Are We Playing with Fire?

by Sharif Gindy, Ph.D.

While I was contemplating writing a thank you note to the president of the BOD for the opportunity to present a petition by concerned members of the organization and the dialogue that ensued, I received a copy of the e-news that was sent to the entire community. This was a response by Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah on September 4, 2012, to an e-mail sent to him by Dr. Ghaus Malik. The topic of the letter was the infamous question: Can a prayer area be re-commissioned for other social activities?

Another e-mail arrived shortly thereafter with another opinion about the same topic.

Please, Mr. President, forgive me for not finishing my thank you note as it looks like we have a few graver issues to discuss.

First of all, I know Dr. Shah very well. I’ve met him on different occasions and worked with him on a committee level in the late 1990s in SSANA (Shareia Scholars Association of North America). He always remembers me by face, not name.  Needless to say, I know Dr. Malik even more and hold a great deal of appreciation for the man’s charisma.

Now, since all those who are on the e-news mailing list have received Dr Zulfiqar’s letter, I will start with the other e-mail that I mentioned earlier, which may have not found its way to as many people.

It was a message from a member of IAGD who decided to make the effort to investigate the issue.  In this message, a “Fatwa” (edict) ensued from “Dar Ul-Iftaa, Jamia Dar Ul Ulum Karachi.” The “Fatwa” is issued by Sayed Husain Ahmad of Dar Ul Iftaa and approved by Hazrat Muhammad Taqi Usmani Sahib. The Fatwa has the sequence number 1469/83 and is issued on August 29, 2012.

Apart from the statement of the issue by the questioner and the Urdu opinion of Dar Ul Iftaa, the Fatwa included an elaborate number of quotes by renowned scholars from authentic books of Fiqh, mentioned by the appropriate volume number and page number:

  • Al-Durr Al-Mukhtar (V4, P358);
    “..and if the surroundings of the place (musala/masjid) are destroyed, and was not in use anymore, it remains a mosque till the Day of Judgment in the opinion of the Imam (the author), and with the same opinion 7awi Al-Qudsi agreed.”
  • Mughni Al Muhtaj ela Alfaz Almenhaj (V10, P173)
    ..and if the mosque is ruined and it became impossible to rebuild, it is absolutely prohibited to sell it.
    The Mufti goes on to explain:  If the mosque is ruined and it was hard to rebuild, or for any reason it was not possible to continue using it as a mosque (as when the area/city is deserted), it would be as a slave that has been freed, and the mosque no longer belongs to anyone, and is left as is for the possibility that it could still be used by some for prayer, and for the possibility that it may be re-inhabited once more one day. If the possibility of re-use becomes remote, or praying in it becomes dangerous, only then its revenues would be redirected to the closest mosques in the area.
  • E3anat Al-Talebeen (V3, P211)
    If the mosque is demolished, or deserted as a result of a disaster befalling the area, and it was difficult to re-commission it (as lack of funds to re-commission it), it cannot be sold, and it becomes a waqf and never return to the position of whoever owned it originally.

Based on these opinions, Mufti Sayed Husain Ahmad arrived at the opinion that once a mosque, always a mosque. It cannot be re-commissioned, demolished, sold or gifted as it becomes a waqf the moment it became a mosque.

Alrawyani said that if a mosque is ruined as a result of a disaster, flood, earthquake, etc., the ruler may decide to rebuild it with the same material coming out of it, in its original place.

Admittedly, I did not know that this question warrants that much qualification.

Certainly, we all know that a “Fatwa” always comes with qualifiers and stipulations and whys and why nots. Something, with all my respect for him, was lacking in Dr. Zulfiqar’s opinion.

In his opinion, Dr. Zulfiqar states, “It is absolutely permitted to build a new prayer hall and use the old one as a multipurpose hall for religiously permitted social and educational activities.” Yet, he falls short of defining what these “religiously permitted” activities are. Can we use it as a “Dawa” hall where we invite Christians and Jews, men and women, to learn about Islam? Should we apply the rules of women and prayer areas to those guests? I am not a scholar, but I certainly want to know what qualifies as “religiously permitted.” We already know that an Islamic school is accepted as an alternative, but does a charter school also qualify? Mufti Ahmad made sure that he makes all the qualifiers for his fatwa.

When the prophet was asked about “jihad” by three different people, he gave three different answers. He read the psychic background of each one and gave him the answer that subdues this background.

However, away from Fatwas, if we can satisfy all convictions, why are we going out of our way to stand up for an opinion that is not popular? Isn’t this the role of leadership?

I remember a story by Imam Hassan Al-Banna. He visited a village with two factions fighting together on whether Jumma prayer should have one azaan or two. As a result, they split into two groups, each having their own mosque. His “Fatwa” to them was do not make azaan at all. He educated them; the azaan is Sunnah, while the unity of the community is Fard. You cannot sacrifice a Fard for the sake of a Sunnah.

Aren’t we doing exactly that? We should learn from the leadership of this man! We have the land, we have plans that satisfy everyone, and they are even less expensive than what is sprouting this controversy. Please do not insult my intelligence and tell me “we are building for the future” or “building institutions,” for both of them need some leadership traits that apparently we are still to acquire.

Before I finish, let me just rattle some thoughts.

I was very pleased on Sunday when the President said in the meeting that we are governed by two bodies and that, “I worry about burning in hell” [for decisions made on the Board]. His message was when one is in hell, he is on his own…No governing body will intercede for him. Several of us sympathized with him being between a rock and a hard place. All the sentiments were starting to take an optimistic air, most started to feel that a brotherly atmosphere is regaining ground. It was a good start to a compromise.

The BOD moved to discuss the petition in next month’s meeting. Then, hardly a few hours later, the e-news sent this opinion from Dr. Zulfiqar. I cannot help but wonder whether the President knew about this letter when we met with him.  There is an Arabic proverb that says, “If you (the leader) knew, then it is a catastrophe; and if you didn’t, then the catastrophe is even greater.”

Some of these thoughts are the result of the traditional cynical psyche of an engineering mind. But it saved me a few times from making a fool of myself.

To me, it is not that this letter does not carry as much weight as that of Usmani; to me, it is that I really wanted to believe you. Remember when I used to tell you guys in Sunday school, “Let us play Ummah.” Can you imagine what Ummah we are playing now?

Finally, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being 100% haram and 10 being 100% halal; how do you rate your knowledge of this letter and…you fill in the spaces as my heart is really broken now.

I do not think that you forgot this litmus test of halal and haram; you told me you were using it when I visited your dorm on campus at UM Ann Arbor.

With all the hands extending to help, efforts continue to be drafted to cut them. May Allah help us all.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Saad on September 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    HADITH 6 of Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith
    On the authority of Al-Numan bin Basheer, who said : I heared the messenger of Allah say :

    “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

    narrated by Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

    Reply

    • Posted by Saad on September 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      This Hadith is taken from the 40 Hadith of one of the great Muslim Scholars of the past, Imam Nawawi Rah. Each Hadith in his book elucidates a fundamental and importance principle in our deen. This Hadith teaches us that we must avoid those things of which we are in doubt. This clearly applies to our predicament regarding the movement of the masjid.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on September 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    There is a lie in the document that was sent yesterday as a waiver from the FIQH Council of North America.Mr Ghouas Malik said that there is no other way that you can extend the building .What is the credibility of this waiver if the information provided is not correct.Masjid can be extended towards the church because the land on that side is Masjid’s property . Why did such a respected person deceived a religious body? It shows that he is so desperate to do that Plan E that he can even deceive a religious body to get the answer that he is looking for .

    Reply

  3. Posted by Sidra on September 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    I don’t know about the intention but yes the information was wrong .IAGD paid for plan H which shows that the masjid can be extended towards the east and it removes that constrain that no other option is available.
    If they really want to unite the community they should stop using their wish as a deciding factor and put forth the religion and ground realities .

    Reply

  4. Posted by Amer on September 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

    http://www.islamic-sharia.org/general/what-uses-can-the-old-mosque-property-have-or-what-can-it-be-converted-i-3.html . ISC represents a broad section of an established UK Muslim Community. You may also read about the Members on the Council.

    Reply

    • Posted by Abdullah on September 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

      Something that should be taken in consideration is the scholarly background of the givers of the Fatwa. I could not find this in the “about info.” Also, there wasn’t any reference to the source of the story of Umar RA. What did it mean that he relocated the masjid, did he just build a new masjid elsewhere? It also raises a question in my mind to the fact that in Muslim cities there are many small masajid on every block, so that everyone can come for the five daily salaah. Is that what it meant be relocation?

      Reply

  5. Posted by Anonymous on September 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

    JazakAllah for the link .The historical perspective clears that there was no place left for the expansion that’s why they relocated the masjid .Which doesn’t comply to the situation here . Here you have more than enough space to expand keeping the old area in place .And there is nothing that supports that you can change the existing area into a SOCIAL HALL .
    The usage of area as a social hall enrages everyone who knows a little bit about the protocol of a Masjid.Where you are not even aloud to talk about worldly matters.

    Reply

  6. Posted by dr. kazeem agboola on September 12, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Asalam! I do not know much about the issue at handl but I do have a question for anyone that can answer faithfully. What makes it difficult for the BOD to listen to people they are serving for Allah saw sake? Can’t we live this alone for the next BOD to take up. I do not care who is the scholar or wherever he comes from, the has made up their mind so let just put a stop to the project for now so it would not divide the community further.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

    If everybody looks at plan E that was sent to the community ,it shows that they are making a huge lobby on the east (towards the church). Instead of making that huge lobby they can extend the prayer hall in that direction and have a social hall next to it .It’ll not only save the prayer but makes it big too .
    And the traffic for social hall will not interrupt the masjid one.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 11:12 am

    that pretty much describes their plan H (that they didn’t approve)

    Reply

  9. Posted by Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Fact: Br. Sharif Gindy suggested and then requested the OPINION of the Fiqh Council of North America while being a member of the expansion committee. He may have forgotten this. This was confirmed by other members of the committee. Are you trying to teach us how to be hypocrites Br. Sharif? If you don’t like the answer, pick one that you like. Same goes for the concept of Shura. If the Shura votes to approve, and you disagree, is this the way to react? Now you believe you are performing Jihad? Halal vs. Haraam. Where does this fall into.? 100% Haram or close to 100% Halal. The final product might not have met your ideals. However, why punish the entire community in delaying this project any further? Because you have not gotten your wishes.? Who gave you the authority to speak on behalf of me?

    Reply

    • Br please ,try not to be personal. Here people are talking about decisions not persons. As you mentioned about br Gindy that he accepted FIQH Council’s decision earlier but we don’t know what were the realities or arguments that were presented. Here people are making up their minds by looking up at the peice of evidence provided by the members of Shura. The email ,that was shared shows the DIHONESTY of SHURA members .The question was asked in such a way that make them get the answer according to their wish.If they would have provided the respected FIQH COUNCIL ,the true scenario they would never have got the given answer.
      I think you can understand now!

      Reply

    • Bizzare list of rants there… An anonymous person saying someone else doesn’t have the right to speak for him/her? Really? Someone who doesn’t have the guts to sign their own name is upset they’re being ignored? This fool has the guts to calls omeone else a hypocrite? HAHAHAHA! That’s got to be a joke!!! Too funny to be serious.

      Reply

    • In discussions of Islamic issues it is common to have heated debate and disagreement, that is how we test out arguments and hone our points of view. However, those involved in such debate stick to the topic and refrain from personal attacks. Since this person chose to attack, I have the right to respond.

      Fact: I did suggest we get a fatwa before re-purposing the sanctuary area into a social hall, but that idea was turned down by the Chairman of the Trustees basically saying that if we get a fatwa, someone else will get a fatwa from somewhere else with a different opinion and there will be no end to it. The fear of having dueling fatwas was used as an excuse to acquire no fatwa whatsoever. Yet, on another occasion the very same individual commented that IAGD didn’t need to get that fatwa because the administrators are selected by the community, they do not need a fatwa, they need to make decisions. (Actually, it is only the Board of Directors who are elected by the community – committee members and trustees are selected by the Board of Directors.)

      Fact: The author of these remarks is hiding behind anonymity, yet s/he claims to have knowledge from inside the committee but then claims to have confirmed it with ‘other committee members’. This certainly narrows down the potential authors of these remarks who hides behind ‘anonymous’ to make a cheap attempt at character assassination.

      Since I did not request or receive a fatwa from any source at the time of these remarks and all that the Board of Directors/Trustees have requested at this point is an ‘opinion’ from one individual from the Fiqh Council, what exactly am I picking and choosing from? The only fatwa that has discussed this specific issue was requested by a community member, working on his own, doing the work the expansion committee, Board of Directors and Trustees should have accomplished over 3 years ago.

      Fact: I did not refute Dr. Shah’s opinion. My article was discussing a fatwa. A fatwa out ranks an opinion. Neither the fatwa nor the opinion is even necessary if we use a plan that does not re-purpose the sanctuary.

      What’s this about Jihad? Is the author trying to throw every Islamic term he knows in one paragraph? Halal and haram have little to do with this topic but they do in regard to making slanderous remarks and calling someone a hypocrite. Shura? IAGD does not function with shoura – if it did, the community would not need to petition, it would have been involved from the beginning. Only 17 people voted on this; 7 in committee (which was a 4/3 vote and my vote was one of the dissenting votes), 9 in the Board of Directors (where there were caveats about the plan that seem to be overlooked and now some board members are considering a re-vote to take the community concerns into consideration) and 5 in the Board of Trustees (whose minutes are sealed to the community, so none of us know what really goes on there). That means only 17 of the approximately 800 members voted for this plan. The petition is signed by more than 23 times that number! Where is the shoura there?

      This flawed decision making process is what some of us are trying to fix before we have another lobby and basement used as a dumpster, or another poorly-planned traffic flow that backs up traffic onto the street and costs the community each week to hire sheriffs to direct traffic, or before we have a beautiful-but-useless Taj Mahal that will financially burden the community to build and continually burden us to maintain.

      The community will be punished if the administration goes ahead foolishly. There is not enough money or community support for this huge project. There is no proof of the need for the expansion – the committee was not allowed to do demographic research. Inside the committee some of the administrators commented that they plan to dig and start construction even without money on hand and if the community does not give the money, then the community will have to look at the empty hole in the ground until they pay up. Go and verify those remarks from other members of the committee! Then come and talk to me about who is punishing the community by delaying this project. If delaying the project gets a dialog going that brings about a plan that fulfills the fatwa requirements (now that we have one) and provides for the community needs for less money and in less time, then the community will not have to suffer at all.

      I am not speaking on your behalf, I am just one voice in this shoura that represented the petitioners, and the shoura selected Br. Fasahat to be the spokesman at the Board meeting.

      Sharif Gindy

      Reply

  10. Posted by Anjum Sohail on September 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Assalam-o-Alaikum,
    I would like to suggest to the the people who submit their comments / reply that should not get personal. They should remember that being a Muslim they are suppose to have a exemplary moral character that prohibit calling names.
    When community people talk about the BOD / BOT they refer to their decisions and their comments are not directed to any particular person.
    May Allah (SWT) give us Hadayat and guide us to the right path. Ameen!!

    Reply

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