American Born Imams
Searching for Spiritual Leadership
Contributors: Mike Ghouse, Linda “iLham” Barto,
Initiated by : Mr. Shamim Siddiqi
The questions were critical and the responses will be carried out at WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com and selected excerpts will be added on to the responses below. To become a member, please send an email to : WorldMuslimCongressfirstname.lastname@example.org
What opinion our Muslim scholars have about this growing need of Muslims in America?
Should it be side-tracked, ignored or attended seriously?
Can Islam be interpreted in terms of American social and cultural needs?
How they will interpret the story narrated by the story below?
Should this trend be left to the vagaries of Indigenous Imams or an enlightened response must come from Muslim Scholars?
1. What opinion our Muslim scholars have about this growing need of Muslims in America?
Mike :: Most of the 'immigrant' imams cannot relate with the youth born and raised in America, Canada or any other place. They come from different cultures, we can relate with them if we are also immigrants. Recently In a wedding ceremony, one of the Imams was saying to the bride that she has to obey her husband...and... which is fine, but the way he said, sounded like a slave trade and one way transaction. My niece and her friends were horrified with some of that dialogue. There was a Muslim boy who wanted to marry a Christian girl, the Imam gave him very little room; convert her or forget it, the kids went out and got married instead. There is a thing called no compulsion in the matters of faith, and as Muslims, we really need to understand that in its entirety. Some of the Imams lose respect from the youth, their reading of Islam is one thing and the essence of Islam is other. We need to develop homegrown Imams, to reflect our modified culture. Each member of the family drives a car, where as most people outside the US don't, men and women wear different clothing in public and work environs, and we are eating modified food as well. We need to discern our culture from our faith.
Linda “iLham” Barto: “I agree that American imams need to have an awareness of and appreciation for the American way of life as far as its good qualities go, but we must always remember that of foremost importance is that imams have an awareness of and appreciation for the Straight Way of life. Knowing a language and being able to write and speak sensibly in that language, understanding and accommodating cultural traditions without voicing critical negativity, and ministering and witnessing to the diversity of people without harsh value judgments are all factors of being on the Straight Way. Stubbornness and hardheadedness are not, and some imams are just too arrogant to try to be more effective as imams in America.”
Linda “iLham” Barto:
“Patience, understanding, and accommodation cannot be neglected. Muslims can
never help heal the world when we cannot even heal ourselves from the problems
of Islam’s dark ages. Many Muslims live in denial of these dark ages and place
the blame on outside influences. Talking is a first step, but we can evaluate
till doomsday and never get anywhere until we are all committed to proper
Linda “iLham” Barto: “As I have often pointed out, we need small, community mosques. I call them mosquettes –satellite centers sponsored and supported by large mosques until the mosquettes can become independent. A mosquette would reflect the culture, traditions, and lifestyles (within reason) of the given community. Whether a person is a city slicker or a redneck, he or she should feel comfortable visiting his or her neighborhood mosquette.
If a person comes improperly dressed or ignorant of Islamic tradition, he or she should be accommodated rather than shunned. Visitors unacquainted with Islamic traditions should be provided a printed program that explains the service. The program should be in English with transliterated Arabic so that the visitor can follow along. Each mosquette should have annual open-house days with specially designed programs that enlighten visitors about Muslims and our religious heritage, beliefs, and traditions. Gradually, with social interaction and grace, the mosquettes would become as familiar as the churches. As long as the mosques and Islamic centers seem foreign to the average American however, the Islamic movement will travel at a slow speed and attract only the few who, like me, were a little weird to begin with.”
It is our country and our nation and we have to do everything in our ability to contribute to make America (or your nation ) a successful nation measured in terms of peace, sense of security, liberty and justice for all. It will happen with our volunteerism and what we would do to make other people's lives (without discrimination -us or them) better. When we serve God’s creation without bias, Insha Allah, we would have earned his mercy and grace as Qur’aan puts it in 49:13 "......The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct.” Allah Knows and is Aware."
Linda “iLham” Barto:
“I appreciated the article ‘A Growing Demand for the Rare American Imam’ (which
is retained at the end of these discussions). When I, in an article, wrote about
Islamic virtues that can be found in Valentine’s Day (as in the article below),
I was verbally beheaded, but things do change in Allah’s good time. We have an
excellent example of an American imam in Warith Deen Muhammed except that he,
either intentionally or inadvertently, is too linked to Black Nationalism.
Perhaps we need a white Warith Deen Muhammed or a Muslim Billy Graham. Race
shouldn’t matter, but the sad fact is that it does. I suggest that a group of
white and purple imams study under W. D. Muhammed and get his success story so
they can apply factors of it in trying to achieve their own successes, which in
turn would become the success of us all.”
We have several great speakers on different subjects, let's harness their knowledge to impart to our community. Let the Masjids deliver knowledge that is beneficial to living in harmony with life and matter that surrounds us.
Linda “iLham” Barto:
“Listen to the people –the hillbillies and the nerds, the debutants and the
teenie-boppers, the farmers and the city slickers. With information and research
material at the fingertips of anyone who has access to the electronic age,
people are able to be more informed, enlightened, and stimulated than ever
before. We don’t have to have doctors’ degrees to have something valuable to
say. Was Abraham a scholar? Did Jesus ever get a research grant? Did Muhammed
ever write a thesis? (Peace and blessings upon them!) Glory to Allah, even a
hillbilly like me can say something intelligent once in a while.”
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 6/1/07
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