Arguing Over Aqeeda in Black Muslim America, a Disaster in the Making, Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Actually it’s more like a disaster already made. Our obsession with aqeeda inquisition and aqeeda wrangling is not something we came up with on our own. In fact, the role that aqeeda plays in our division, in our domestic dialogue, in our masjid politics, and in our priority assignment, is not organic; it is totally engineered by programing, colonial type influence over our narratives, by foreign spheres of influence, and by a deeply rooted and conspicuous pre-existing slave mentality. A mentality that presupposes that Black people are fundamentally incapable of knowing Allah without knowing Arabic.

Nearly the entirety of the current aqeeda debate amongst Black American Muslims is imported, choreographed, relies on our incessant self-hate, a latent slave mentality, colonized thinking ad disposition, and sheer stupidity to give it energy and to keep it going, It does not, has not, and will not solve a single problem or issue in Black Muslim America. It amounts to Black American Muslims, an ex-slave community of new Muslims, in precipitous decline as a civilization, arguing over pre-selected and politicized snippets of Muslim theological history and politics.

Theological (aqeeda) debating amongst Black American Muslims, a people who are largely without Islamic governance, who have a relatively short history as a civilization, and who are in a precipitous state of communal decline, has proved disastrous. Its a tempest in a tea pot, a failed paradigm at best. Understanding aqeeda is necessary, and understanding the scholarly and philosophical minutiae and ramifications surrounding scholastic theology, is vital for some. However, arguing about it is not. The religion of Islam does not require, especially for everyday Muslims, that we debate and argue about Islamic scholastic and speculative theology.

It is necessary to know truth from falsehood. This becomes critical when Muslims become influenced by outside ideologies that contradict and compromise Islamic monotheism (tawheed). Only Allah be He Exalted, can render guidance to a wayward heart. Still, arguing over who is, and who is not rightly guided, has never been part of prophetic methodology; “So remind! For verily you are a Reminder, you are not an authority over them” [al-Ghashiya:21]

When theological differences first started to appear in Muslim civilization after the death of the Prophet, it quickly escalated into splintering of the ranks, accusations of heresy, killing, fratricidal warfare amongst the Muslims, and oppression. In Black Muslim America, amongst people who believe in Allah and His Messenger, who pray the same prayer, pay zakat, and fast Ramadan, differnces in theology, or ‘creed, have not lead to warfare, except the verbal kind. Not yet.

The rules of law and civility prevents us from fighting and killing each other over creed as is done in some Muslim lands where order is subordinate to lawlessness. In this current climate of division, and spiritual toxicity, It takes about 5 minutes for a Muslim to accuse another Muslim of being a heretic, a deviant, or an unbeliever, after differing with him on a matter of aqeeda. It takes just a few moments after that to consider his blood, and his honor as violable (halal).

Since the early 1980s, when the terminology ‘aqeeda’ gained currency amongst Black American Muslims, we have discovered a myriad of ways to argue about it, and splinter over it. People came up with the bright idea that it was their God given duty to examine and purify the hearts of Black Muslims in America. That was the start of the aqeeda wars, and we’ve been at it ever since, with very little to show for

Aqeeda, the study of Muslim scholastic theology that details the variant orthodox and heterodox philosophies existing amongst Muslims, is a discipline that has evolved over a span of more than 1200 years. Some people call it ‘creed’ for short. Its not something you reduce to a social media event, over points of creed. Teaching aqeeda is one thing, scheduling debates about it, or debating about, and drawing lines of demarcation over it is something entirely different. Most of the time we’re arguing arguments that aren’t legitimately ours to argue in the first place, but merely debates thrust upon us. Many of our debates are puppeteered. It’ll probably take most folks another couple years to figure that out. Reading history is a good place to start.

Although people don’t like to admit it, since aqeeda is the ‘in thing‘ these days, the modern aqeeda frenzy is very much a fad. I don’t see how a person can be so gung ho about this or that aqeeda without understanding or knowing the history or politics surrounding it. People become belligerent when you even mention the need to know something about the history. None of these aqaa’id (aqeedas) are scripture (wahy), even if wahy forms the basis for much of it.

In previous times, theological debates were engaged in by scholars and theologians, or enforced by enforcing armies, religious and political authorities and tribunals and designated inquisitors. Everyday people were left out of the fray. Today, especially in the wild wild west of Black Muslim America, it is a virtual free for all. Unchecked, unmoderated, and un-proctered. There is no one designated to enforce aqeeda. There is no aqeeda czar in America, and we should not pretend that there is.

Today, there are thousands of individual Muslims, bickering and debating with each other over issues of creed, often declaring each other to be deviant, astray or heretics. People champion one brand of aqeeda or another as correct, only to come years later adopting another brand of aqeeda, while repudiation the formerly held notion and group. Its like arguing over democracy and socialism,  but there is no government,  no elections, no public policy, and no actionable consequences to the discussion. Tantamount toputting Muslims on trial without having an actual trial. Trial by street style philosophical brawls, and theoligical lynch mobs. That’s what it’s become in America.

There is negligible evidence that all this debate has moved Black American Muslims forward in any appreciable way. People who say that it has are simply not familiar with Black American Muslim history over the last half a century.

The Prophet ﷺ  did not teach aqeeda he taught faith, and the faith that he taught ﷺ to his companions, was basic; it was conclusive, not speculative. It remained that way for a century and a half.  The word ‘aqeeda’, commonly used today, and translated as ‘creed’, was not in circulation during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ spoke of faith (eemaan), he did not dabble in creed.

There is nothing authenticated about the Prophet ﷺ where he said, ‘correct aqeeda is such and such’.  However, there are many ahaadeeth where he described faith. For example, the hadith, “Faith (eemaa) is seventy something branches, The highest of which is the statement that there is no god except Allah. The lowest of which is the removal of debris from the road, and bashfulness is a branch of faith“. Or in the hadith, “None of you believes until I am more beloved to him than his son, his father, and all other people”. Or in the hadith, “none of you believes until his whim is in agreeance with what I’ve come with.” That is how the Prophet ﷺ taught. He taught faith, not philosophy. Muhammad the Messenger of Allah, was a Prophet, not a philosopher. There are many verses that mention faith as well, “verily the believers are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and their persons, such are the truthful”.

Converts to Islam are not used to arguing over religion. Prior to Islam, we did not argue with each other on street corners, basketball courts or college campuses about the creed of the Catholics versus the creed of the Baptists, or the creed of the African Methodists or the Jehovah witnesses. Aqeeda wrangling has become a spectator sport, done mainly amongst common, everyday people. Ironically, most of the time, people argue and debate with no actionable conclusion except to see who is the best at debating. it takes about 4 minutes to explain Islam to the average person, including the names of the 5 prayers. It takes about 7 minutes to explain the basic principles of eemaan (faith). It takes about 3 months of classes, rhetoric and slogans to explain the different aqeedas (creeds), and people still be confused.

As a rule, the Prophet ﷺ disliked people arguing about religion. In the hadith of Abu Amaama, the Prophet said, “No people ever went astray after guidance, except that they resorted to arguing (about religion)” [at-Tirmithi]. And in the hadith of Aisha, she said, “the Prophet ﷺ said, “the most hated of men to Allah is the contentious arguer” [Bukhaari], and in the hadith of Abu Hurairah, the Prophet said, “I am the guarantor of a house in the bosom of paradise for the one who leaves alone arguing even if he is right“[Abu Dawud]. Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. (d.1111 CE) who himself was a scholar of philosophy, mentions ten destructive evils arising from public debates (about religion); envy, arrogance, malice, backbiting and slander, selfpraise, seeking other’s faults, gloating at misfortune, hypocrisy, ostentation, rejecting the truth. [Ihya Ulum al-Din, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, 1/45-47]

Arguing over religion ruins relationships, splits communities, breaks associations, and tears away at the bonds of brotherhood, as we have seen in our own experiment with it in the United States. Muslim scholars, even those who themselves were theologians and wrote books on issues of creed, disliked the practice of arguing over religion. Imam  Abdul-Rahmaan Al-Awza’ee, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “If Allah desires evil upon a people, he will force them to argue, and prevent them from working“. [Sharh Usool al-I’tiqad]. Arguing over creed greatly undermines the religious communal trajectory of Islam amongst Black American Muslims and converts to Islam o the United States, even when that is not the intention. Imam Malik, may God have mercy on him, said: “Debating about religion creates malaise, it removes the light of knowledge, hardens the heart, and inherits weakness.” (Nuzhat Al-Fadhila: 2/623).

Black American Muslims and converts to Islam constitute the newest civilization of Muslims in the world and are already above all other Muslim peoples in the world, most at risk of extinction. At the time of this article, most of the masaajid  in the United States are closed for services, and person to person contact is at an all-tie low because of the Corona Virus pandemic. That people would still be involved in public, non-scholarly, microwave debates over creed, is beyond lunacy in my opinion. It represents a terrible low point for Black American Muslims.

Scholastic philosophy. Which was not developed as an independent science until 150 years after the death of the Prophet (SAWS). Before that, there were people who believed just fine. Just like today, there are millions of Muslims who don’t know the details of aqeeda, who don’t argue about aqeeda, and don’t set up alliances and demarcation lines over aqeeda, yet they have faith, and believe correctly. Believing in what the Prophet ﷺ believed in, and rejecting as falsehood, what he rejected as falsehood, constitutes correct belief at its core. The notion that it does not, undermines the message (risaala)  of the Prophet ﷺ, and suggests that the Prophet ﷺ did not leave behind sufficient knowledge for guidance.

It has been authenticated in prophetic tradition that the Prophet ﷺ said, “I am leaving you with two things, that if you hold fast to them both, you will never go astray, after me, the Book of Allah, and my Sunna”. [Bukhaari]. That is my point in a nutshell.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

Philadelphia born, Shaykh Luqman Ahmad is an Associate Imam and Resident Scholar at the Toledo Masjid al-Islam Toledo, Ohio where he teaches and delivers Friday sermons. He is the author of the new Book, ‘Killing Marriage in Black Muslim America’. He can be reached @ Support at Cash App to: $abulaith2

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