How to Make America an Islamic Nation
by Yahiya Emerick
Sound like fiction? It may be fiction now, but the future is like a book full of blank, white pages; anything can happen. When I accepted Islam and surrendered my heart to Allah's will, I didn't do it for economic or social reasons. In fact I suffered in those two areas because of my conversion. Rather, it was a choice on my part to reform my soul, my mind and my understanding of why I was alive- and why I would die one day.
I didn't think about living in some town for a few years and making my fortune so my kids could go to Ivy league schools. I wasn't thinking about how to get all my relatives a green card nor was I planning to leave and go back home to some far land after my bank account was full enough.
I was born and raised here. This is my land. I'll raise my children here, insha'llah and probably be buried here as well. I knew that by accepting Islam I was declaring that America needed to know about what was hidden from them for so long. America, my home, would naturally become an Islamic country one day. There is no other way to think if you are a truly conscientious believer in Allah. (Isn't wishful thinking the hallmark of every faith?)
In past columns I have raised complaints or alarm bells at the state of some segments of the Muslim community. Now I'm going to offer three suggestions for how we can turn the situation around and become the dominant social and cultural force in a country that needs Islam more than another pop-star, beer-brand or psychic network.
First, we must be reminded of a simple truth: if you believe in Allah, then you must be more than just a praying Muslim; more than just a fasting Muslim. A Christian can go to the Masjid and pray side-by-side with us all he wants; a Jew can fast in Ramadan for forty years, but if such a person doesn't surrender their will to Allah, then all those activities won't mean much. Belief in Allah is what makes those actions have merit on Judgment Day.
In the same way, why should we see a praying and fasting Muslim and automatically assume he or she is a true believer? The Blessed Prophet once observed that many are the people who fast but who get nothing from it but hunger and thirst. In a similar vein, Allah said that people who pray for show are those who deny the deen. The intention, the belief, that's what makes our Islam real. That's what builds a foundation for the future of our community here.
Second: what's more important than what people see us doing in the Masjid, is what we they see us doing outside in this society. If people view us as foreigners, it's not because everybody is an evil racist. It's because sometimes we're presenting ourselves that way. Let's look at ourselves with a critical eye! If you're in downtownsville U.S.A. and you're dressed like you just came out of some dusty village, of course people are going to stare. If you're English has a thick accent, even though you've lived here for ten, twenty or more years, then of course people won't listen to your da'wah. If you litter, let your children run around like animals and generally make a loud scene of yourself in public, of course others will look upon you unfavorably.
I'm not saying all Muslims behave this way, but enough of them do to help create stereotypes. People will see a Muslim and think that everything about them is foreign- even Islam. But as Muslims, we must be in the business of breaking stereotypes!
You chose to live in North America. Allah did not ordain for you to wear a shalwar khamis. You inherited it from your Hindu ancestors. Dress as a Muslim in the fashion of society. Wear a skirt and blouse and blazer along with your hijab. Wear loose pants and a shirt with your kufi. Learn clear and correct English and how to express yourself. Your children are not going to dress like Indians or Arabs once they are out from under your authority, nor are they going to speak Arabic or Urdu as their native language. Teach them to craft their appearance in an Islamic way while not appearing foreign to others. If you don't do this then it's bikinis and muscle shirts for your grandchildren.
I'm reminded of the story of one of the sahaba who came upon another dressed in nice clothes. The first man exclaimed that it was strange for this man to wear nice clothes. The second replied that he was only following the customary fashion so as not to appear strange. He then lifted up his nice shirt to reveal a patched and worn shirt underneath. He maintained his Islamic principles and looked presentable according to the standards of society at the same time.
As a quick note, lest multitudes write and complain: I'm not saying to hide your thobe, sandals, dupatta or your shalwar khamis. I'm merely pointing out that the vast majority of Muslims here have chosen to live in non-Muslim neighborhoods; have chosen to live far from the Masjid, have chosen to turn their children into neo-kuffar by letting them be indoctrinated by the public school system and have chosen to have non-Muslims as the primary people they come into contact with. If you choose not to actively practice Islam in your daily life, if you choose not to build an Islamic community, then don't display yourself as an ethnic model and say this is what a Muslim should be.
If you really want to wear traditional dress from your native lands, then form Islamic communities where most people are Muslims! Live in neighborhoods where your children play with mostly Muslim friends and where women can go outside the house, visit friends and buy food at the corner halal meat-store; where the adhan can be called on loudspeakers from the community Masjid and where Ramadan becomes a festive time for the whole street. If you don't want to do these things and prefer to have your family assimilated as quickly as possible by living around non-Muslims exclusively, then please, put the thobes and shalwars away. They only serve to make the non-Muslims think of Islam as foreign.
Listen to the following advice we would do well to follow: According to Waqdan, when Abdullah ibn Umar was asked what sort of clothes should be worn, he told the questioner to dress in such a manner as would be neither ridiculed by the ignorant nor frowned upon by the serious. (God-Oriented Life, p. 87)
This leads me to the third factor which will help our faith prosper and grow here. The essential, unifying force we must have is a solid, homogenous community. We must live together. All those people who cry about ghettoizing ourselves need to wake up. Why do the Orthodox Jews live together? Why do the Amish live together? Why do the Mormons, the Sikhs, the survivalists and the Koreans live together? Quite simply, to preserve their unique way of life from the scourge of assimilation. Are they ghettoized? No. Are they poor? No. Their communities tend to be healthier, safer and more prosperous than the general melting pot.
How many Muslims have been lost to Islam in the last fifty years here? Tens of thousands. How many are lost every year in our own times? Tens of thousands. The only reason Islam is still growing here, by and large, is because of a steady stream of immigration. But when that dries up, the assimilation will dwindle our community down to almost nothing. It's like we have a bucket with a hole in the bottom. We keep pouring new immigrants in, but so many are leaking out and are lost forever. (And we're hardly making any concerted or intelligent efforts at bringing others to the faith.)
I used to have contact with a unique community in the heart of Detroit, Michigan. It was originally settled by Yemeni immigrants about ten years ago. Those Muslims could have gone the way of others and lost their Eman. But as you'll see, something quite different occurred.
I still remember my first visit to the area fondly. I was attending a meeting of the newly-formed local ICNA group and had never been exposed to the place before. What I saw amazed me. I was elated, in fact! Children were saying salam to me on the street and women (in hijab) were walking around and going places leisurely and confidently. I saw Muslims who were Arab, Black and Bengali. But what took the cake for me was when out of nowhere I heard the adhan outdoors over a loudspeaker. They fought the city council and won the right to do adhan five times a day in the community!
Something clicked in the minds of the people. The Yemenis formed a master plan and determined to stay together. They set up a fund and slowly bought one house after another, moving Muslim families in and drug-infested kafirs out, until they literally had thousands of Muslims living together in the same place. They set up several Muslim businesses and stores in the heart of the community and bought a huge Catholic church and made it into a beautiful Masjid. They even made a small community health care center!
When we were leaving our meeting and walking to the Masjid for salah, it was the most beautiful site: from all directions, men, women and children, of all races, were going to their Masjid as a community. I've never been to a Muslim country before, but I tell you this much, I felt as if I were in an Islamic country. And this wasn't Egypt or India or Turkey. It was right here- in America.
*Note: I wrote this article in the mid 1990s. Some really ignorant people who have an unnatural fear of the Islamic religion have somehow tried to suggest that through this article I am calling for some violent revolution against the U.S. or a new global jihad or some such nonsense. Those people - they're so sensationalist and they don't realize it! The entire thrust of the article is that the existing U.S. government will remain and as the Muslim electorate grows they can use politics to get some of their concerns addressed. Didn't Christians get alcohol banned for a while in the 1920s? Muslim concerns, by the way, are generally social in nature and mirror those of traditional Christians. (I just wish the people who have somehow equated Osama bin Laden with traditional Islam would realize that that man and his teachings were no more a part of our religion and civilization than Timothy McVeigh or Adolph Hitler represent theirs.)
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