LA Times: Imam teaches Islam with a distinct U.S. style


By Raja Abdulrahim | Los Angeles Times
May 27, 2011

At the pulpit of an inner-city Chicago mosque, the tall blond imam begins preaching in his customary fashion, touching on the Los Angeles Lakers victory the night before, his own gang involvement as a teenager, a TV soap opera and then the Day of Judgment.

“Yesterday we watched the best of seven…. Unfortunately we forget the big final; it’s like that show ‘One Life to Live,’ ” Imam Suhaib Webb says as sleepy boys and young men come to attention in the back rows. “There’s no overtime, bro.”

The sermon is typical of Webb, a charismatic Oklahoma-born convert to Islam with a growing following among American Muslims, especially the young. He sprinkles his public addresses with as many pop culture references as Koranic verses and sayings from the prophet. He says it helps him connect with his mainly U.S.-born flock.

“Are we going to reach them with an Arab message or with a Pakistani message? Or are we going to reach them with an American message?” asks Webb, 38, of Santa Clara. He is a resident scholar and educator with the Bay Area chapter of the nonprofit Muslim American Society, but reaches others in lectures and through his popular website, which he calls a “virtual mosque.”

Webb is at the forefront of a movement to create an American-style Islam, one that is true to the Koran and Islamic law but that reflects this country’s customs and culture. Known for his laid-back style, he has helped promote the idea that Islam is open to a modern American interpretation. At times, his approach seems almost sacrilegious.

Although the call to prayer at a mosque is always issued by a man, Webb once joked about it being made by one of his favorite female R&B artists: “If Mary J. Blige made the call to prayer, I’d go to the mosque; I’d be in the front row.”

At a Muslim conference in Long Beach last year, he suggested that mosques adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays. Afterward, he was accosted by a local imam who accused him of poisoning Muslim youth. “I told him, ‘Quite frankly, you’re going to be irrelevant in 10 years,’ ” Webb says.

He is fluent in Arabic, the language of the Koran, and studied for six years at one of the world’s leading Islamic institutes,Egypt’s Al-Azhar University. His time in the Middle East convinced him that not all religious practices there make sense for Muslims here.

As recently as a decade ago, U.S. congregations readily accepted immigrant imams who had arrived straight from Islamic universities, often with a traditional approach to preaching. Many spoke little English and were unable to communicate with non-Arab congregants or connect easily with youth.

But increasingly, U.S. Muslims expect their religious leaders to play a broader, more pastoral role, says Hossam Aljabri, executive director of the Muslim American Society, a national religious and education group. “Communities want imams who can come in and go beyond leading the prayer and reading Koran. They want them to fill the social role of counseling and dealing with neighbors.”

Religious scholars say the faith’s basic tenets would not change but much of the law that governs Islam may be interpreted differently in various communities.

Webb believes, for example, that barriers between men and women in U.S. mosques are not necessary, although they continue to be used in many traditional congregations. Unlike some imams, he does not object to music and believes Muslims here should be free to celebrate such secular holidays as Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving.

But given the ethnic diversity of U.S. Muslims, finding a consensus for a single American Islam could be difficult. Some favor major reforms that would alter the faith’s core beliefs. Others oppose any change.

In 2007, Webb stopped teaching at SunniPath, an online academy of traditional Islamic education, tussling verbally in the process with a few of its scholars, who are critical of what they term “modernist Islam.”

“Modernists are doing a disservice to Islam…. They validate things that are slack in Islamic practice,” Sheikh Nuh Keller, a teacher at the academy, said at the time. “We say to the modernists, nothing needs to be modernized.”

Although Webb has spent much of his time in Egypt in recent years, his U.S. following has grown. His website, where he posts writings on such topics as relationships, personal development and Islamic studies, gets more than 10,000 visitors a day, and sparks extended conversations.

In November, one reader asked if it was OK for Muslims to celebrate Thanksgiving. Webb’s response that the holiday was allowed upset some who thought that could lead to more questionable practices.

“Soon it will be [permissible] for me to take that ‘Santa Claus’ gig at the mall…….or it is already????” asked one commenter, Ahmed.

Others appeared to appreciate Webb’s effort to balance Muslim teachings with life in the West.

“We prefer to dismiss all culture as the antithesis to Islam,” wrote Tricia. “We lack … indigenous scholars who can give us a refined view of culture that distinguishes blameworthy from admirable cultural practices.”

Imams need to be culturally relevant, Webb says. When young men ask his advice on becoming religious leaders themselves, he tells them, “Go watch ‘Nick at Nite’ for a year.”

“He’s the most approachable imam in the U.S.,” says Nour Mattar, founder of the country’s first Muslim radio station. “And he’s not boring to listen to, that’s huge.”

Christened William by his parents, Webb grew up in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond. His father, David, is a professor of American history at a local college, and his mother, Mary Lynn, worked as a human resources director.

Webb attended a local Church of Christ twice a week throughout childhood. “In my family, on your birthday you got a Bible with your name on it,” he says. But even at a young age, he questioned some Christian beliefs, including the Trinity.

When he was a teenager, he and several friends became immersed in a burgeoning hip-hop scene. After the others joined a local street gang, Webb, then 17, did too.

But his participation in the Bloods Pomona 456 was relatively minor, he says. He didn’t sell drugs and mostly hung out with other members looking for fights; at 19, he spent a week in jail for stealing hubcaps. In one serious incident, Webb says, he was the driver in a drive-by shooting, although no one was hurt or charged with a crime.

His teenage time in the gang and as a DJ at house parties figure prominently in his speeches and public persona, as a way to gain traction with young Muslims. That appears to work, at least with some. After his sermon in Chicago, a boy of about 12 turned to his mother, asking, “Did you hear his speech? He said he’s from the ‘hood.”

Webb was introduced to Islam at 19. He was selling music tapes at a swap meet when he met a Muslim man selling incense and handing out Korans. Webb took one home and read it in secret for several months.

He converted during his freshman year at the University of Central Oklahoma and broke the news to his parents at Thanksgiving dinner that year — when his mother had cooked a turkey and a ham, the latter forbidden by Islam.

Mary Lynn Webb says she was not happy at the time about her son’s conversion, but is pleased today when she sees him preaching to eager audiences. “I’m proud of him. It’s amazing, really, when you think that he doesn’t have that background” in Islam, she says. “I think it may have saved him from something had he stayed in the rap world.”

In college, Webb met Asma Ayoub, a Muslim Malaysian immigrant who was studying anthropology. They married in 2000 and have two children. Webb calls his wife his “greatest teacher.”

As he worked toward his bachelor’s degree in education, he also studied intensively with a local Muslim scholar. He later became imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City before moving to Santa Clara in 2002 at the behest of the Muslim American Society there.

The group sponsored Webb’s formal Islamic education at Cairo’s Al-Azhar. He returned to the Bay Area full time last summer.

Since then, he has worked on an educational curriculum that will focus on the experiences of young Muslims in the West. He is contemplating turning it into his own institute.

Webb hosted a town hall on his website last year where Muslim leaders debated the issue of youth radicalization. He reposted it during recent congressional hearings by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on militancy among U.S. Muslims.

But only rarely is Webb approached, he says — in person or by email — by anyone tempted by calls to violence from extremists. Young Muslims more often ask him about Darwinism or student loans.

When he does get such questions, he directs the youth to what he says their true jihad should be, including assimilating into American society and supporting their families.

“You see people who come to listen to him that wouldn’t listen to anyone else … people they were never able to reach out to,” says Imam Khalid Latif, Muslim chaplain at New York University.

On a hot day last year, Webb walked into Chicago’s Marquette Park, where dozens of artists were gathered for a Muslim music festival. He had been invited to speak and felt it was a good way to ease back into U.S. culture after his time away.

“I don’t think you’ll have a lot of clerics showing up here,” he said. “I know I’m going to see some things I’m not going to like.”

The festival was a departure from another conference he had just attended, where most women wore the hijab and the audience was divided into sections — for women, men and families. At this one, called “Takin’ It to the Streets,” women in shorts, tank tops and tattoos mingled with men in traditional robes. During the headlining performance by Grammy-nominated rapper Mos Def, Webb watched as couples danced and people near him smoked pot.

As he walked among the stages and booths, he was stopped often by admirers — at 6-feet-4, the blue-eyed imam stands out at Muslim events. Some asked for on-the-spot advice, as if he were a walking confessional: What should I do about this guy I broke up with? Where should I study Arabic? Is what I’m doing as a Muslim rapper OK?

Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, the event’s organizer, said not many scholars would accept the group’s invitation.

“It means a lot when people who represent scholarship and … authenticity within the Muslim community are present,” he said. “Even though they are not necessarily saying, ‘I condone wholesale what’s going on.’”

After Mos Def’s performance, Webb hugged him, saying, “Don’t let the community make you feel guilty about what you do.”

“Man, thanks,” said the rapper, a convert to Islam.

But for some, even this imam, despite his talk of gang life and near-encyclopedic knowledge of rappers, is too conservative. His invitation to the festival stemmed from a heated discussion on his website about the negative influences of Muslim hip-hop. Some artists initially had mixed feelings about his attendance.

And that is the challenge Webb faces, Nashashibi says. “He is trying to speak to multiple audiences in what is perhaps the most diverse subsection of the Muslim community across the world.”

After the panel, a man handed Webb a flier for a party after the festival.

“I can’t go to that; smoking weed, dancing with girls and wet T-shirt contests,” the imam said of the event, which promised none of that. He added with a grin, “I gotta draw the line somewhere.”

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54 Comments

  1. Beautiful insight.

    Our imams are human. We ask too much of them. May Allah ta`la preserve them with what is true and effective.

    Z.

  2. MW_m says:

    “I told him, ‘Quite frankly, you’re going to be irrelevant in 10 years,’ ” Webb says.

    Really?! We’re down to telling imams that they’re going to be irrelevant? Like the above commenter said, we ask too much of our imams. A guy tries to lead the community to the best of his understanding, leading the salah, attempting to do halaqahs, teaching Arabic, Tajweed, basic fiqh, fielding questions from youth and elders alike, dealing with some whacked out problems and if we don’t like one thing about them, they’re suddenly “going to be irrelevant”?!

    • habeebsiddique says:

      the leaders in a society become relevant if they can relate with the people of the society.

      If the imam’s cannot connect with the community and stay in Ivory towers then God help us all.

    • Kirana says:

      There is a distinct difference to be borne in mind, between a lay person telling an imam they’re going to be irrelevant, and another imam telling another the same thing. The former is likely to be as you said, picking on one thing and not appreciating the imam’s other good qualities. The latter is likely to be a colleague cautioning another and differing on the approach he’s taking. An undergrad telling his professor the theory is dumb, is different from a professor telling his colleague that the theory is flawed.

  3. Martin says:

    All things to all people, Imam Suhaib Webb, you are truly an outstanding individual….

    • MW_m says:

      Abu Musa reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) saw a person lauding another person or praising him too much. Thereupon he said: You killed him, or you sliced the back of a person. [Muslim]

      • Suhaib Webb says:

        As,

        MW_m, scholars of fiqh noted that tendering sincere gratitude to a person, as long as it does not lead to a false since of reality or is done for some worldly gain, is commendable. Malik noted this based on the Prophet’s (sa) statement in a sound narration that it represents good tidings from Allah in this life. I do not feel that Martin, based on the conditions given by the fuqaha, has digressed from the Prophet’s guidance.

        Martin, your words are touching. All greatness and success is due to Allah alone and the blessings of the Prophet (sa) who taught us.

        Suhaib

        • Elfatih says:

          May Allah help you with your task Imam Suhaib, but just an advice from a bistander who is totally disconnected from the circumstances your facing, try to keep the line between what is Halal and Haram clear just for the sake of the eternal life and don’t let this transitory one fade that fact away not even a bit.

  4. 'Uthmān says:

    Great article! The whole point/broader message of the article is not lost on me, but would appreciate some clarification from Shaykh Suhaib regarding his views on the following specific issues:

    - Barriers between men and women in mosques. Does he still believe that e.g. women should pray behind men? Or is he saying that the congregation can mix and individual men and women can pray alongside each other?

    - Music. Does he believe that listening to musical instruments are halal?

    Won’t argue about it, but would just like some clarification on those issues. JazakAllah Khayr.

    • Hamza 21 says:

      @ Uthman

      1.Yes. Imam Suhaib was referring to having barriers between men and women in a masjid not mixed gender prayer rows. In African American masajids barriers don’t exist. Just as in Prophet’s masjid. Barriers come from culture adaptations not the sunnah nor Qur’an. in the US there are no barriers separating men and women in every facet life so why they should be barriers in masjid? Men and women know the proper adab barriers have no revelancy in the US.

      2.No Imam Suhuab never stated that….EVER… to my knowledge.

      3. The article slightly misrepresented Imam Suhaib’s opinion on music. You can read Imam own words here in the comments section in the article in link below:

      “I really have no issue with the arts, my concern is that we are paying too much attention to Hip Hop; hoping that it will lead to some type of spiritual revival. I would rather see our energies used towards other things instead of trying to be the halal Jay Z or the Imam Tupac. That being said, I respect those who follow a different opinion and hold them as dear brothers and sisters.

      SDW”

      http://www.suhaibwebb.com/society/entertainment/hip-hop-in-the-21th-century-the-rise-of-satanism-in-urban-america-by-sh-abul-hussein/

    • Suhaib Webb says:

      Akhi ‘Uthman,

      Wa ‘alaykum al-Salam wa Rahmatuhu Wa Barakatuh.

      I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for taking the time to ask for clarification. In an age where hearts are quickly ignited, it is easy to allow the tides of negativity to swallow the beautiful shores of brotherhood.

      By no means was I endorsing worshiping Allah in a way different than that taught to us by His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) through definitive texts and articulated by the orthodox community for the last 1400 yrs.

      As for music, it is well known that there is a great difference amongst the scholars, even within the madhabs, regarding its usage even though the official postion of the schools is clear. I’m aware of the axiom, “Claims to differences is not a dalil,” but I honestly don’t have the time to invest in this important discussion. While the quote above does respect my feelings to some degree, I should have been more considerate with its wording, more informed about the struggles Muslim artists face.

      Yours in Islam,
      Suhaib

      • 'Uthmān says:

        JazakAllah Khayr, Shaykh Suhaib. And Hamza.

        May Allah increase both of you in knowledge and righteousness. Ameen.

      • Taj says:

        I remember taking personal issue with your article on hip hop and saving a knee-jerk reaction. I am glad to see your clarification and I love the reflection on “reflection”. When we acknowledge a constant need for growth, we truly grow…

        JAK
        Taj

  5. Ahlam says:

    Salam alaykum. I am so happy to finally see muslim americans begin to come into our own. Homegrown muslims have for so long lacked an authentic voice of our own. And i love that our voice isnt monolithic. It is up & down the spectrum. And i pray that those who would snatch that voice away will in fact become irrelevant for the sake of islam & muslim americans. Ameen. As long as e focus on not letting the sun et b4 we do good deeds & drawing closer to Allah swta i believe the “spirit” of america will smooth our differences.

    • Sr. Mona says:

      MASHA’ALLAH Sister: “And i pray that those who would snatch that voice away will in fact become irrelevant for the sake of islam” AMEEEEEEN!

      I work with youth and ppl who have strayed, and it’s soooooooooooo hard to balance being ‘cool’ to get their attention, needing to mix to get to them, and not come to hard at them so they can listen, and also be a role model & example of the deen, etc.

      There are so many ppl shouting at these Muslims struggling in or straying far from the deen, trying to find their place in the world. We need caring humble knowledgeable ppl, we need not to cut them off….I am so proud of you Shaykh Suhaib for going to such event and taking that risk. I’ve been in that place soo many times, where I look back and say, am I condoning this for being here? But how else are we going to reach them? The prophet pbuh had to mix and be amongst TOTAL disbelief and FASAAD corruption, to convey the message. There were women making tawaf around the kabah totally naked as part of their custom! And the Prophet Muhammad and Sahabi had to go to that location to preach or announce things (at diff times during the prophethood)! He did not send letters from Cave Hiraa or Madina to preach to the ppl about the word of Allah. In the beginning of his message he had to make a tour through towns and tribes to guide others and find support. What did he have to mix with to do that?

      And we gripe about mixing with improperly dressed Muslims, or even NonMuslims. We need to go back to the REAL SALAF– the model of our beloved Rasool and all of the prophets before him, not the voices and books of those of our time who have grown like a cancer and spread throughout the body of our Ummah, taking over our collective memory and cognition of what is HAQQ- the truth, reality. May they all become irrelevant!!, and those that represent the true deen find and bring to light the reality of Islam. May Allah guide the scholars and leaders that Allah has endowed “a voice” to help our Ummah become as it was: free of hate and intolerance, and full of rahmah, love, and light like our Habeeb, Muhammad, 3alay salam, who hated enmity and ta3asoub (commonly translated ‘tribalism’, but it is really one group hating or thinking they are better than another group).

  6. Fez says:

    WOW FINALLY some positive news stories and this is how we react.

    Keep going SW dont give into the roman mob.

  7. boaz says:

    We don’t have to become westernized. However we do have to understand it. We value and benefit others by being involved and not in isolation.

    • Ahlam says:

      Salam alaykum. Many muslims in the west arent “westernised”. We were born here. In fact i wuld go so far as to say the MAJORITY of us were born & raised in “the west”. So i think its those muslims who think in terms of “muslims versu THE WEST” who need to realise that an arabised islam is both inauthentic & quickly becoming irrelvant. I c it everyday collapsing under the weight of its own estranged self importance.

      • Muslimah says:

        Yeah, a lot of us are Westernised, and there is nothing wrong with culture! It is the fundamental factor of who we are as people, the food we eat, the language we speak, the style of our homes etc:
        O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All Aware (49:13)

        But Islam is also a way of life – so it can also affect/add to these (cultural) things too in a subtle and positive way – ie, living simply, eating the Sunnah foods, wearing the Sunnah clothing (male and female), learning Arabic etc.
        Just as long as we do not allow our own culture to override the Islamic principles which are mandatory for our Islam we are smooth sailing inshaAllah…
        *trots off to make a big, English Roast Lamb, saying the Arabic duaa before eating, then sitting on the floor to eat it while speaking in English with the family*

  8. Muslim says:

    This guy wants to destroy Islam from the inside, and he want to turn mosques like churches where they come to eat food, and listen music and mingle with gays, men and women all together.
    This isn’t real Islam, real Islam is that of prophet Muhammed, and it doesn’t need to be interpreted or changed by a recent American convert, he didn’t even understood it right the first time.

    • Muslim2 says:

      Salam Muslim,

      Considering your ability to critique someone who has studied the Arabic and Islamic sciences for over 15 years I hope your Arabic is better than your English.

      To Imam Suhaib: “Don’t you pay them folks no never mind. You just keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.”

    • Elfatih says:

      Brother there’s no need for the accusations, Allah knows best about him, but if you are talking about Islam here, you should know that the Prophet himself said: الدين النصيحة، قيل لمن قال لله ورسوله وللمؤمنين
      which means; The Deen is advice, they asked to whom? The prophet said: to Allah & his messanger and the believers

    • Suhaib Webb says:

      As,

      Dear brother:

      May Allah reward you for your love of His faith and your concern for the truth. I do not call to any of the things you mentioned above to occur in the masjid. While the “religion is nasiha,” confusing a a person’s contentions and attributing to them something that they did not say, could be a major sin; fall under qadhf and would have your removed from those authorized to related hadith, which you did above, or tender their witness in front of a Qadi.

      I would appreciate it if you could bring one fatwa, statement or piece of writing where I said I wanted to “Turn the Mosque into a Church, allow people to mix there freely and to play music.”

      Scholars note that there is no “Blanket Criticism” of a person without clear proof. Showing up on a blog and making accusations without offering your evidence, runs contrary to the sunna of the very Prophet and the religion you claim to love.

      May Allah reward you for your love of His din and grant you insaf with your brothers.
      Suhaib

    • Hassen says:

      Masha’Allah, wasn’t the Prophet (s) sent to teach us akhlaaq? I think your statement may be considered slandering your brother, who is a highly-respected shaykh.

      And regarding your point, I’m positive Imam Suhaib doesn’t want to turn mosques into churches or condones acceptance of homosexuality or free mingling between men and women.

    • Azmi says:

      Salam to my dear bro Muslim,

      In Islam, when we did something wrong, telling lies, concoted stories which are proven to be totally wrong, we have to appologize to the person that we slander.

      The ones who are reluctant or do not want to accept their mistakes might be, just might be ‘arrogant’. Not accusing you of anything though. Only you and Allah knows. Ask yourself; are you being arrogant?

      Arrogant is a very dangerous attitude. This is the main difference between syaitan and the prophet Adam as. Both did something wrong; disobeying Allah. Adam repented and ask for foregiveness but syaitan, due to his arrogance refuses to do so. He feels that he is better than Adam as., he knows everything, etc….

      Does syaitan believe in Allah? Yes, definitely. He even ask Allah to grant him longlife until qiamah. He know that only Allah can grant him the life he need for vengeance. Deep in his heart he harbour hatered towards sons of Adam.

      So please be careful IF we have even a slight arrogance in our hearts.

      I think an applogy to Bro Suhaib is due? Don’t you think so?

  9. Cartoon M says:

    One thing I like about Imam Suhaib is that he takes a very intelligent approach to dawah and nasiha. May Allah reward you and protect your sincerity.

  10. papanok says:

    To Imam Webb,

    What did you mean when you told that other Imam that he was going to be irrelevant in 10 years? That what he’s teaching is going to be a thing of the past? Because if that’s what you meant, then that’s probably what’s going to happen to you as well, right? Soon too, you’re going to be irrelevant to some other Imam who will find your teachings too strict.

  11. Suhaib Webb says:

    As,

    Papanok,

    Allah bless you for taking the time to ask. Sadly, the article does not convey the discussion with this person, he/she is not an Imam, and it does not reveal the context or reality of the discussion that took place. However, I trust that what I said to that person was in accordance with the guidance of our messenger, (sa).

    As for what we teach becoming irrelevant. Well, I would differ. We are teaching tafsir, hadith, fiqh, community and tasawwuf. These subjects have been around long enough; prove the test of time. We hope that when we are forgotten in this dunya, we will be remembered in the Hereafter.

    Suhaib

  12. ibn Ali says:

    Dear Imam,

    I love you for the sake of Allah. Please make dua for my success in this life and in Eternity.

    ibn Ali

  13. brah Kaminari says:

    when u dont know go ask the ppl who know. Even ppl from overseas r in luv with him, this luv means to trust his words by knowing that he studied a particular area of islam and went through the school someone has to go through to become someone who can be asked about islam.

    Praising someone and giving someone words of appreciation r different. By his style of teaching, by his look ,by his humor, by his concern and by the ability to know how to speak with ppl who dont like him, he showed not only his community but also in egypt and in many different areas of this world that he is worthy of being appreciated and being praised by his lord. That being said, SW knows his sins, but a muslim is not defined by his sins alone. But alone by the judgment of Allah.

    IN ANY arena of life, you do what you can do, and Allah will do what you cant do ! So keep pushing urself and ur community to ‘Ilm and Faham and may Allah give them Hikmah.

    brah Kaminari

    germany/morocco

  14. raheem says:

    First off I personally believe that Imam Webb is a very outstanding and intelligent imam, teacher, and adviser. I have listen to many of his lectures and talks and do walk away with learning much. I really need we need more imams like him. One, he understands the reality of living in the west. Two, he teaches us how to practice Islam in the west. One example I can give is in a lecture where he discusses the issue of wiping over the socks in work. Now I don’t know about you, but it would really be embarrassing to be caught with your foot in the sink at work. What are you going to tell your co-workers, “that I am purifying myself”. They would look at that and say, you call that cleanliness. My point is that we have to know how to be a smart Muslim in every thing we do as Muslims.

    To imam Suhaib, what do you think about a Muslim who wants to go into a career in law enforcement? Do you think it would be a good job for a Muslim or not.

  15. maria says:

    dear imam,

    just wanted to let you know that you have a huge following here in Singapore too, a very ‘westernised’ little asian city.

    your blog has given muslim youths here a new perspective of Islam and how to come closer to Allah (swt) while staying true to our diverse culture and liberal ideas. awhile ago it was as if we all tied the idea of our own wonderful religion to archaic, irrelevant and impractical practices. but how untrue is that since discovering your blog. Islam is indeed a way of life, a complete and beautiful one too. Thank you for challenging us with new ideas and hard facts! i’m learning more and more each day through reading your articles.

    it will be wonderful to have you here in Singapore for a class or two. nothing much to offer here in this tiny red dot except for a bunch of curious kids who are jealous of the american brothers and sisters who get to sit in your classes!

  16. AsimG says:

    Asalaamu alaykum Imam Suhaib,

    I wanted to ask about your “don’t ask don’t tell” line. What did you mean by this?

    And do you think a more conservative approach to Islam in America can be a bad thing? I don’t think conservatism is the issue, but approachability.
    If people really like the Imam and the Imam really goes out of his way to be with the people and help them, then I don’t see music, barriers or any of this stuff as an issue. He will be able to help the people at a real level and will always be relevant.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Allah knows best.

    • Muslim6 says:

      I am really curious as to what is meant by the whole “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing too.

      I am gay myself but celibate because obviously acting on those feelings isn’t halal. Please don’t give me a lecture on the issue because being gay is not a choice and nothing you can change. Again, the only option left for me is to remain celibate so I can obey Allah (swt).

      Anyway, a lot of Muslims unfortunately associate same-sex attraction with sin, when thoughts aren’t sins at all. This leads many homosexual Muslims to leave Islam, audhubillah (because they don’t understand the mentality), or justify same-sex marriage, which isn’t good either (but obviously not as bad as the former choice).

      I think it’s important we have an Imam who understands this issue a little better!

  17. Suhaib Webb says:

    As,

    AsimG:

    Jazakallahu khayran for taking the time to ask. It is well known that Muslims are forbidden to spy on each other, seeking out private struggles and sins; only to publicize them or to simply be nosy. It is also agreed upon that those who commit major sins are still Muslims and have the right to worship Allah, seek His guidance and draw nearer to Him. Also, as you noted, people who go against their souls desires, which contract Islam, are rewarded, as noted in the beautiful hadith of Abu Huraira (ra)

    That is what I meant by that statement and it applies to people, all people, who are coming to the Masjid to worship. We cannot act as detectives trying to discover what the hearts have hidden. The masjid is a place to worship Allah and some, because of the way they treat others, are keeping people from them.

    I do not condone that lifestyle; I hold it as forbidden by Islam. But, I recognize that the best place a person could be who wants to get right with God, is the Masjid. I recognized that people have their own issues that they negotiate and struggle with everyday. I hope to facilitate that negotiation by making sure that that places of worship stay comfortable.

    Suhaib

  18. Yusuf says:

    Assalamu ‘alaykum Imam Suhaib,

    Can you please explain your reasons of jokingly said, “If Mary J. Blige made the call to prayer, I’d go to the mosque; I’d be in the front row.”
    I am very confident that you are saying this out of good intention but unfortunately this has caused many fitnah amongst the Muslims. Many critics now are accusing you of trying change Islam just to fit in with the time that we are living in. I understand Islam is applicable throughout all time, but this joke sounds like the fundamentals can be altered according to the cultures around it. Please enlighten us akhi …
    BaarakAllahu fik,
    youssef

    • Suhaib Webb says:

      As,

      Youssef,

      Thank you for asking. I was saying that in the context of my life before Islam. Sadly, a number of Arab press sources have failed to understand that quote or the context surrounding it. I hold the opinion of my school, the Maliki school, that the caller to prayer must be a man. Not only is the quote mentioned in Arabic wrongly, but they spelled my name wrong and got the city wrong as well.

      Suhaib

      • FX says:

        Hilarious; failure to understand language and context. It seems to permeate every aspect of religious discourse (despite muslim scholars having used to being some of the most rigorous in this discipline) . why does this keep happening!?!?!

  19. Mohammad says:

    Imam Suhaib,

    mashaAllah your attitude and open mindedness is something this community needs. However, I was wonder how is it beneficial for you to appear in an environment like the concert mentioned in the article? I know you’re against the things that took place in the environment, but shouldn’t we avoid places like that? This is more extreme, but it’s like showing up to a club. And the Muslims present might take your appearance as “even HE came” to justify their presence.

    • Suhaib Webb says:

      As,

      Mohammad:

      Good question. However, the environment was nothing like a club or a place of haram. If it was, I would not have stayed there. May Allah grant us the best assumptions of our fellow Muslims, raise our ranks and tie our hearts together.

      Suhaib

  20. duts40111 says:

    As salaamu alaykum.

    Imam Suhaib,

    Why don’t you provide any straight answers to the questions that are posed to you here?

    You skirt around issues and are, for want of a better term, “Wishy washy”.

    Please, for the sake of Muslims who look up to you, provide us with clear responses to our questions.

    Wa’salaam.

  21. Suhaib Webb says:

    As,

    Duts:

    Shukran for your nasiha. Could you please elaborate on what issues I’m “Not being Clear” or being “Wishy Washy?” I said that homosexuality is forbidden in Islam, noted my opinion and addressed the other concerns as well. I’m not sure I understand how or in what way on I’m being “Wishy Washy?”

    Yours,
    Suhaib

    • duts40111 says:

      Wa alaykum salaam.

      Where you are not clear is what your overall methodology is that compels you to share your contrarian views specifically on issues like Music, barriers in Masaajid between men and women, etc. with such prominence and in such a way that makes those who follow your lectures and khutbahs believe that you consider it a major issue. Furthermore, you do not at all make clear your position towards ikhtilaat between the sexes in general.

      Why do you believe, or APPEAR to give us off the impression, that these are among the most salient of issues that ought to be discussed?

      Insight into this can give us great insight into your overall methodology and philosophy. On the whole, your approach to these issues and your idea of how to bring people into the fold of the deen, especially Muslims who may not be practicing, seems to smack of the ideas, methodology, and approach of Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi (rh). This is unsettling for many (myself included who spent 7 years with an Azhari shaykh originally from Alexandria, who himself taught in Azhar in the faculty of the Arabic language for 20+ years, by the name of Shaykh Ibrahim El-Sebaey). As such, clarification in this regard is important.

      Wa’salaam.

      • duts40111 says:

        I forgot to mention that your views and approach seem to be a combination, excepto n a few points, of Dr. Yusuf al Qaradawi and Shaykh Metwalli Sha’rawi (Allah arhamu).

        • Suhaib Webb says:

          As,

          Duts, thank you for taking the time to answer. However, as you know, al-Bayina ‘ala al-Mud’ai wa labu an takuna bi al-tafsil.

          Perhaps, and this is from one of the basic principles of discussing a person’s ideas, you should set this discussion up by following the correct method. A method taught in al-Azhar for over 900 years up until the late 80′s. That is, when offering naqd upon a person’s ideas, it should be done with tafsil, not attributing it to people or even madhabs. I would say that most of my understanding comes from Dr. Muhammad Wissam the wakil of ifta at Dar al-Ifta who I worked and read usul with, Dr. ‘Amir Wardani and Dr. ‘Ali Goma who granted me the ijaza in ifta and the six books of hadith after finishing my work and studies there.

          I was also lucky to read with over 30 mayshaikh in Egypt, a good number who granted me qualified ijazas as well. I would add that I was also able to discuss many issues with Dr. Muhammad Rafat ‘Uthman, one of the senior faqihs in the country who sits on the majm’a al-bahoth for ifta, and Dr. S’ad Hilali as well as Dr. ‘Imad Ifat. I do not agree with Dr. Qaradawi on many issues, and feel much more comfortable with what I learned from my teachers listed above and others who I studied with in the past. Certainly, Sh. Ahmed Nidiya of Senegal, who I accompanied for 10 years and memorized the Qur’an with had a major impact on me. I feel comfortable in my approach because it was based on my discussions in the past, and until this day, with senior scholars and teachers in different countries and institutions.

          I appreciate your advice and hope to benefit from it. I’m sure your concerns are sincere and ask you to keep us in your prayers.

          Suhaib

  22. Muslema says:

    AA,

    May Allah accept from you Imam Suhaib, and never let ‘the blame of the blamers’ deter you from all the khair you bring.

    WS
    Muslema

  23. Agatha says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am looking for a scholar who could talk to me through email. I have some questions about the concept of God.

    I shall be very grateful!

    A

  24. Zacheriya says:

    Salaam,

    With all due respect what happened to you Imam Suhaib. You had a beautiful sunnah beard before and then you chopped it off, making it ‘American friendly’. You used to give advice how to give up music and now you’re clutching at straws to make it ‘permissible’. Why all this bending over backwards to appease a western audience? And worst of all why drag Al-Azhars name to try and back up all your liberalist positions.

    You probably won’t even publish this.

    May Allah guide us all.

  25. Anisah says:

    The Christians modernized, and things have completely changed for them. Only the bent get broken, and if we do not fight for what is placed upon us to do, then we will be expected to go further. I was raised a Christian, and found out about Islam in world history class, and suddenly everything I was raised on seemed backwards. This religion is perfect, and there is no need to hold on to traditions that have been mostly based off of lies any how. We need to ask ourselves what has American tradition done for America, and then see how we feel about it.

  26. Rahmatullah Awakened says:

    Assalaam walaikum Iman Suhaib Webb, Alhamdulliah for your approach….I am a recent Revert to Islam and I am 63 years old…I was raised in a Christian society and knew nothing, absolutely nothing about Islam before May of this year. Alhandulliah, I became aquainted with some wonderful Muslimas online who treated me with such love and kindness and absolutely no prejudice towards my Christian beliefs…as you mentioned, I also always had conflicts with the “Trinity” and I never knew there was any other message…what I am getting at is, that if I had heard the message earlier and in a way that made me comfortable I would have been a Muslim long ago…I regret the years lost, but Allah, subhanna wa ta’ala, is Merciful and I am now on the straight path to Paradise, insha Allah. I feel it is important that others see us as real people and not “terrioists” as most American see the Muslim poplation. Allah, subhanna wa ta’ala, in the Holy Qu’ran teaches us not to judge others as it also says in the Bible…and to love one another and be humble and respectful. Mohammed, pbuh, we are told had to mix among the infidels to teach them…how else would they be turned to the right path unless a messenger is sent? I will make du’a for you and baraka Allahu fee-ka …
    Rahmatullah Awakened

  27. Zaitun Zainuddin says:

    Desr Imam Suhaib Webb. A new viewer to The program Al Hijrah,I am amazed at your profound Islamic knowledge,considering your age. I have always look forward to viewing your ability to perceive the numerous issues I face. Or,is it ALLAH the Almighty offering mo solace and comfort thru you preaching the sermon? I may never know but it has certainly give me the ability to cope. Thru the Quran and your tafsir,my iman is firmly rooted. I wonder if other viewers face the same predicament as I feel it’s very personal. I await a reply from you. Anyway, thank you Imam. May Allah book a place in Jannah for you.

  28. Arif says:

    As,

    Dear Imam,

    When are you planning to come to Malaysia? I would really like to meet you in person and listen to your talk.
    Thanks in advance

    Arif

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