Trump! Iraq! Car bombs! Syria! ISIS! Palestine! Orlando! Gay Muslims! Jo Cox! Double media standards! Immigration! Brexit! Civilizational jihad!?! Given all this, as well as the recent Islamophobia that surrounds us both online and off, I thought it best for me to go back to spiritual basics. Whenever I feel like this (which is more often than I would care to) I read the Qur’an and I listen to Islamic lectures.

I have just finished listening to two such lectures from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and, as is my habit, I have typed up my favourite quotes from them. Total combined running time for both lectures is about an hour and well worth a listen. Links to the lectures as well as the quotes themselves are presented below. Enjoy!

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The fear of Allah is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is the ability to act appropriately in any given situation. And this is something that unfortunately is lacking today. When you look at the conditions of the world you see that very often people do the opposite of what the actual situation entails. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

You can have knowledge but knowing how to apply the knowledge is the wisdom. That’s the hikmah. And that’s the difference between those who might know the hukam of Allah as a text, and those who know when the hukam of Allah is applicable. That’s wisdom. And this is where the Prophet (S) was constantly teaching his sahabah. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

One of the tragedies of the time we are living in is historically the hadith were the domain of the ulama. There were small books written for common people but overall the hadith were in a tradition of isnad. You had to study hadith with scholars and they would explain to you…Now you have people opening up books, or worse going on Google…looking at hadith and then they get confused and then they confuse others. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The Qur’an says that there came a light and a book, noor-run-wa-kitaab. You need the light to read the book, you can’t read in darkness. The light is the Prophet (S). He is the light that illuminates the book. Without the Prophet (S) the book can become a source of people going astray. And every group in the history of Islam that went astray, they went astray with Qur’an and verses…“They said this…this means this…this means that…” And they interpreted it, they all used the same text, and they went astray. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (the Qur’anic verse referred to is from 5:15)

“We did not reveal this Qur’an for you to be miserable.” That’s what the Qur’an says. “We did not reveal this Qur’an for you to be miserable.” – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (the Qur’anic verse referred to is from 20:2)

Don’t obey a man if it means disobeying the Creator of men. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

This religion has to have nakl and aql. It has to have the transmission of the hadith, but it also has to have the aql. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Everything that happens to us that is calamitous, and this is hard to swallow, this is a bitter pill to swallow, but everything that happens to us that is calamitous is from disobeying Allah and His messenger. That’s simply reality, and until we come to terms with that our faith is not sound…We were given guidance, we were given a covenant. When the covenant is abandoned, calamities happen. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The early Muslims always looked to blame themselves for their problems, but modern people always point to other things to blame for their problems. This is because the early people were on the madhab. – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The Prophet (S), his sunnah is the wisdom of this book (the Qur’an)…The Christians have this thing…What would Jesus do? We should have the same criteria. Do you think the Prophet (S) would tell people to strap bombs on them and go blow up innocent people? Is there anything in his sunnah that indicates that that would be a methodology that he would use? Because he was in Mecca, he could have had his sahabah go assassinate people. They were brave…He didn’t do that. Why? Because that is not his methodology. What he does is out in the open. He never did anything by stealth, other than to escape because Allah commanded him to do. He didn’t do things by stealth. He told people exactly what he was going to do and he did what he was going to do. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The wisdom of the Prophet (S) is something that we have lost in our community, we’ve lost it, and it’s something that we need to regain, and it’s regained with knowledge…it’s regained with humility…If the Prophet was humble then who am I not to be humble. If the best of creation was humble who am I not to be humble. The Prophet was commanded to be humble. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Everything about him was wisdom. Everything he did. The way he ate, the way he sat, the way he walked. He walked briskly, he walked with intention, he didn’t meander. When he spoke he spoke intelligently, he never minced his words, he always spoke beautifully. If he joked he joked with truth. And then he honoured people…And that’s who he was. He was somebody that elevated and honoured people. Male, female, slave…This is the Prophet, always elevating people. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Understanding the context of a word and it’s usage is a very important science in the tradition of Islam called ilm-ulm-wada. In fact Bernard Weiss, the great American orientalist, said it was a unique contribution of the Muslim civilisation to introduce this knowledge, this specific knowledge, into the world. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

All of our scholars, without exception, were great grammarians, without exception, because grammar was the sine qua non of Islamic tradition. All of our great scholars were logicians, they were able to think and identify their terms. They had comportment in the way they spoke with others. And at the root of the Islamic education was persuasion, balagha, and this is why the great Qur’anic miracle is a persuasive miracle. It is the miracle of argument. The Qur’an is an argument. And if you read it as an argument it either convinces you or it doesn’t. But if you never even look at the argument and you reject it, you are not thinking freely, you are simply shackled by your prejudice. If you read the Qur’an it’s constantly telling people ‘Don’t they think?…Don’t you use your intellects?…They’re living a bovine existence, eating, and drinking, and merriment.’ There is a profound seriousness in the Qur’an because life ultimately is serious, despite the important moments of brevity. But in our culture those moments of brevity have become the substance of our culture. Entertainment. Comedians. News becomes comedy. Everything is reduced to a joke. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Our Prophet was not somebody who was sombre. In fact one of his names is ad-dahhak, the smiling one. He smiled a lot. But he is also da-i-mul-ahzan, a deeply contemplative person, someone who was in profound meditation with his Lord. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The liberal arts, which we call ulum-al-aliya, the instrumental arts, or the arts of freedom, they won’t save the world, but they do make the world worth saving. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Return To Wisdom

Zaytuna College Commencement 2016



The worst mass shooting in modern day America was recently carried out by a Muslim named Omar Mateen. Because he was a Muslim, the media stereotypically made sure there was no mention of him being a “loner” or being “crazy” or having “mental health problems”, despite the fact that he clearly had many unresolved skeletons in his closet (divorce, confused sexuality, steroid use, domestic abuse, drinking alcohol, and the rest). Instead, predictably, the ISIS-Islam-Muslim immigration triumvirate was pushed to the forefront, with the phrase “self-radicalised” being heard often on various news channels.

An interesting development resulting from this incident is the current discussion taking place over gun control. The political left in the States (mainly Democrats) are focusing more on the issue of reforming gun control laws, whereas the right (mainly Republicans) are focusing more on the aforementioned triumvirate. Caught in the middle are the LGBT community, still mourning their dead, and still having to deal with continuing daily discrimination on many fronts.

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Trump and Clinton

To add to the media double standards, whilst a Muslim was shooting 49 people dead in Orlando, over in Los Angeles a white man named James Howell was apparently about to do the same but, surprise surprise, that incident hardly received any press coverage.

Another example of this media bias is highlighted by the BBC article There Have Been 93 Us Gun-Related Deaths In 72 Hours, Not Including Orlando, well worth a read. Furthermore, the anti-gay protests by followers of the Westboro Baptist Church at the funerals of some of the Orlando victims funerals shows that hatred comes in many different colours and ideologies.

Ignoring all the non-reverential conspiracy theories emerging (just search in YouTube for ‘Orlando false flag’ or ‘Orlando hoax’ and you’ll see what I mean), plenty has been said and written on this horrific incident, and below are some of the more interesting viewpoints I have come across.

Samantha Bee’s passionate anti-gun rant has gone viral…

There is no shortage of troubled twentysomethings out there, and whether they are radicalized by ISIS, or homophobia, or white nationalism, or a dislike of movies, we are making it far too easy for their derangement to kill us. – Samantha Bee

Trevor Noah has a slightly calmer but just as relevant response…

President Obama has hosted 12 state dinners, but he’s had to give 16 mass shooting addresses. – Trevor Noah

A joint statement has been issued from many prominent Muslims condemning the attack…

On behalf of the American Muslim community, we, the undersigned, want to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the barbaric assault that occurred early yesterday morning at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We unequivocally say that such an act of hate-fueled violence has no place in any faith, including Islam. As people of faith, we believe that all human beings have the right to safety and security and that each and every human life is inviolable. – opening paragraph from the joint statement on the recent Orlando shootings made by 460 prominent Muslims and Muslim groups, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Yusuf Islam

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf says the killer was a ‘nominal Muslim’…

This man wasn’t a radical Islamist. To drink or go to gay bars, or any kind of bar, is prohibited in Islam. He seemed to be a nominal Muslim. He went to mosques on occasion but I don’t see a lot of devotion there. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, in an interview about the aforementioned joint statement

Imam Nouman Ali Khan also responds, focusing on online misinformation…

Our deen (faith) is unconditional when it comes to the sanctity of all human life and there is no exception to this…When it comes to this religion whoever violates it, whether they’re Muslim or not, they’ve committed a crime and this is a crime and there’s no other way of looking at it…You can’t be a student of this Qur’an and come to that conclusion, that killing innocent people of any whatever sin you think they’re doing, that that’s OK for you to kill them. That just doesn’t come out as a conclusion from any level of serious study of this book. – Imam Nouman Ali Khan

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi echoes the above views of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, as well as focusing on media double standards…

A crazy man is a crazy man, even if he acts in the name of a race, or a civilisation, or a religion…Why is it that anyone who goes crazy of another faith community is a lone wolf? Why is it that they have a mental issue, and yet for some reason everybody in our community never has any mental problems? This guy is a mental lunatic. There is no question about it. Something snapped in his head, he did what he did, a sane person does not do this…We are tired of these double standards and somebody has got to stand up and call a spade a spade…I represent myself, he does not represent me. Mainstream Muslims are represented in the masajid (mosques). We represent Islam over here. Every masjid in north America is packed with people praying. What was this guy doing at a bar? What was this guy doing at a location in the nights of Ramadhaan that none of us are going to? – Shaykh Yasir Qadhi

Mufti Ismail Menk comments about the prophet Adam and the oneness of humanity…

Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa makes a sharply succinct point…

When the blood is spilt on the face of the earth, in an unjust way, the devil is right behind that. That is what the devil does, that is what demons do, they spill blood…in order to sow grief, sorrow into the heart of the believers. You get the point? – Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa

Nihad Awad reminds us that all minority groups are in it together…

The liberation of the American Muslim community is inextricably linked with the liberation of all minority groups—Black, Latino, Gay, Jewish, Trans and every other community that has faced discrimination and oppression in this country. We cannot fight injustice against some groups, and not against others. Homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and Islamophobia are all interconnected systems of oppression, and we cannot dismantle one without dismantling the others. As a Muslim, I may not subscribe to your faith or your lifestyle, but I am obligated to respect your choice. – Nihad Awad

Orlando has also put the spotlight on the minority group to end all minority groups: gay Muslims…

This topic is now being discussed more openly than ever. Just to give a few examples: Huffington Post recently posted an article entitled The Gay Muslim Elephant In The Room, CNN posted the article What It’s Like To Be Gay And Muslim, and The Nation had an article covering Gay Pride Month and Ramadan. This article said:

Gay Pride Month and Ramadan exist in different calendars—one solar, one lunar—but not in different worlds. Although the devastating violence of Orlando and a corresponding politics of fear threaten to keep them apart, it is within our power to celebrate their coincidence, and in so doing, to create a new occasion for mutual understanding. – Muneer I Ahmad

In the same article the author makes another relevant point, this time about Donald Trump:

The failure to reconcile the LGBT and Muslim communities leaves both at the cynical mercy of Donald Trump and his apologists. Trump casts LGBT rights as under threat from Muslims, and therefore from immigration of Muslims, including refugees. – Muneer I Ahmad

Speaking of Trump, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert brilliantly analyse his anti-Muslim response to the shootings…

Adam Hill talks about gun control in the States and the killer saying he is ‘part of ISIS’…

That’s the problem with giving guns to everyone: it only works if everyone agrees on who the bad guys are. And here’s the thing, whenever there’s a mass shooting gun sales go up in America. We know that. But if gun sales go up so do the shares in gun companies. So that means gun companies and their shareholders actually make money out of every mass shooting. Just think about that for a bit. And here’s the thing, the Orlando shooter claimed to be inspired by the people we like to call Cystitis. But he’s not a member of these guys. It’s just a lone nutter trying to belong to a group. I mean, it’s like me singing ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ in a karaoke night then telling people I was a member of Kiss. – Adam Hill, from Channel 4’s The Last Leg, June 2016

I will end with a quote from a movie, something that I hope we all bear in mind and heart when interacting with each other, especially those with a more divisive nature:

Put aside your notions about how people are. The world will surprise you with its grace if you let it. – from the movie 5 To 7 (2014)


From every king luxuriating in a marble palace, to every pauper surviving in an inner city ghetto, everybody knows the name of Muhammad Ali. Everybody knows he floated like a butterfly and he stung like a bee. Everybody knows he rumbled in the jungle and he thrilled in Manilla. And everybody, it seems, is saddened to hear of the passing of the Champ. One of his best qualities was his ability to speak to all, from the classes down to the masses, partly because he stuck to his religious principles. This is just one of the reasons why he will remain an ever present inspiration in the lives of all those he touched.

Ali’s death was a sad, sombre start to the holy month of Ramadhaan, but it united Muslims and non-Muslims alike all over the globe. It also generated a great deal of sympathy for Islam and Muslims. His death was his last moment of defiance. But then, during this blessed Islamic month, all that pro-Muslim goodwill generated by Ali’s death died alongside 49 innocent victims in Orlando, Florida. For it was a Muslim who committed the biggest mass shooting in modern American history at the now infamous Pulse nightclub.

As all the afore mentioned sympathy disappeared, Donald Trump continued to reiterated his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Add to this the constant misrepresentations of Islam and Muslims that seem to exist throughout the populist media, and it is clear we Muslims need an alternative narrative, a narrative that is more reflective of the reality of the vast majority of Muslims living today. That is what Ali provided throughout his life.

For me personally, my heartfelt thanks go out to the Champ for what I consider to be his greatest achievement. Ali managed to demystify the faith of Islam by showing its truly peaceful nature, a view echoed in some of the quotes below.

Ali Casket

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and others leading Muhammad Ali’s casket to his janazah (funeral) service (AP Photo / David Goldman)

All of the eleven quotes below are taken from the janazah (funeral) service for Ali which took place on Thursday 9th June 2016, at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky (the site of Ali’s first professional fight in his home town). The entire service is worth a watch, especially if you wish to know what happens during a Muslim funeral service. The talks from which the quotes are taken begin at 20m 32s. As much as one can in such a scenario, enjoy…

Something solid, something big, something beautiful and life affirming, has left this world. And it is beyond the capacity of any of us to know if God will ever grace us again with anything that even comes close to the majesty that was Muhammad Ali. – Dr Sherman Jackson

His passing has bought a certain emptiness to the lives of millions of people who never knew him personally. – Dr Sherman Jackson

He taught us that we were beautiful and that what we thought was right or wrong was just as worthy of consideration as what others thought was right or wrong. – Dr Sherman Jackson

There can be no doubt that at the very centre of Ali’s being was Islam. Islam was both a source of his strength and the sustainer of his sense of mission. About this there simply can be no doubt. But beyond what Islam did for Ali, Ali did something for Islam, especially in America. Ali did more to normalise Islam in this country than perhaps any other Muslim in the history of the United States. Of course, Ali was not a theologian, a shaykh, or an imam and because of this some might think that I am overstating my case here. But here is a news flash: most people do not live in the world of the theologians or the scholars, most people live in the world of culture. And while religious scholars play a critical role in preserving the proper understanding of religion, if the prevailing culture does not reinforce and give practical meaning to their teachings, those teachings will find limited application among the masses. It is one thing to teach that God wants people to be charitable to the poor, or that He does not want them to eat pork. It is quite another thing, however, to produce a cultural orthodoxy that makes generosity cool and eating pork uncool. The same applies to standing up for what is right and standing against what is wrong. As a cultural icon Ali made being Muslim cool, Ali made being a Muslim dignified, Ali made being a Muslim relevant. In all of this, he did in a way that no one could challenge his belongingness to or in this country. Ali put the question of whether a person can be a Muslim and American to rest. Indeed he KO’d that question. With his passing let us hope that that question will now be interred with his precious remains. – Dr Sherman Jackson

If you are an American, Ali is part of your history, part of what makes you who you are. Thus as an American Ali belongs to you and you too should be proud of this precious piece of your American heritage. And you should never allow anyone to deny you or disabuse you of your rightful claim to Ali’s legacy. As for the world, who has filled the world with more hope, more inspiration, more empathy, more humility, and more good will than Muhammad Ali? – Dr Sherman Jackson

He put his principles above popularity, his conscience before conformity. And he was willing to pay any price for this belief. He taught us to be free by showing us what it meant to own fortune and glory as a means to serve God but never to let fortune and glory own him. They were in his hands not in his heart. – Dalia Mogahed

He couldn’t be bought or guilted into violating his conscience. – Dalia Mogahed

Ali’s understanding of the Oneness of God, that he would answer only to God, submit only to God, made him see the oneness of humanity. – Dalia Mogahed

So let this day, as we stand here in every colour and creed, let this day help us remember God’s promise: when you seek the pleasure of the people against God, God will make the people displeased with you. But when you seek God’s pleasure in spite of the people, God will make the people pleased with you. – Dalia Mogahed

His confidence and audacity in his early years were equally matched by his humility and compassion in his later life. – Sister Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard

He taught me to understand and accept that God is always in charge, but most importantly he taught me that God Almighty is the Greatest. – Sister Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard

Muhammad Ali was a living example of the greatness of God, of what God can do to a humble servant of His. And if we humble ourselves, if we humble ourselves, and if we can take one thing from the life of Muhammad Ali, if we can humble ourselves, then God is well capable of elevating us. – Imam Zaid Shakir

NB I found it interesting that Dalia Mogahed used the phrase “fortune and glory”. The first time I heard that phrase was as a kid watching the movie Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984). The character Indiana Jones (played, of course, by Harrison Ford) says these exact words in a now famous movie quote. I am not sure if Dalia knew of this when she wrote her eulogy! Interesting nonetheless.


The passing of Muhammad Ali marks a sad and sorrowful start to the Islamic holy month of Ramadhaan. The Greatest Of All Times finally floated like a butterfly on Friday 3rd June 2016, aged 74.

Ali Floating

Like many around the world, Ali was a personal hero of mine, someone I’ve never met but who nonetheless influenced me ever so positively, especially when it came to my religious convictions. In my opinion, Ali did more for the status of Muslims and the perception of Islam than any other Muslim currently alive. He was an emphatic living, breathing answer to the question: is Islam compatible with Western civilisation?

When the Champ was buried on Friday 10th June 2016, millions of Americans got their first glimpse of a Muslim funeral service, something that looks very similar to a Jewish or Christian service. Ali’s funeral is undoubtedly the most widely covered Muslim funeral in American history, significantly more so than that of Malcolm X. Indeed, Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, remarked: “In a political climate in which Islamophobia is front and center, his funeral will be counterpunch to the ridiculous notion that being a good Muslim and a good American are at odds.”

Below are just some of the tributes that have caught my attention.

The Observer front page…

Whilst tributes have been pouring in from all corners of the globe, as expected, the most poignant that I’ve seen is the front page of the Observer newspaper, which includes a quote from Michelle and Barack Obama:

Ali Observer

The Huffington Post even had an article dedicated to this front page entitled Muhammad Ali Death: Observer Front Page Hailed As ‘Stunning’ Tribute To Legendary Boxer.

The cover of Time magazine…

Time magazine also had an Ali cover tribute:

Ali Time

A cartoon from Keith Knight…

Another tribute to catch my eye was this really nice image drawn by the brilliant cartoonist Keith Knight.

Ali Keith

Mehdi Hasan’s cynical look at the tributes pouring in…

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the passing of “an extraordinary human being”…

Fellow blogger Yasmina Blackburn makes a heartfelt point…

Allah has taken our brother, Muhammad Ali, back home to Him. Inna lilahi wa inna ilahi raji un. To God we belong. To Him we return. Wow – notwithstanding his accomplishments in boxing – and the memories I have of my family watching his matches with such excitement – he leaves behind such an indelible mark on the Muslim community. He was steadfast in his stance as a believer. In his devotion to doing the right thing by humanity. By standing against the grain for what was right and true. To standing up for the oppressed. For not caving into ego-maniacal traps of fame and fortune and demanding he use his gifts of the dunya to help others and to serve Allah. To strive for a spot in Jannah. – Yasmin Blackburn

Final word to the man himself…

Whilst I have blogged before about Ali, once to list some of my favourite quotes, another occasion to highlight some YouTube clips about the Islamic nature of Ali (both are worth a visit), the final word goes to the man himself talking about his own legacy:

I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him…who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was. – Muhammad Ali