The Mosques role in the 21st Century
Channel: Sherman Jackson
File Size: 45.47MB
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I want to start off by
really just saying, Thank you for
this wonderful gesture of hospitality. And welcome to the Islamic short Council of Southern California. As was mentioned, I'm new to the area. And I've gotten to know I've known a number of the leaders here for many years, going back many years. But I am new as a resident in the area. And it means a lot to me to have this opportunity to come out and to see the community and to enjoy the fraternity and sorority of the community. And to witness what is afoot here in Southern California in terms of a cooperative efforts, both within the Muslim community and between the Muslim community and the non Muslim community, in order to try to carve out a dignified existence for Muslims in this
country in such a way that is actually true to the very calling of the country itself. Now, I've been told that I have 20 minutes to speak to you. I'm an academic.
Which means that that is a particularly difficult challenge. But as I said, I'm new in the area. And I don't want to wear out my welcome. So I'm going to try and stay within those those 20 minutes. And I've been asked to talk about the issue of the role of mosques in America, particularly in 21st century
America. And I want to, I want to start off by reiterating something that has been said a number of times by previous speakers, and that is that
we have some difficult days ahead of us.
And in thinking about the difficulty that confronts us, I'm reminded of a very deeply personal
encounter that I had
many years ago, I won't say how many years ago because I don't give away my age.
I actually have hair I cut it off.
Most of it
was a joke.
I grew up
not the suburbs, the real Philadelphia.
And back in those days, Philadelphia was a city that was divided much like certain parts of southern California. It was divided by gang territories.
And I remember
one evening, there was a guy from a rival gang
who actually came down into our territory.
And he had joined the Nation of Islam. I was personally never a member of the Nation of Islam. But at that time, he was a member of the Nation of Islam.
And he was, as I said, from the rival game, you gotta imagine this. And he came all the way down to our territory, by himself,
to give us Dawa,
to introduce us to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, in an effort to get us to join
and we were looking at this guy, are you out of your mind?
We were, we were getting ready.
And I still remember the words he said, Because he instinctively picked up on where our intentions were
He said these words that still reverberate in my memory to this day, he said,
Islam has no room for cowards.
It has no use for cowards. I'm here, willing to put my life on the line, because that is what my belief calls me to do. Now, I say that, to say the following,
that although we have some difficult days ahead of us,
we must understand that we have to confront those days with courage,
and to be courageous, and we need to understand this, to be courageous is not not to be afraid,
being afraid, does not make you a coward.
To be a coward, however, is to allow yourself to be paralyzed by your fear, in point of fact, to be a courageous person, is to be able to act, even in the face of fear.
So I think we need to be reminded that while we may have some difficult days ahead of us, we will have to call upon our religious conviction and our relationship with our Lord, to give us the courage to face those difficulties, and to do so with dignity,
to face the challenges that we're going to face in a manner that will be pleasing to our Lord, and to understand that the greatest victory that we can achieve.
The greatest victory that we can achieve, is to earn the pleasure of our Lord, no matter what that may look like, in worldly terms, because of Allah is pleased with us individually. And as a community, there is no limit to what we can achieve. And we need to keep that in mind as we go forward. Now, I'm an asked to talk, as I said, about the whole issue of the role of mosques in American life.
And I want to begin by acknowledging that
one of the reasons that this topic is so important is that the mosque
is a central institution, of any Muslim community.
as a central institution, if not the central institution,
the mass goes to the very heart of our communal life and existence.
And therefore, as goes, the mask,
goes the community. If we have healthy masks, we have a healthy community. And if we have unhealthy masks,
then that will be a reflection, not only reflection of an unhealthy community, but that will actually contribute to the dysfunctionality of our community. So we need healthy masks.
And I think that
we one of the problems that sometimes confronts us when we think about this, is the fact that while the mosque is
a central institution, for a Muslim community, in fact, as I said, we might even say it is the central institution.
The mosque is not the only institution.
And I think that sometimes, by focusing singularly on the mosque, we run the risk of doing at least two things. One is that we can overburden the mosque,
we can place upon our massage it
burdens, that it was not meant to bear, nor can it bear. And in so doing, we run the risk of undermining the effectiveness of the mosque.
And so one of the things that we have to begin to think about is exactly as the title indicated, zero of the mosque, is the mosque, the only institution that we have, or do we as a community, especially in this time, and in this place? Do we need to begin to think about alternative institutions, supporting institutions, non institutions that replaced the mosque?
Not institutions that marginalize the mosque, but institutions that support the community in ways that masjids may not be able to do.
We need to begin to think about third spaces. Because if we don't think about those third spaces, as I said, we will overburden our masajid. And I'll get to this in little detail in just a minute.
The other risks that we run, when we focus singularly on the masjid
we can leave too many of our people,
too many of our activities, too much of our time
to other kinds of institutions
that pull or push Muslims, not towards their values as Muslims, but actually away from their values as Muslims.
Because we have Muslims of all different levels of development as Muslims, not all Muslims. Believe me when I tell you, Oh, Abu Bakr, and Omar's, Muslims are at various levels of their development as Muslims, Muslims have the same kinds of challenges and problems that other human beings have in society. And one of the things that we must always be reminded of as Muslims is that before we are a Muslim, we are a human being.
Before we are Muslims, we are human beings. And that means that we are confronted with all of the various challenges that a human existence has to offer. And that's both as individuals and as collectivities.
Sometimes, if we're not careful,
we can have misogyny
that have standards of expectation,
there are simply too high to accommodate all of the Muslims.
We are Muslims. By the way, relax,
relax, we have nothing to fear.
Part of being courageous as a community is acquiring the ability not simply to look at what others are doing to us. But to take account of what we are doing to ourselves. We have to do that.
Because that's where our future is, we will only be strengthened from within, we may be challenged from without, but ultimately we will only be strengthened from within. And so this is not bad news. In fact, this is very good news. Because it is suggestive of the fact that we as a Muslim community, have actually arrived at the point where we can take account of our own reality. We don't hide from our reality. It's like an imam Shafi said
that if Allah had revealed nothing, except Surah, Colosse,
that would have been enough to guide humanity.
Because Surah OS is a Surah that says what? That humanity, all of humanity is in loss, except for whom those who believe, who have trust, who are made secure through their relationship with God Almighty.
And then they work righteous deeds, and then they do what they confront one another with the truth. And they confront one another, and mutually enjoying one another to be patient. Because sometimes the truth, it's not all that easy to accept. If we want the truth, sometimes we have to be
patient, we have to be willing and able to persevere to the point that we can actually take advantage of whatever truth is confronting us. So this is actually good news. Because finally we're not talking around the problem beside the problem on top of the problem underneath the problem with dealing with some of our problems as they actually are.
We have Muslims who have
Maybe, can I be frank?
No, no, I mean, I'm new here. I don't want to wear out my welcome.
Can I cannot be frank.
Because now is your father's. You can't say that he came in here and he was
We have Muslims who have marital problems.
And sometimes what is tragic about this is that the problems are not really that deep.
They're not really even that serious.
And important fact, all they need is someone to talk to.
But if we have spaces with a standard of expectation is so high
that the, the unspoken message is that if you're a good Muslim, husband and wife have those problems
as a result of which, where they're gonna go with this,
where's it gonna go with it?
It is amazing sometimes. You know, I have talked to some young couples, it is amazing how simple the solution to what they think the problem is. And sometimes all it takes is a little bit of empathy. People feel alone, they think they're the only ones I can finding this.
And when I share with them, Mallesh honey,
go through this, you're
I'm a human being just like you.
Who happens to be a master who is struggling to live a life that is reflective of what Imam Carson was talking about my appreciation for the bounty that Allah has given me. But that doesn't negate my humanity. I have insecurities.
I have flaws. And sometimes, unfortunately, they come up. And just for a Muslim to be able to hear this
gives them the strength.
Give them the sense of well being that enables them to go back and sustain their relationship. We are Muslims who have maybe drug or alcohol problems. I know we don't want to talk about those kinds of things. But this is precisely the problem.
And what I'm saying here is this.
Sometimes people need counseling.
Sometimes people need professional help.
If the masjid is the only institution that we have, where do they go for that kind of help?
Sometimes the masjid is not the place for that.
And what we need to begin to think about as a community, because I'm thinking not about the past. I'm thinking about the future. And I'm thinking not even just about the people in this room. Because from my perspective, Islam has not finished growing in this country, and the people in this room, they will not necessarily be the majority of the future of Islam in this country.
So we have to begin to think about developing institutions that will enable us to accommodate these realities.
Right now, one of the greatest challenges that we have as a Muslim community in this country, is that we don't have those third spaces, we have the home.
And we have the masjid
and the space in between and is experienced as a danger zone.
That is where the Muslims faith is challenged.
And why is it challenged? Because that is a space in which we have not yet developed the ability to take our values into that space. And to have that space reflect something of our genius of our sensibilities of our vision of the good life. As a result of which,
at home, we do what we do. We come outside, we race to the masjid. We do what we do, we come back outside and what do we do? Race back home. There is no future in that that's not sustainable.
That is not sustainable. And this is one of the reasons why we need to understand the importance of developing institutions that will support the masjid not replace the masjid, but support the Masjid.
What do we do about recreation?
You think about our young people. What do we do about education?
You know, one of the things that concerns me and I'm an educator so I see many of your children um
In a setting that many of you don't see them in,
I'm at the university, and I've taught at several universities in America. And one of the things that we have to understand is that our children
are going to educational institutions, where they are internalizing, they are being saturated by scientism, by secularism, by certain forms of liberalism. All right, and then all of these things, then then being called upon then to try and reconcile with this lab.
And what we need to understand is that
if we are to offer credible alternatives to this kind of hardwiring, in the context of which it is very difficult to see the relevance of religion.
Because if reality is nothing but the material world, and there is nothing beyond that, which is precisely what many of our most of our children are being taught in grammar, school, and college, this is what they're taught. We need institutions, educational institutions, think tanks that can begin to address precisely these kinds of issues. So that our children can be imbued with the kind of hardware that enables them, not only to see the relevance of their religion, but the beauty, the profundity, and the absolute necessity of that religion. Where are we going to do this? All the time in the mosque. Sometimes some of these issues are too contentious even,
to discuss. When I come to the masjid personally, I don't want all these
flying all over the place, people end up in all kinds of grudges, this faction, that faction on an intellectual issue that may not be central to Islam, but in which people take very hard stance, that can have the effect of sort of polluting the atmosphere of the masjid itself. It makes the masjid feel like it belongs to some people and not to others.
So what we need to do is, think about perhaps alternative spaces we have right now, a presidential election coming up.
And of course, we all know, Islam is going to be brought front and center again.
And we're going to have to have some serious discussions about some of these issues. Republican, Democrat, are we gonna have to discuss these?
Are we gonna have to discuss these? Yes or No? Hmm. What if you're Republican and I'm a Democrat?
And what if I'm in a position of influence in that masjid? And you are not?
And what if we bring that discussion into the Masjid?
How is that going to affect the functionality of the message?
Is there any standard what I'm trying to say here?
We are not a community that has only one institution. Islam is a civilization.
And we must understand that our aim here in America is not to simply survive according to someone else's definition of a meaningful life. Our aim here is to promote our own understanding of a meaningful life.
And we have both the opportunity and the resources and only question is whether we have the vision and the will to do that.
And I want to share something with you that I think many of you don't know.
Which leaves you in a position of thinking. I mean, this guy standing up there must be You must be crazy, doesn't he now. We're 1.1% of the population here. We are a little embattled minority.
What is he talking about? defining our own
definition of the meaningful life
We will be lucky if we learn to master the meaningful life as it is defined by the dominant culture.
All right, and sort of tap into that, gain acceptance on that basis and go on about our lives, we'd be lucky if we're able to achieve that.
Let me share something with you here.
And I shouldn't have to share this. But part of the problem is that, again, our educational institutions, they are so powerful and their hegemonic influence, that sometimes Muslims can even imbibe misunderstandings about Islam, from the dominant culture.
Many of us don't
understand that when Islam left the Arabian Peninsula, and went out into the world beyond that,
Islam did not force people to convert.
And by the way, this is not my opinion, as a Muslim. This is even the general consensus, all right, of Orientalist in the academy, who studied Islam for a living now Muslims
is a very interesting and important book in this regard.
And titled, conversion to Islam in the Classical Period,
written by a professor at Columbia University Professor Richard bullet,
one of the things that he makes clear in this study is that in places like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa,
majority Muslim simple majority 51%
for about 250 years, between 250 and 300 years. All right, that is to say that Muslims in those places were what?
They were a numerical minority.
Muslims did not come become an overwhelming majority in these places for almost 400 years.
But instead what I mean by that
now, when we go back
the emergence, for example of the Imams of the Muslim schools of thought, guess what? They all emerged at a time when Muslims were a numerical minority
as I understand what I'm trying to say,
Imam Malik died 179
Hmm. Imam Abu Hanifa
Rahim Hola. He died.
What do you think the population of Iraq was when he died? Not when he was working when he was
when he died
in MHFA, died two Oh for
the last of the movie Muhammad died in 241. Jaffa Saddam
imam of the Imam Sheikh
he died before Imam Malik Imam Malik relates Hadith from Jaffa Sadhak in malapa. So my point here is this.
We are a minority it is true.
But we have intellectual, spiritual,
human resources that if we marshal them, we will be able to,
to put into place
a definition of the meaningful life that we can live. And we can pass on to our children in these United States in this time and in this place. But we have to have courage.
And we have to be willing to go to work.
We have to be willing.
We have to be willing to go to work.
And if you go back to that early period, where our ancestors were laying down on the farm
nations of institutions that we still adopt to this day, one of the things that you will find is that they were not playing games.
They were not playing games.
They were serious. And they got to work. And they pooled their resources.
And they understood the importance of pooling their resources.
One other reason that we need to begin to think about
institutions beyond the masjid
we need to think about the fact that
if I pray all five slots in the masjid
and let's say each slot given what how long take
30 minutes. I didn't say Tara we said
15 minutes is that is that reasonable?
I'm the I want to be generous, 15 minutes, right. So that's what an hour and 15 minutes a day
if I pray in the masjid five times a day, every day, an hour and 15 minutes in the masjid every day, you compare that with the amount of time I'm spending at work.
I'm spending in recreation at the gym, maybe some of you
in front of that television and on that telephone,
you compare the amount of time that I spend doing that
with an hour and 15 minutes,
what is likely to have the greater effect.
So part of what we have to do is develop institutions that will enable us to infuse our values outside the masjid
to develop those spaces, all right, which enable us to take our values with us wherever we go, and to produce a livable order
in which our children can internalize not only values, but sensibilities not only sensibilities, but a sense of inspiration, where they can see us in contexts in which they can be genuine inspired by us.
So part of what I want to invite us to tonight is that as we think of the role of the masjid
let us understand the magic to be the central institution of our community, but not the only institution of our community. And let us begin to think about how we can develop institutions
that enable us to accommodate the reality as it really is.
Some of our young people
they were not that long ago when I was one of those young people
another job what's wrong with these people
some of our young people
you know what they need
all they need is a place to hang out
all they need is a place to hang out
and kick it down I know I knew that word Did you
not as Mr. And Mrs Muslim the mindset what I mean by that Hmm
Just as use of
the hammer Muhammad
in a space where he can get to know me and I can get to know him and we can develop a bond of love or you don't have to pretend to be something that we're not
well we can grow organically as Muslims you know it's important for young people to have Muslims not only that they love because their muscles but that they like
they like hanging out with
and it's not all about this
and this is why we need alternative spaces and by the way, this is not some I'm Leakey convert stuff here.
This is the companions of the Prophet alayhi salatu salam. Imam Bukhari relates this. He says what? The companions of the Prophet, they used to sit, eat watermelon and filled appeals at each other after they got finished.
Well, I can either carry them
home or return.
But when it was time to go to work,
then went to work, there were men.
My father, when I'm saying, See, brought me to love you, you understand what I mean by that? Not this concept. Oh, brother, I love you. But
I'm very serious about this. I'm very serious about this. I'm very serious about this. All right. And that not necessarily, you're not necessarily even the best Muslim.
Because you see, I'm not just reading who you are. I'm reading who you want to be.
By saying what I mean by that.
You might not be the best Muslim.
But I know what
you want to be. By far what I mean by that.
And if we can establish spaces
where you can be yourself
long enough for you to own this desire to be a better Muslim.
Without all this pressure,
without all this, and by the way, I'm gonna say the word judgment, but I don't really mean judgment. Because that, you know, I had my time is up in let me stop.
I just want three more minutes gonna, cannot steal. All right. Because Because see, for me, this is real.
This is real. I'm a convert. All right. And what that means is that I saw the nectar of Islam.
You understand what I mean by that?
I tasted it.
And as an educator, I see so many of our young people didn't have taste in it anymore.
And one of the reasons for that they have spaces that are so unreal.
I remember once I was in the masjid in Philadelphia, you know, when you become a new Muslim, you got to get your gear. You know what your gear is?
You don't know what your gear is?
You gotta get your gear, right. So I went to the brother. And
I said, Can you get me some cookies? Cuz?
Right. So let's say yeah.
Come back there after tomorrow. And I'll see what I can do. So I showed back up right on time and
right, he said, Oh, I'm sorry, brother. I forgot. Listen, listen, come back Friday, after Juma and I'll have them for you. That says, If I'm selling Muslim by Friday,
that's what he said.
Now, he was joking, of course,
if I what I mean by that, but the very idea that he could openly even entertain this, if all I'm saying and empowered me to be real,
the do what?
To be real.
So I found what I'm talking about here. And what we have now, and I'm going to tell you this
because I feel a sense of responsibility to tell you this.
Because this is something that I want to make a dent in.
I know too many good young people who are scared to death of their own religion
and the spaces that sometimes we create for them to exist and to grow in.
And this means that we have to begin to think about how we can meet them, not where they should be, but what where they are.
And this brings me Not really but since I don't have a lot of time, this brings me to the whole point of the masjid itself.
We have to as a community
begin to work
to ensure that at the center of F
there is a centripetal force.
That's a big word from an academic. Let me try and break it down. Very simple. You know, when you take a bath, or you wash the dishes or something like that, and you you let the water out,
water starts going out. You notice what happens, what happens?
Yes, it's in tropical forests, centripetal force, it all spins and draws it all in. It's by far what I mean by that, that force at the minute, it draws everything, what draws everything in.
We have to work to get us in triple force at the center of our message.
And we have to work very hard,
very hard to eliminate any centrifugal force from armas engine.
centrifugal forces, what?
That's when the stuff hits the fan.
The by fall, what I mean by that is what
it repels it all out. Okay?
If we recognize that we are living in difficult times,
then these are times when we have got to reconnect
with a prophetic legacy
and our forgiveness.
And we have to understand that if I'm a strong Muslim, not everybody has been gifted with what I've been gifted.
And if I'm going to bring that person from A to B, sometimes, I said what?
Sometimes because this is part of the problem, there is no Ipsy Dixit answer the by far what I mean by that
some people, they require more forgiveness, more indulgence.
And that will bring them to the point where they want to try harder.
Other people, they require a higher standard. You gotta tell them how disappointed in them you are. And that is what will what that is what will bring them to try hard. All right, we have to, and we see this, and the sooner Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam,
we see this.
And this is part of why his Masjid had what
centripetal force at the heart of it, no matter what your problem was, you get what
you come then no matter what you were confronting, you could want
come in. And by coming there, you will cumulatively become what
a better Muslim,
a more empowered Muslim.
And this brings me to the very last point that I want to make 30 seconds. Now this is very important.
This is a real challenge that we have.
Because one of the things our managers have to do a little more of, and by the way,
my hat, my goofy, my turban, whatever it is that I'm supposed to be wearing on my head, it goes out, it goes off to our Imams.
No matter what you may think of some of the Imams, you have no idea
of what some of them have to deal with.
You have no idea of the burdens that some of our Imams have to carry. You have no idea of the heartache, and the last night's of sleep, and the pressure on their families that some of our Imams have to endure. So this is not a criticism of any of the Imams. And I want to say here right now, I'm a soldier. I'm not somebody who's trying to take over anything.
And if I can't be a healer, and somebody who's adding unity to the community, I better stay home and play with my daughter.
But we have got to
do a better job
at empowering our women.
Hold on, listen to me. Listen to me.
Some people when they hear this,
they think that empowerment
I don't mean license
what Allah says in the Quran
My Kennedy movement in one minute and is occurred Allahu wa rasuluh who
I am Ron, and you're gonna know what
Al Qaeda to mean me him
that no believing man or what?
when Allah and His Messenger decree a decision,
right, they do not have the right to choose Other than that decree. Hmm. But notice, he said, what
they don't have the right to what
Our women have agency. And we have to empower them to make the right choices.
And they have to feel a sense of empowerment, to make those right choices.
And they have to be empowered through a stronger, more intimate connection with their Lord, so that we are not the issue. The Bible says what I mean by that we are not the issue. Good and evil are the issues, and they are empowered, as believing women to make choices that reflect their will to live a god pleasing life as well. You can have people I don't care who they are men or women, if they are.
What challenges do we expect them to rise up against?
How do we expect them to face the future that we're looking in the face?
This is what I mean by empowerment.
And we all have a choice.
And we all have a role. And we all have our place.
And we need to be mutually supportive of one another.
If you have a problem, if you have some indiscretion,
you need to be able to come to me
to support you and trying to overcome your problem. And I need to know that you will not take my support of you. He as an indication that I agree with what you're doing. The by far what I mean by that.
Let me be explicit here. So nobody misunderstands. If you have a drinking problem, and you come to me,
I'm not gonna pound you in your head. By far what I mean by that,
I'm going to try to empower you, inspire you, support you,
to make you more likely than not to overcome your problem.
But you on the other hand, you cannot take the fact that I'm trying to be a good Muslim brother,
to me that I agree with what you're doing, I do not.
And if both of us both sides can live up to this challenge to this obligation, this responsibility, then we can be a community that begins to put that centripetal force back at the center of our misogyny because no one will have any reason not to expect to be honored, to be empowered, to be enhanced to be inspired by that space. I apologize for going over my time. I had much more to say. But since I still want to be welcomed in California, and I don't want to have to move anyplace else. Especially not back to where there's lots of snow. I'm going to stop right here and say she's not from Allah
subhana Oklahoma, we have a shadow Hola. Hola, hola. And just a critical word to be like