Friday, February 10, 2017

Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man - 6000 words

The scope of this article is limited to Interfaith Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.
The sole intent of this essay is to preserve the future of “American Muslims” and keeping them within the fold by expanding the fold to be reflective of Allah’s unlimitedness and extending Prophet Muhammad’s mercy to the entire universe.
The answer to the question has always been an emphatic NO.  Guarding the flock is a human trait and no tradition wants to lose a member of their tradition to the other, whether you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh or a Jew, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or new, indeed, any tradition for that matter.  Muslims are no exception either and there is no need to beat up on Islam for a deficiency in comprehension.
This paper explores on possible causes for the no response, and what happens if that cause is no more applicable.
Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but American Muslims have their own Islam that differs from others in other lands, but precisely the same as what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practiced; a religion committed to building cohesive societies and caring for life and the environment.

If God would have said no to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, it would have been said in the Quran, there is not even an inference. God does not make mistakes; instead he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium.
This essay is merely an expression of what many American Muslims are thinking but are afraid to express.  I am pleased to present some thoughts to reflect on; ultimately the decision to marry rests in the hearts and minds of the individuals marrying. It is their life and it is God who puts love in their hearts for each other.
Continued after the pictures

Mike Ghouse

Can a Muslim Woman Marry a Non-Muslim Man?

It is easy to stick to the traditions, on one hand we save the hassles and the agonizing process of thinking, doubting and worry about failed marriage or family. On the other hand the change is inevitable as evidenced by our eating, sleeping, communicating, housing, clothing, moving, romancing and living habits which have changed steadily over one’s life time.
We have accepted the changes in all aspects of our lives over a period of time, and if it was not for the progressives, we would still be living in caves and many of us would not have lived beyond 50.  We are doing what our Grand Parents could not have even imagined, and hopefully we will prepare ourselves to gracefully accept what our Grand Children will do.
When God created the universe, the chief products were life and matter. He chose the matter to run precisely as he programmed it (Quran 55:5-11) ; the Earth going around the Sun with precision, and the moon circumambulating around the Earth,  the change of seasons, and how a seed becomes food through a precise process.  The Jupiter, Moon or the Seed don’t make decisions (55:5), they just act according to a well defined program, and they don’t think nor do they have a brain either (Q 55:6) to act independently, except the built-in defense mechanisms.
Unlike the matter, humans were not put on a trajectory; they were given the freedom to determine their own equilibrium along with guidance. Remember God did not compel Adam but gave him the choices and honored it, he could have stopped Adam from eating the fruit but he did not. He probably told his angels, “Look, I gave them (Adam & Eve) a choice and if I do not honor my own word, who will?  Adam chose what suited him, and God decided to upload “Freedom” into Adam’s DNA.
Indeed, the freedom to choose, freedom to believe, freedom to speak and freedom to live his life with consequences for each action is an inalienable right of every human.  You see that embedded in Quran verse 2:256 – La Ikraha Fi din – No one can force the other to believe against his or her will.  This idea was beefed up again with another sage advice elsewhere in the Quran where God advices the Prophet to do his work and not worry if people would listen to him or not. God says, let me be the decider to put in their heart to listen to you or not. It is purely because of the freedom clause God has incorporated into us.  Islam is also called a deen of fitra; that is human nature.
A few Muslims are conditioned to think in binary terms – Halal or Haram, Zero and One, Day and Night, Black and White and they are comfortable with it. They need to stick to their belief if that works for them and let others go with what works for them.  No one should be compelled to believe otherwise.
If God would have said no to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man, it would have been said in the Quran, there is not even an inference. God does not make mistakes; instead he empowers us to figure out our own equilibrium.
This issue is not religious, but cultural and is common to all societies and groups. It is more of a man feeling he is superior to a woman and that he is entitled to her body soul and mind.  That is not how Quran communicates – no one is responsible for other’s deeds.
Entitlement is indeed a cultural value – the scholars were driven by the need of the time and stamped their cultural understanding as religious values.  Cultural values are time sensitive whereas religious values are immortal.  Our needs are different today than were the needs of times when Muslims decided on their own that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man.
It is time for Muslims to think and reflect instead of becoming judgmental. God would have made us into a piece of rock if he did not want to us to think and make our own decisions.
Dr. Azizah Al-Hibri, a Muslim scholar explains the idea of ‘Ilah” in her book, “An Introduction to Muslim Women’s rights” that, “Islamic law is usually based on an Illah- justification and reason for an act.   By agreement of scholars, when the Illah disappears, so must the law, unless there is another Illah for it.  Much of our heritage of ijtihad, however, was formulated hundreds of years ago and has not been reexamined recently to determine whether ilal (plural of Illah) for the related laws are still in place. The latter observation is especially significant because systems of Islamic law have often incorporated customs of local communities within them, so long as such customs were not viewed as contradicting the Quran. This practice, incidentally, is part of the Quranic philosophy of celebrating, rather than obliterating or punishing diversity.”
This principle of Illah gets violated regularly. Here is an analogy to make the point. In case of rape, witnesses are required to prove that the rape happened. The emphasis here is on “proof” and today the DNA test is the best proof one can get.  In a fatwa given in 2016, the Pakistani Ulema rejected the “proof” and insisted on witnesses.   This is a classic case of getting stuck in rituals instead of understanding the essence of the rituals.
And the same “Ilah” for preventing a marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man does not exist anymore in American life.  We have to do our ijtihad – reasoning and justification must exist to prevent such union.
By the way, it is dumb to think that I am advocating a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, if that is your binary conclusion; this article is not for you. This article is for those who are about to enter into a conflict zone and this piece gives them information to make their own thoughtful decision.
The scope of this article is limited to Interfaith Marriages and Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men.  The follow up article will address who are the believers and why limit it to people of the book?   Accountability is the “Ilah” here.
The question, can a Muslim woman marry a non-Muslim man has been around for a long time, and the answer has always been an emphatic NO.  Guarding the flock is a human trait and no tradition wants to lose a member of their tradition to the other, whether you are a Hindu, Christian, Sikh or a Jew,   Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or new, indeed, any tradition for that matter.  Muslims are no exception either and there is no need to beat up on Islam for your comprehension deficiency.
I have dedicated 20 years of my life into learning and analyzing the role of religion in the society. There isn’t a single religious group out there which allows interfaith marriages without hassle.  Thank God the goodness and ugliness is universal.
The interfaith marriage problems that we see now, may not be an issue in the near future, and we have to deal with them now.  The core belief in Islam remains the same no matter which of the ‘72’ denominations you belong to, but the cultural diversity ranges from group to group.
As a Muslim thinker, I have consciously chosen to remain within the bounds of Quran, and explore the vastness and wisdom of God’s words.
The sole intent of this essay is to shape and preserve the future of “American Muslims” and keeping them within the fold by expanding the fold to be reflective of Allah’s unlimitedness (Aalameen), and extending Prophet Muhammad’s mercy to the entire universe (Aalameen).
Aren’t Muslims supposed to have a universal vision to embrace the whole humanity with its God given diversity?  Allah is the Rab (creator) of Aalameen, and Prophet is the Rahmat to Aalameen? We should be humans for the Aalameen and such we have to find solutions to the past exclusions to make life easy for the next generation here in America.
This essay is merely an expression of what many American Muslims are thinking but are afraid to express.  I am pleased to present some thoughts to reflect on; ultimately the decision rests in the hearts and minds of the individuals marrying. It is their life and it is God who puts love in the hearts for each other.
Please don’t forget, you live in the land of the free and home of the brave, and America loves everyone.  She has her own culture that each one of us has subconsciously embraced and lives by her.  The first generation and the subsequent generation of American Muslims are an integral part of America in every which way.
A new American Muslim culture is evolving while the layers of dust accumulated on the tradition is peeling off, and along the way Islam is being restored to what it was meant to be: a common sense religion. Some of us may not want to acknowledge it, but American Muslims have their own Islam that differs from others in other lands, but precisely the same as what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practiced; a religion committed to building cohesive societies and caring for life and the environment.
Dr. Azizah Al-Hibri writes on page 53 of her book, “The Quran states that God created humans, male and female, from the same nafs so that they may find tranquility, mercy, and affection for each other. The Quran also states that male and female believers are each others’ walis (protectors, Guardians). These themes permeate the Quran and make it very clear that there is no metaphysical, ontological, religious or ethical primacy for the male over the female. The Quran also makes it crystal clear that divine will contemplate a relationship of harmony, consultation, and cooperation, as opposed to conflicts and domination, between the two genders.”
One of the most enduring values of Islam is accountability.  God has created everything in balance and harmony (Quran 55:5-11), and has appointed us (all humans) to manage that balance effectively on a continual basis.
My Mother’s words echo frequently in my ears, “On the day of Hisab-Kitab, the day of Accountability, or the Day of Judgment, everyone is for himself or herself, I will be busy with my own deeds and you will be with your own, I won’t have time for you neither will you have time for me” and she would conclude, Son, be accountable and be responsible for what you think, say and do.  If you have a nightmare, no one else can feel your fear as you do.  Indeed, the narrative of the Day of Judgment is applicable in day today life.  If you murder someone, it’s your Heine that goes to jail and not your husband or wife’s. She was right; we are individually responsible for who we are and what we do here.  Islam has found its home in America.
Quran makes an individual acutely aware of one’s responsibility.  Q 6:163-164: “All people will reap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another’s burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he will resolve your disputes.” Indeed, each one of us is responsible for our own thoughts and actions.
Quran places equal emphasis on men and women, a woman cannot excuse herself on the Day of Judgment or Day to Day living.  Men need to get this straight; a woman is fully empowered and responsible for her actions and not the men.
Prophet Muhammad was obviously one of the first women’s liberators who restored her inalienable rights back to her. He further beefed it up by advising women, that if her husband commands her to do immoral things against her will,  she has the right to refuse and if unbearable, the right to divorce. Such was the empowerment of women.
According to the Pew Survey, nearly 40% of the marriages in the United States are interfaith marriages including Muslims and Hindus, and among Jews it is much higher, one out of two marriages is outside his or her faith.  The trend is gaining momentum and has no reason to stop or slow down.
For a long time, Muslim men married women of the book – that is Jews, Christians and Muslims, but the Muslim woman rarely married outside her faith. However in our land, the land of the free and home of the brave, religious goal posts are pushed further out to accommodate more inclusion of God’s creation. If that does not come through, the couple always has an option to marry outside the scope of their religious traditions with no consequences, religious vigilantism has no place in America nor will it ever gain ground. Islam is about freedom, it is in our ‘ghutti’ – DNA.
Today with the God given freedom, religious barriers are coming down.  It may take two more generations for interfaith marriages to become a norm, but norm it will become.  Men and women become friends, fall in love with each other and take their relationship to its ultimate; marriage.  We cannot deny the fact that Muhammad (before he became prophet) was employed by Bibi Khadija. She just did not propose to marry him out of the blue; she knew him over a period of time and believed he will be the right partner.  She did not send her parents to his parents either, it was one on one.
God has created all species in pairs and has made one for the other, and when that union takes place, harmony is restored.  God is about harmony, and marriage is a step to bring harmony between two people, and some even consider it to be a form of worship.
Quran 30:21. “And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!”
A few concerns are addressed here and I will be happy to reflect on the new ones, ultimately the couple has to make their own decision.
Head of the household
The resistance to a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man is based on the cultural practices, even though it has a religious tone to it.  No one wants to lose members of their flock to others.   An assumption was made that because man was the provider, he will direct which way the house hold runs and how children are raised. That is not the truth in America and perhaps in Canada and other democracies anymore.  Women today are equal partners and frequently contribute more to the household than men.
If the man and woman are from different races, religions or regions, it will create problems for the couple.  How would they raise their children?  What religion would they follow? Will the society look down upon them? How would they celebrate their festivities or bury their dead? How will they handle divorce and their Children? It is still a problem with many societies but not in the United States and Canada, we have figured it out.  There is a load of wisdom in Quran, Prophet’s nurturer and uncle did not become a Muslim and died as a Quraish, it is God’s design to set an example of learning to live and care for each other despite different religions.   Prophet married Maria and Safia, Christian and Jewish women respectively, and he did not compel them to become Muslims either.
The questions are endless, but the answer is a powerful one, and that is accountability.  In the traditional societies parents rightfully feel responsible to guard the happiness of their offspring, where as parents in North America are learning to believe that their kids are independent and know what they want in their lives, and will find their own happiness.  Ultimately they have to live their own lives, you cannot babysit them forever.  American Muslim parents trust their kids to do the right thing and let them run their own lives. Please note that this comparison is made with Muslims living elsewhere in the world.
There is one segment of single Muslim women that is reaching an enormous percent of all the single women.  These women are in their late 40’s and 50’s, and are divorced and certainly not looking for a provider, nor do they entertain having children.  They are simply looking to have a friend and a companion in their marriages and live their own lives.   A friend of mine puts it crudely – look,  no one in the family or work place would ever question the rituals you follow on the toilet seat, why should anyone question how one prays? In a pluralistic society, religion is increasingly becoming personal in nature applicable to the believers of that faith, just as it happened during the times of Prophet with the Madinah treaty. To you is your faith and to me is my faith, and together we can live in harmony.
Dr. Gail Saltz, New York based psychiatrists and author of “The Power of Different” writes, “In every marriage, there are plenty of issues that can divide couples, from differing cultures and religions to their stance on children, money and sex.”
Gwendolyn Seidman, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Pennsylvania, adds that two individuals from different social strata will potentially face conflicts. “This could create conflicts where one partner thinks the other is not ambitious enough or one partner disapproves of the other’s scheming,”
“So if one partner is conservative and the other is liberal, but neither is particularly politically active, this difference is less likely to be a problem than if both partners are strong partisans.”
“An omnivore and a vegetarian can happily co-exist if the omnivore is content to cut down on meat.”
“But if he needs meat at every meal, there is going to be a problem,” Seidman said.
Seidman concludes,  “The more alike you are, the less there is to fight about,” “But the good news is that, as couples spend more and more time together, they start to become more similar, both because of their many shared experiences and because of deliberate efforts to get along.”
This is the reason why Muslim Parents (Hindu, Sikh and Jain Parents too) take charge in finding the ‘suitable” husband for their daughters. They want their daughters to be happy.  But a time comes when you have to trust your daughter to make her own decision; after all it is her own life.
A couple’s happiness is based on how they manage their affairs. Lack of communication is one of the reasons for divorce whether they are from same religion or from different religions or races.  No one wants to hear this, but Islam, the religion of common sense has made room for divorce, so the individuals can continue to live on with their lives with least misery. Acknowledging this fact may actually strengthen the relationships and become an antidote to divorces. Remember, God does not prefer disharmony but would accept if harmony of each individual is preserved by divorce.
Harmony is a mental attitude. If the couple has enough love, the issues become stepping stones to figure out how to live with harmony.  Dr. Abdul Hamid Abusulayman writes, “There is a clear distinction between doubts and problems. Doubts provoke obstruction, frustration and discouragement, whereas problems inspire motivation, action and diligence.” and solutions. To this, I will add, “Whatever you do in life, do it wholeheartedly, there is joy in it for everyone around including ourselves”
Comfort Zone
Our comfort zone is directly proportional to the predictability of our environment; the greatest conformity produces maximum comfort greater security and minimal conflict. It is in this context, I am addressing the issue of a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man.
On the face of it, it sounds like a discriminatory practice that a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman; where as a Muslim woman cannot do the same. It is not only discouraged but declared to be wrong and some have gone on to say that you are out of the pale of Islam and even against Islam.
This discriminatory practice is cultural, and has worked in societies where women are economically and socially dependent, thus are subservient to men.  However, our women, the American Muslims women are neither economically, nor socially dependent on men and nor should they be subservient to men.  We are all created equal!
God is not bound by any culture, he sees it differently and says that a man and a woman are equally accountable for their actions, and they are each other’s garments (protectors, friends, defenders, secret keepers…..) and the relationship is not that of subserviency, but that of partnership with responsibilities and duties to each other with full dignity.
A woman is as independent as a man is. Indeed, our women, the American Muslim women live the life of Hazrat Khadija, prophet’s wife, who had her own business, her own wealth, her own home and her own comfort zone. Our women are blessed to live the life of Hazrat Khadija, and we thank God for that.  Shouldn’t that help us knock out our security concerns and comfort zone issues?
Quran on a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim Man
There is no specific verse in Quran that bans a woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. How can it be? Islam is a religion of common sense, is it not? God says we are created into many nations and tribes from the same single couple; Adam and Eve. Thus we are all one large family of humans. Then he says, the best ones among you are the ones who learn about the other, and when we do, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
There is no other couple who follows God’s advice more than the Interfaith and Interracial couples. Their union is a declaration to the world, “Look we are different, but we can live in harmony, why don’t you do the same?
There are two layers to this issue – the people of the book (Jews and Christians) and the other filter is Mushrikoon; those who do not believe in oneness of God.
Shaykh Khaled Abou El Fadl, a scholar of Islam writes, “This is the law as it exists or the legal legacy as we inherited it. In all honesty, personally, I am not convinced that the evidence prohibiting Muslim women from marrying a Kitab is very strong. Muslim jurists took a very strong position on this matter–many of them going as far as saying if a Muslim woman marries a Kitabi she is as good as an apostate. I think, and God knows best, that this position is not reasonable and the evidence supporting it is not very strong. However, I must confess that in my humble opinion, I strongly sympathize with the jurists that argued that in non-Muslim countries it is reprehensible (makruh) for a Muslim to marry a non-Muslim.”
I think that would be a political consideration in most other nations, but not in America.  What we have witnessed in January 2017 is incredible, the whole nation stood up for Muslims, a tiny weenie minority. We are the nation of laws and our laws will guide us to be a just society with occasional digressions.  As Americans Muslims we have placed our trust in our constitution and will defend it with our lives, if we have to. This is the best nation on the earth and we have to preserve it for every one of us.
The fear of losing the members of the flock to others drove the Jurist to make that call, which may not be valid any more. In an article “Seven things you don’t know about interfaith marriage” author Naomi Schaefer Riley offers the following information; “Children of interfaith couples are more than twice as likely to adopt the faith of their mother as the faith of their father.” Provided the mother follows certain faith.

Two out of five Muslims marry someone from other faith. This seems to be a major driver of the integration of American Muslims. Furthermore she adds this number increases to 67% for people in the age group of 36 and 45.

Despite the passing phase of political chaos now, the young Muslims believe Islam is not a divisive religion but an all embracing religion of the Aalameen, and it accepts the otherness of others through God’s own words, “Lakum Dinakum Waliaddin” to you is your faith as mine is to me, it is a mutual acknowledgement of the otherness of others. They believe in freedom, and did not believe in pushing others to believe into your way. The Quran calls, La Ikraha fid-din – there is no compulsion in matters of faith. Indeed freedom of speech and freedom of faith are the values Islam Cherishes.  Remember, it is a common sense faith.
Verses from Quran
“Do not marry women who associate (others with God), until they believe (in God). A believing maidservant (amah) is better than a woman who associates (others with God,) even if she allures you. Do not marry men who associate (others with God) until they believe (in God). A believing male-servant is better than a man who associates (others with God,) even if he allures you…” (2:221).
The ‘Ilah’ or the cause of reason for discouraging marriage between two different people is to prevent disharmony given the several factors of economic dependency, social cultural and other factors.  Ilah becomes discretionary here as the couple is determined to live in harmony and not let the other factors to affect their relationship.  Please remember Quran is a book of guidance in most aspects of life, and commandments in a few areas such as stealing, lying, rape, incest, cheating etc.  Do not steal.  Do not lie. Don’t be unjust. Don’t cheat.
The verse 5:5 expressly allows a Muslim man to marry any believing woman regardless of religion. No argument about it. The verse, however, remains silent about whether a Muslim woman is free to marry a believing non-Muslim man as suggestive in the verse 2:221, which predates 5:5 in the revelation calendar.  Please look at this from an American cultural perspective, and American Islam is gaining its own identity.
The issue is that of compatibility.
When Quran talks about believing women over polytheists (Mushrikoon), a contrast is drawn to highlight the compatibility part of the relationship.  God has created a mate for everyone and he is happiest when that union lives in harmony.  God is within us, he is closer to us than our jugular vein, meaning he is aware of what goes on with us, as our conscience, he reminds us to consider someone who is compatible over someone who is not.  At one time in history, the Mushrikoon and Muminoon (Muslims) could not live with each other, but that is not the case today in America.
Likewise, compatibility was the key factor in the verse to marry someone who is close to you (believing) than someone who is not (Mushrikoon).
Furthermore, the strife existed between the tribes; the ones who believed in the prevalent customs hated the idea of accountability that Islam was talking about, here the issue of trust was in play, particularly when the phrase “Charming, bewitching, allurements” were used.  Don’t be beguiled with charms was the caveat.
The following two paragraphs were sent by someone, and I cannot trace back, thanks to whoever it was.
“This allusion to “slaves” (men and women) is quite indicative of the moral values that the Quranic Revelation tended to inculcate in people. On the one hand, the Qur’an showed ‘Tolerance’ towards the fact of slavery that was universally common at the time; on the other hand, it sought to break the first chains of social hierarchy by preferring these “poor” believing slaves to those wealthy people who formed the elite then.”
“Furthermore, the new believers needed to be protected from polytheists’ abuse who considered this new religion of Islam as a threat to their own interests. The Qur’an urges Muslim men and women to get married to believers who had, like them, such faith awareness and were conscious of justice on earth. The purpose was to absolutely avoid the marriage of Muslims to polytheists who made every effort to stand against a religion that was defending the most vulnerable people on earth.”
Thus the said verse stipulates that Muslim men and women are allowed to contract marriage with believers and prohibited to marry polytheists. Here the Quran takes an egalitarian approach in addressing both men and women on an equal basis.
The “proof” item in case of rape over “witnesses” can be applied here as well.  We need to understand the essence of God’s wisdom rather than the words, as the words do expand and shrink in meaning.
The rejection of Polytheist has to do more with the specific people who were harassing and making the lives of Muslims difficult than Polytheists in general.  That is not the case anymore.  Everyone is a believer, whether you are a Pagan, Hindu, Wicca or a Buddhist, you do believe in accountability of your actions, and that is the key to nurturing harmony in the world, which is an Islamic value.  The Sikhs, Baha’i and a few others are certainly the people of the book and so called monotheists that need to be included.  Even the people without books are accountable and responsible, that is how the society works now.  I always welcome the cautions in our holy books.
Why would God want you to say “to you is your faith and to me is my faith” in verse 109:6? Indeed, the entire chapter of Kafirun is loaded with wisdom.  Allah wants us to learn about carrying a civil dialogue and the ground rule for that is to respect the otherness of others and giving equal value to others’ stance as you do your own.  In each one of the six verses, the other is treated on an equal footing and zero denigration.  God chose not to denigrate other’s faith and that is pure common sense.
By the way, almost every group has a book to follow, and they all should be Kitabi’s at large, but there should be no rejection for those who do not have a book to follow.  God loves his creation, all of his creation; he does not make any distinction between one and the other.  He declared in Quran 49:13 that he has deliberately made us into different tribes, communities and nations, and that we are all from the same couple. He does not stop there, in another verse he says he sent a messenger to every tribe and each nation to bring peace and harmony to the respective groups.
Then he wraps it up by saying the best ones among you are those who take the time to know the other individuals and other groups. What happens when you sit down and talk? Conflicts fade and solutions emerge leading to peace, and name for that actions is Islam and that is what God wants- Peace and harmony on earth.  The best ones are those who care for the other.
Pope Francis is a genuine religious man; I believe he is one of the few individuals on earth who has understood God as a name to a system of harmony and balance.  His understanding on some of the key issues resonate more with Islam.  He believed in “Rabbul Aalameen”- Universal God, and embraced everyone into his fold including the Atheists, for the simple reason that they are not out to get you, to them is their belief and to me is my belief. Unlike the Atheists a few hundred years ago, the Atheists of today are responsible, and as accountable to their actions as any Muslim, Christian, Jew or a Hindu.
I hope you are still thinking.  I urge you to think and see Islam as an all embracing religion to accommodate God’s entire universe.  When we say Islam means peace, it is obligatory on us to make sure everything we say and do leads to peace and not conflict. Exclusion breeds conflict, inclusion builds bridges, and let’s build bridges and bring peace on earth.  Let’s not subscribe to divisions and go against what God wants; Unity.
A Muslim is someone who is constantly seeking to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for humanity to live in peace and harmony.  Indeed my talk as a Muslim Speaker on Prophet Muhammad highlights 15 of his actions that led to conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturance.  Creating a better world is our duty.
It is disappointing to the potential brides and grooms that their clergy or a parent invariably insists on the other person to convert to their faith tradition, and some do, and some fake it and some are not comfortable with the idea at all.
When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married any way but sorely miss out on the ceremony. Over the years, I have seen too many couples miss out on the joy of that additional sense of completeness that comes with a religious ceremony. Marriage is between two individuals, and their families and friends ought to be supporters and cheerleaders to celebrate and complete their joy.
God bless the Interfaith and Interracial Couples!
Despite their religious, racial or cultural differences, they are setting the new standards of civility by showing the world how to live in harmony. We have to cherish and honor the couples who embrace genuine humanity by accepting each other’s uniquenesses.
When people are showing extreme intolerance towards each other, the interfaith and interracial couples are showing the way to live in harmony and are contributing to the idea of one nation. They are indeed exemplary patriotic Americans.
You are who you are and I am who I am, and let’s acknowledge that and live in peace. As long as we don’t mess with each other’s space, sustenance and nurturance, and respect each other’s uniqueness, we all will do well.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
As a society, the least we can do is acknowledge them for their contributions towards the idea of one nation that is America.
God bless them!
Dr. Mike Ghouse is a pluralist, activist, newsmaker and an interfaith wedding officiant.  He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, terrorism, human rights, motivation, and foreign policy and is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him in 65 links at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ahmadiyya Muslims translate Quran into Yiddish

Moderator Mike Ghouse's Note:  

I  admire the Ahmadiyya Muslim community for the peaceful work they have been doing, where  ever they go. They bring a good name to Islam and Muslims.

However, no Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Hindu community is free from arrogance and hints that they are better, peaceful, scientific, old...  to claim superiority over the others does not make religious sense. The very first principle of religion, any religion is humility, where every one feels there is a greater power, and that we all have equal opportunity to excel.  Muslims are no exception - its a shame that one tribe claims to be better, legitimate or otherwise, as if God has secretly signed a deal with them - that is non-sense.  I was happy to read the work of Ahmadiyya Muslims in spreading positive thoughts about Islam every place they do their work and I salute them for the same.  

One of the things Ahmadiyya community needs to resist is telling others that "we are the Muslims who advocate peace" not like the other ones. We condemn terrorism, etc etc."  It is not a good statement, you got that wrong, All Muslims advocate peace,  fewer than 1% of Muslims don't; same formula applies to all religions.  It is not just Ahmadiyya, every group has such men, who denigrate the other as if it is going to make them superior.  

Please note the following sentence in the article is not kosher, "You don't hear about us because we don't throw rocks at buses," Odeh said. Its like Romney saying they don't ask my birth certificate because they know I am from here"  By the way, with the limited time I have in a given day, I do note thoughtless comments like the one above. As a persecuted minority, I understand, but still cannot justify such comments. 

As a Muslim I am continually embarrassed by the Muslim behavior in Pakistan and elsewhere, whose Islam is not based on being a good Muslim, but denying others their Muslimness. Muslim are so eager to deny Ahmadiyya their Muslimness, as if they own Islam and God has made them his deputies to render judgments.  What a shirk! Things have to change. 
Mike Ghouse

Group's Israeli leader says aim was to show different face of Islam.

Members of a Muslim sect that translated parts of the Koran into Yiddish are marking 25 years since that translation was published.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community leader Muhammad Sharif Odeh with the Yiddish text in Haifa
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community leader Muhammad Sharif Odeh with the Yiddish text in Haifa in August 2012. 'We had to make sure our neighbors could read the Koran too.' Photo by Haggai Frid
The president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Israel, Muhammad Sharif Odeh, said the group translated select parts of the Koran into Yiddish in order to present a different face of Islam. In addition, said Odeh, "We decided we had to make sure that our neighbors could also read the Koran."
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic community that believes the Messiah has come. Adherents believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, born in 1835, was the "metaphorical second coming of Jesus ... whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad," according to the website. "God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace," say believers.
There are some 2,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims in Israel; most of them reside in Haifa's Kababir neighborhood. The sect says it has tens of millions of followers in more than 200 countries.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community translated parts of the Koran into Yiddish in 1987. The sect chose Yiddish, one of 100 languages into which it has translated parts of the sacred book of Islam, so that "Yiddish speakers who wanted to know about us would be able to do so without language being an obstacle," Odeh explained.
The decision to translate the Koran into Yiddish was made by the community's religious leader at the time, the fourth Caliph, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, who was living then in Pakistan. The current Caliph, the fifth, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, resides in the United Kingdom.
Odeh said the particular selections that were translated show that Islam is "not the way it is presented in Afghanistan." He noted, for example, "Before the Koran, women did not have rights. The Koran gives women full protection on the spiritual level and gives her an independent status." Odeh has been head of the local Ahmadiyya community for 13 years.
Most Israelis know little about the sect, which is considered peaceful and non-proselytizing. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav has gone so far as to call them "Reform Arabs." The community's motto is "Love for all, hatred for none."
"You don't hear about us because we don't throw rocks at buses," Odeh said. "We believe that nothing can be achieved through hatred and hostility." He said he is very worried about the talk of a possible war with Iran, and that the Caliph recently appealed to all world leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to avoid a war. "Netanyahu didn't respond, Queen Elizabeth actually did," Odeh reported.
Odeh said the concept of secularism is foreign to the Ahmadiyya community. "Everyone prays, some come to the mosque and others pray at home." Believers express their faith in concrete ways as well. Wealthier members tithe at least 10 percent of their monthly income to the community; everyone else gives six percent. The sect does not accept government funds, on principle. One quarter of the money collected from local members is passed on to fund the sect's international activities.
Kababir is considered a mixed neighborhood, with a significant minority of Jews in addition to the Ahmadiyya majority, and city officials view it as a model of coexistence.
"Haifa is an example par excellence of living together," Odeh said, adding, "It's not coexistence, it's monoexistence, as it were. What is coexistence? In my view it's when everyone keeps their distinctiveness and does not seek to assimilate. Residents of the neighborhood don't feel different, it's a matter of education, that's the idea of Ahmadiyya." According to Odeh, there is a growing trend of West Bank Palestinians joining the Ahmadiyya community.
"Ideology is not fought with weapons," he said. "Even if you're under occupation Islam does not allow you to hurt others. Nothing can be solved with hatred."

Gov. Christie: Tonight, Speak up for American Muslims at the RNC

I hope Chris does speak, he has the courage to speak it like it is. It takes a few good men to highlight the goodness and forbid evil. I am a Republican and will stay as a Republican, but have decided to vote for Obama.
Mike Ghouse
Chris Christie: Defend American Muslims New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been an outspoken critic of Muslim haters in the US. Whether it was the lunatics who opposed the so-called Ground Zero mosque in lower Manhattan, the Quran burner, the anti-Sharia legislation "crazies", Congressman Peter King's 'radicalization' hearings, the NYPD's spying on millions of American Muslim citizens or his public support of Paterson's Imam Mohammad Qatanani - on all these fronts, Governor Christie has defied the public sentiments and even sidestepped his own party's rhetoric when he chastised bigoted statements and polices aimed at American Muslims. Now that he is set to deliver the keynote speech at this year's Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, we expect his continued leadership on this topic. To remove the stigma of Republican hate for everything Muslim, it will require a giant like Chris Christie. 
The question will be of timing rather than conviction. Can Christie speak truth to his political core? The GOP platform, approved recently, will include a plank supporting a ban on the use of foreign law (including Sharia, or Islamic law) in U.S. courtrooms. Christie is on record for having opposed such legal maneuverings to restrict the use of Islamic code under limited conditions and where the protagonists are consenting Muslims. 
Supporters have long argued that, and the planks sponsors readily admit, targets the religious beliefs of American Muslims. A cursory review of the anti Sharia plank reveals that it modeled on the more than 78 or so bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide based on draft legislation originally promoted byDavid Yerushalmi, an infamous Islamophobe with a history of making bigoted statements targeting women, African Americans, and people of the Jewish faith. It is worth noting that the passage of the anti Sharia plank in this year's Republican platform only confirms the growing anti Muslim rhetoric espoused by so many Republican politicians and other public officials. 
All the anti-Sharia bills introduced in state legislatures were sponsored by Republican legislators- without exception. Only 14% of Americans, however, believe that American Muslims ultimately want to establish Sharia or Islamic law as law of the land. Muslims resort to certain Sharia codes in limited commercial and matrimonial cases, so long as the decisions rendered do not supersede or conflict with the US Constitution. Extensive legal and academic coverage of this topic has begun in earnest.
The anti-Sharia plank was adopted without argument or debate during a meeting of the Republican Party's platform committee. The policy statement was introduced by Kansas Secretary of StateKris Kobach, an anti-immigration activist who also wrote Arizona's controversial SB 1070 "papers please" law. (Watch video here) The Kansas law Kobach spoke of at the platform committee meeting, which Muslim organizations have already challenged as unconstitutional and discriminatory, was derived from Yerushalmi's template. Kansas legislators acknowledged that the bill targeted Muslims. In March of 2012, we successfully dissuaded the NJ state legislature to withdraw a similar bill she introduced.
While RNC platforms rarely make into the official position of the elected president of the United States, the inclusion of such clearly anti Muslim language, especially with little or no objections, portends a serious divide between the rank and file republicans and their leaders on the one hand, and American Muslims on the other - many of whom are also Republican voters. Christie has the opportunity to reclaim the moral compass of not only the Republican Party, but also that of America.
Included in the State's delegation to the Convention is Sherine Al-Abd, An Egyptian Muslim delegate. She will be listening to her hero governor erase her doubts about the party's anti Muslim stance. I, the of America and indeed the Muslim world will be watching. As quoted in the Record, "They didn't pick me and think I was going to come here and be something different than what I've been." Amen!
Aref Assaf, president of American Arab Forum

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blasphemy Law has NO Qur'anic Basis

More articles on the topic at

Some Muslim countries have legislated punishment for blasphemy. This draws on the Classical Sharia (Law) of Islam that evolved in the medieval ages and was inevitably informed by the historical realities and entrenched customs and practices of the era. However, with a sea change in civilizational paradigms, many of its rulings suffer anachronism, stand in conflict with international human rights charters and conduce to injustice, anarchy and barbarism in today's politically volatile and globalized world. All such rulings need to be examined in light of the universal message of the Qur'an which is by far the highest and incontestable authority in Islam. 

This essay - an exercise in ijtihad (intellectual scrutiny with the limits set by God) investigates the case of blasphemy. It draws on a recently published focused exegetic work, the Essential Message of Islam [Amana Publications, USA- 2009] that is duly approved by al-Azhar al-Sharif and endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.

The Qur'anic pronouncement "not to insult those whom others (lit., 'they') invoke besides God" (6:108) is a clear reminder against profaning any deity, idol or symbols held sacred by other people. The Qur'an, however, does not prescribe any punishment for the offenders. It warns humanity that there will always be some people who will hurl seductive remarks at the Prophet (6:113) or be inimical to him (25:31) for fun or cupidity and asks the believers to simply ignore them. In other words, the Qur'an treats blasphemy as a moral vice and does not regard it as a punishable/ criminal offence.

The Meccan enemies of the Prophet called him impostor, a madman (30:58, 44:14, 68:51), and an insane poet (37:36). They ridiculed the Qur'anic revelation (18:56, 26:6, 37:14, 45:9), which they declared to be strange and unbelievable (38:5, 50:2), a jumble of dreams(21:5) and legends of the ancients (6:25, 23:83, 25:5, 27:68, 46:17, 68:15, 83:13). They accused the Prophet of forging lies and witchcraft (34:43, 38:4), forging lies against God, forgery and making up tales (11:13, 32:3, 38:7, 46:8), witchcraft (21:3, 43:30, 74:24), obvious witchcraft that was bewildering (10:2, 37:15, 46:7), and of being bewitched or possessed by a Jinn (17:47, 23:70, 34:8). By definition, all these accusations were blasphemous. Nowhere in its text does the Qur'an prescribe any punishment for those who uttered these blasphemies.

The advocates of blasphemy law may raise the following points:

1. The slanderer and maligner of the Prophet can upset peace and harmony like priests of Cordova (Spain, 851-859) [1].

2. Maligning any religion, religious leader, text etc. purports to demonize and dehumanize it and can fuel hatred, religious bigotry and animosity, and in the present day context, feed Islamophobia and Islamofacism.

The arguments appear convincing but there are more compelling grounds against prescribing any punishment for blasphemy.

The highly porous and subjective character of the 'offense' (blasphemy) can lead to a chaotic situation within the Muslim community and persecution of the minority community as is happening in Pakistan these days.

An uncouth citizen can use it to settle a score with a non-Muslim or even a Muslim neighbour or financially exploit him by a threat of blasphemy charge.

An Islamic State can use it for political repression of dissidents.

By strict application of blasphemy law in a broader sense, a Sunni Sharia Court can charge the entire Shia community of blasphemy for their invectives against the Prophet's close relatives - the first three Caliphs, who were either his father-in-law (Abu Bakr and Umar) or son-in-law (Uthman).

The theologians in the Islamic heartlands can issue an endless stream of fatwas for the heads of the countless Islam bashing scholars and writers, whose speech, writing and symbolism can sometimes be construed as blasphemous.

The very notion of killing a person for blasphemy contradicts the Qur'anic cardinal principle of justice that relates only to offences committed against fellow humans.

Conclusion: The relativism and porosity in the definition of 'blasphemy' can open a floodgate of blasphemy charges against unsuspecting individuals, members of the minority, Muslim sects and Islam.critcal scholars and writers. Since the Qur'an, conceivably cognizant of these caveats, does not  prescribe any punishment for blasphemy, the blasphemy law needs to be repealed. Blasphemy symbolizes and epitomises hatred that inevitably breeds hatred - regardless of any law against it. This can in turn feed radicalisation, foster terrorism, and trigger communal riots. Muslim jurists will do better by insisting on getting a firm Security Council Code of Conduct and may be limited punishment for blasphemy depending upon the gravity and potential impact of the offence and the attitude of the offender, rather than legislating a capital punishment or even, any punishment for blasphemy - which remains a porous act of misconduct and moral turpitude.

[1]. Between 851 and 859, some priests in Cordova, now southern Spain, used to utter in public places highly insulting and abusive remarks against the Prophet deliberately seeking capital punishment. They were an embarrassment to both the Christian community and the Emir and were executed by application of Sharia law as this was the only way to prevent them from a highly provocative behaviour in public.

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur'an since early 90's, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
August 24, 2012.


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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.