahmad from overseas (who claims the Shaikh title) to lead the Mosque and I guarantee you Palestine would not be an issue and our people would be cared for! Our Zakat coffers would be used strategically.

Be gentle, akhi. The problem is that many immigrant brothers have not come to realize their condition. To borrow a term from the Psychiatrist, Franz Fanon, they are “the Wretched of the earth”. Many of our immigrant brothers never realized that they are oppressed not only politically but psychologically, disoriented, in need of re-learning Islam. They have a need to come to be people who know how to manage power correctly and justly and consider others outside of their social and ethnic group. But they will not will not accept being informed of this condition by you if you do so in a harsh tone especially given that you are a Muslim convert. Akhi, lay claim to the legacy of Malcolm but educate yourself and work   for greater justice which is inclusive. Refined manners will get you a long way, akhi. But refined manners should be coupled cultivated with knowledge, spirituality, and an activism with is concerned for all, and informed by strategic thought and management and organization skills. If we train people to have these qualities then we will make good use of the legacy of El Hajj Malik ash Shabazz (r) and form leaders.

Muslim Brothers

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • The flip side is the immigrants, especially the practicing ones, put up with these convert brothers who have been Muslim for a few weeks and acting like Shaykhul Islam. This is profoundly annoying and a major obstacle- at times, I wonder if the “immigrant” Muslim idea is nothing but hatred disguised?

    I can see why immigrant Muslim movements like Tableehgi Jamaat are always running after young brothers to join them and carry it. I don't think they want it to be a “desi” jamaat, they want it to be an effective jamaat…and perhaps, more converts could lay the ground for that?

    What is REALLY needed for both converts and immigrants, is a curriculum of learning Islam- one that is ordered and detailed, so that both can come to common ground. Haphazard learning of islam, via random lectures might seem good, but it also creates that disconnect. That is probably why Malcolm X (rahimullah) and Co. were so successful, because they taught their followers systematically, everyone was on the same page and everybody can move forward together. Additionally, their message was focused and less varied then that of our communities.

  • No matter what leader steps up to the stage in this day and age there will always be many to knock him/her down. If Malcolm (r) was around now – no doubt the people praising him now would have been criticising him either calling him a salafi, sufi, or bidati, or whatever is the flavour of the month. You only appreciate something or someone when it is taken away from you. I think with the number of people in the deen increasing all the time you get different ideologies creeping in, and this causes major problems (the ideologies and not the people) – a clear example of this is the Caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan (ra).

    Personal thoughts on this are, there are many leaders out there or people in the background doing some amazing work. Unfortunately they do not get our backing because we have “issues” with them. I just think we all get deluded thinking if Malcom (r) was around today then …… and if so and so was around today then…… It just doesn't work like that. Maybe Allah (swt) put those people on earth and took them back in the times that they were here so they wouldn't have to put up with people/haters like us. Just my thoughts on this matter. Sorry for the rant.

  • “Maybe Allah (swt) put those people on earth and took them back in the times that they were here so they wouldn't have to put up with people/haters like us. Just my thoughts on this matter. Sorry for the rant.”

    I agree with that and contemplate this often.

  • This is what is said implicitly by every
    capitalist, every industrialist, every business owner, every
    employer who demands the labor power of the workers they

    Look, my workers, I have some capital which by itself
    cannot produce anything, because a dead thing cannot produce
    anything. I have nothing productive without labor.

    As it goes, I cannot benefit from consuming it
    unproductively, since having consumed it, I would be left
    with nothing. But thanks to the social and political
    institutions which rule over us and are all in my favor, in
    the existing economy my capital is supposed to be a producer
    as well:

    it earns me interest.

    From whom this interest must be taken – and it must be
    from someone, since in reality by itself it produces
    absolutely nothing – this does not concern you. It is enough
    for you to know that it renders interest. Alone this
    interest is insufficient to cover my expenses. I am not an
    ordinary man as you. I cannot be, nor do I want to be,
    content with little. I want to live, to inhabit a beautiful
    house, to eat and drink well, to ride in a carriage, to
    maintain a good appearance, in short, to have all the good
    things in life. I also want to give a good education to my
    children, to make them into gentlemen, and send them away to
    study, and afterwards, having become much more educated than
    you, they can dominate you one day as I dominate you today.
    And as education alone is not enough, I want to give them a
    grand inheritance, so that divided between them they will be
    left almost as rich as I. Consequently, besides all the good
    things in life I want to give myself, I also want to
    increase my capital. How will I achieve this goal? Armed
    with this capital I propose to exploit you, and I propose
    that you permit me to exploit you. You will work and I will
    collect and appropriate and sell for my own behalf the
    product of your labor, without giving you more than a
    portion which is absolutely necessary to keep you from dying
    of hunger today, so that at the end of tomorrow you will
    still work for me in the same conditions; and when you have
    been exhausted, I will throw you out, and replace you with
    others. Know it well, I will pay you a salary as small, and
    impose on you a working day as long, working conditions as
    severe, as despotic, as harsh as possible; not from
    wickedness – not from a motive of hatred towards you, nor an
    intent to do you harm – but from the love of wealth and to
    get rich quick; because the less I pay you and the more you
    work, the more I will gain.”

    This is what is said implicitly
    by every capitalist, every industrialist, every business
    owner, every employer who demands the labor power of the
    workers they hire.

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