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Tuesday, 03 July 2012 07:17

It’s Time for an American Islam!

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Throughout history, new cultures that adopted Islam did so while keeping traditional practices. Yes, some pre-Islamic traditions were hard to do away with. Remarketed under the Islam brand, traditions such as honor killing and female genital mutilation survived. For the most part, though, the positive values of Islam—doing good deeds, being merciful—did resonate, thus the spread of Islam.

In America, Islam came by way of slavery and immigration. With immigrants come the cultural practices of Islam as defined by their ‘home’ country. Well, now that America is our home, I am making the case for an American Islam—an Islam that fits in neatly into an American glove, to go hand in hand with our American traditions.

There is evidence to show that Islamic Americans need an Islam they can call their own. Back in 2001 CAIR published data indicating that only 28-32% of Muslims belong to or attend mosque. In August 2011, Gallup released its latest comprehensive study titled, “Muslim American: Faith, Freedom, and the Future. Examining U.S. Muslims’ Political, Social, and Spiritual Engagement 10 Years After September 11,” in which a graph on page 25 jolts you into realizing the fact that the majority of Muslims in America are unrepresented. If anything, it must be pointed out ‘mainstream’ Muslim organizations are ‘out of touch’ with the majority of Muslims, and well, not really “mainstream” after all!

Muslims in America were asked:

Which national Muslim American organization, if any, do you feel most represents your interests? (Open ended)

Organization Cited                                                                        % Males                                                % Females

Council on American-Islamic Relations                                                         12                                                               11

Islamic Society of North America                                                                  4                                                                 7

Muslim Public Affairs Council                                                                        6                                                                 1

Muslim American Society                                                                             0                                                                 2

Imam Warith Deen Mohammed Group                                                           3                                                                 1

Islamic Circle of North America                                                                     2                                                                 0

Other                                                                                                         6                                                                20

None                                                                                                         55                                                                42

Surveys conducted via Gallup Nightly Poll from January 1, 2008-April 9, 2011.

So where are the majority and what’s their beef?

Cultural practices, judgmental and rigid, in the mosques are unwelcoming to many American Muslims. In addition, many who converted to Islam as a result of the values of mercy and kindness they learned in the Quran are shocked to find the mosque in their community doesn’t actually reflect those values. Then there’s the expectation to conform to an Arabic culture, to change your name, to change your dress, and the list goes on. How do I know? As a community organizer, I get plenty of disenchanted emails.

This is where I wish African American Muslims created an Islam that reflected their cultural and artistic heritage. Imagine an American Islam with all the musical influences that African Americans have given the world—the Blues, and the gospel choirs. Couple that with soaring sermons and humor. This American Islam would have easily won over the hearts and minds of the masses.

In the Muslim world, religious expression through music has been a tradition for centuries. Similarly we need to develop an American Islam identity, practices, culture and traditions. That means, we need to be able to pray in English, loose all the foreign garb, hire American Imams, develop musical expressions like choirs that are not Eastern in scale or in language.

In the spirit of doing my part in contributing to a new American Islam tradition, I’ve just completed a collection of songs that borrow from classical choral tradition but with Islamic lyrical content. The music is in a Western musical scale and the singing is more like church choirs than it is Qawwalis or Nasyeeds. The lyrics are a translation of al-Fatiha, Prophet Muhammad’s favorite prayer, the “Prayer of Light,” from famous poets such as Rumi and Rabi’a al Bashir. The project is called Islamic Hymns – Celebration of Life.

In its current form, Islam in America is and feels ‘foreign’ and therefore not welcoming to many. For future generations of American Muslims, it is imperative that Islam retains not just its values but its relevance and relatability in the 21st century.

There is obviously a major disconnect between the needs of American Muslims and the mainstream organizations who claim to represent them. If the Islamic practices at the mosques don’t resonate with the majority of Muslims, then, it is long overdue for us to create an American Islam community rooted in American values and culture. There’s a Malaysian Islam, a Pakistani Islam and a Chinese Islam. Why not an American Islam?

By Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist
*Photo Credit: asterix611

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+7 # Ishraq8 2012-07-03 13:23
Zonneveld makes an important and concerning points for the Muslim community and those organizations.

However, I feel Zonneveld's analysis is lacking, particularly:
1) The link between mosque culture and those groups is weak. Not saying there are issues around the mosque, but many of those organizations are not in the business of mosque building and those who are, represent very few mosques and musallahs in America.
2) There are other issues such as ignorance, many muslims dont know about CAIR, ISNA, MPV, MPAC and ect. and those who do, some don't know what they do or stand for.
3) I feel American Muslim culture is something that is emerging and should not be stated to look like its oldest members (african americans). I think all muslims be they multi generational or new Muslims should have a say in this culture. Look at country singer, Kareem Salama, he represents something unique in Muslim (Multi)Cultural Mosaic.
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-3 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-08-25 19:59
Quoting Ishraq8:


However, I feel Zonneveld's analysis is lacking, particularly:
1) The link between mosque culture and those groups is weak. Not saying there are issues around the mosque, but many of those organizations are not in the business of mosque building and those who are, represent very few mosques and musallahs in America.
2) There are other issues such as ignorance, many muslims dont know about CAIR, ISNA, MPV, MPAC and ect. and those who do, some don't know what they do or stand for.
3) I feel American Muslim culture is something that is emerging and should not be stated to look like its oldest members (african americans). I think all muslims be they multi generational or new Muslims should have a say in this culture. Look at country singer, Kareem Salama, he represents something unique in Muslim (Multi)Cultural Mosaic.


Ishraq8, to your point #1:
ISNA is an umbrella organization of mosques in the U.S. What they say or not say and their positions is representative of the membership mosques. Their consitutuents vote in the leadership position. So there is a direct representation here.
#2: As an American Muslim one must live in a cave to not know CAIR, ISNA, MPAC and more recently Muslim Advocates. These organizations are the established institutions in the U.S. and have been around for decades.
#3 It would be nice if an American Muslim culture was allowed to flourish without censorship. Instead we are bogged down with 'Sharia compliant'.
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-3 # Molly Darden 2012-07-03 15:35
I absolutely agree. We have a rich, diverse culture in N. America which, in its variety of subcultures, is ideally suited for Islam. I look forward to seeing more on this topic from Ms. Zonnefeld, and to listening to her first album (mentioned above).
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-03 20:31
Quoting Ishraq8:
Zonneveld makes an important and concerning points for the Muslim community and those organizations.

However, I feel Zonneveld's analysis is lacking, particularly:
1) The link between mosque culture and those groups is weak. Not saying there are issues around the mosque, but many of those organizations are not in the business of mosque building and those who are, represent very few mosques and musallahs in America.
2) There are other issues such as ignorance, many muslims dont know about CAIR, ISNA, MPV, MPAC and ect. and those who do, some don't know what they do or stand for.
3) I feel American Muslim culture is something that is emerging and should not be stated to look like its oldest members (african americans). I think all muslims be they multi generational or new Muslims should have a say in this culture. Look at country singer, Kareem Salama, he represents something unique in Muslim (Multi)Cultural Mosaic.


Israq8, to respond to your points.
1. It is not just the Gallup table but overlay that with CAIR's stats which indicated low mosque membership/attendance.
2. The fact Muslims don't know what these organizations do or stand for in itself tells you that for whatever reason they are not connected to the community.
3. American Muslims of all stripes have contributed tremendously to the larger American landscape. This piece is not about American Muslim culture. It is about American Muslim Religious culture.

Appreciate your thoughts and comments on this!
Thanks.
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+6 # Amirah K 2012-07-03 22:16
I would disagree with the writer in the way she identifies culture. To truly understand how there is a lack of American Muslim Culture we must identify what makes up a culture . The aspects of culture go beyond music. The organizations that apparently misrepresent most Muslims have a set purpose . If we expect music from CAIR or ISNA then we truly don't understand their purpose. What truly defines a culture? These groups may lack in representation because Muslims want other aspects of culture. Honestly the Muslim American community is so diverse that expecting a set culture as stated above like "Chinese Muslims or Malaysian Muslims" is unfair. A uniquely American culture must be inclusive of all diverse Muslim people . Each diverse Muslim group has a multitude of cultural aspects to offer beyond music , especially the Muslim African American community which does not need to identify with uniquely African American Christian blues and gospel music.
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+1 # Jade 2012-07-03 23:30
Frankly, I think the author misses the point of Islamic culture ENTIRELY. American Islam is a non-issue. As Muslims, we do not live for the Dunyia, we live in preparation for the Akhirah. To that end, we must hold fast to principles taught by Rasulullah(SAW) and one of his most emphasized teachings was that of ONE Ummah, undivided. These labels serve to divide us and putting efforts into defining the label (American Islam) is counter-product ive to the purpose. If we spend too much time trying to assimilate to American expectations or create an American brand of Islam, we render ourselves a tremendous disservice. On Yaum-ul-Qiyamah , my brothers & sisters, I guarantee you this: 'YOUR NATIONAL IDENTITY WILL NOT SERVE YOU". No one will be checking passports. Our only passports will be our good deeds & our ibaadah. Let's stay focused on the Sunnah, Al Qur'aan and true Islam. Let those with music career aspirations pursue them, but it's not an Islamic issue. May Allah give us all hidayah.
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-2 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-03 23:44
Quoting Amirah K:
A uniquely American culture must be inclusive of all diverse Muslim people . .


This is exactly my point in the piece titled "My Islam is Democratic".

Thing is Amirah, no matter how you slice it, non of the organizations listed are essentially 'mainstream'. They don't represent the interests of the majority in any aspect.
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-03 23:45
Quoting Molly Darden:
I absolutely agree. We have a rich, diverse culture in N. America which, in its variety of subcultures, is ideally suited for Islam. I look forward to seeing more on this topic from Ms. Zonnefeld, and to listening to her first album (mentioned above).


Thanks Molly!
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0 # KarimA 2012-07-04 17:06
Islam goes deeper when it is kept fluid vs. solid.

Compassion and mercy must remain our common denominator. Prayers are meant as a conversation between soul and its Beloved. Our first language is for God and from God.

Most have realized music can be a blessing for Muslims. It can create a deeper faith and be a way to praise our Creator.

Islam in the US will be different than it is in Egypt or China or France or Mexico. Change is scary for some...they will fight us, but I have seen that American Muslims are causing Islam to thrive in new ways.

We need to keep organizing into groups. It will lead to a shared appreciation of diversity. Imams who grew up here, groups like Native Deen will enrich the experience of Muslims in ways that other Americans will, no doubt, also lead to less fear of our faith.
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0 # Jade 2012-07-04 23:06
"Most have realized music can be a blessing for Muslims. It can create a deeper faith and be a way to praise our Creator." -KarimaA

Dear Karima
Your logic is sound, dear sister,but your theory is flawed. Be acutely aware of avoiding bid'ah.Just like the enjoyment of anasheed/qasida s are merely forms of inspiration,the y are NOT a form of (ibaadah)worshi p. As Muslims,we are to adhere to the Sunnah of Rasulullah(SAW) and to worship Allah Azzawajal as is prescribed in the performance of Salaah, Saum, Dhikr, Haj and all the practices taught by our Nabi (SAW). To view music(whatever style one likes) as a form of ibaadah is bid'ah and the danger of bid'ah is that we do it THINKING we will earn Allah's favor for it and therefore never make taubah for that error. We do not need to alter HOW we practice Islam in order to assimilate into Western society. Our Nabi(SAW) warned us well against Assabiya. Nationalism does not unite the Ummah and we are instructed to unite as one :-)
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-1 # Arif 2012-07-04 23:08
Dear Ani i live in Australia, which in some ways is similar to America but in others very different so do not feel qualified to comment on your article. I do however want to acknowledge your courage, your ideas and your determination, I have only just discovered Ummah Wake Up and have read all the articles and comments and though disturbed, was not surprised by the attacks of some of our brothers and sisters. Please continue to think outside the square and work towards improving our community. I feel there may be areas on which we disagree but i respect you and your efforts and look forward to following your work.

with peace and love
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-05 00:52
Quoting KarimA:
Islam goes deeper when it is kept fluid vs. solid.

Compassion and mercy must remain our common denominator. Prayers are meant as a conversation between soul and its Beloved. Our first language is for God and from God.

Most have realized music can be a blessing for Muslims. It can create a deeper faith and be a way to praise our Creator.

Islam in the US will be different than it is in Egypt or China or France or Mexico. Change is scary for some...they will fight us, but I have seen that American Muslims are causing Islam to thrive in new ways.

We need to keep organizing into groups. It will lead to a shared appreciation of diversity. Imams who grew up here, groups like Native Deen will enrich the experience of Muslims in ways that other Americans will, no doubt, also lead to less fear of our faith.


Karim, if you are interested in organizing, let's collaborate. Please email at

Thank you for posting.
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+1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-05 00:59
Quoting Jade:
"Most have realized music can be a blessing for Muslims. It can create a deeper faith and be a way to praise our Creator." -KarimaA

Dear Karima
Your logic is sound, dear sister,but your theory is flawed. Be acutely aware of avoiding bid'ah.Just like the enjoyment of anasheed/qasidas are merely forms of inspiration,they are NOT a form of (ibaadah)worship. As Muslims,we are to adhere to the Sunnah of Rasulullah(SAW) and to worship Allah Azzawajal as is prescribed in the performance of Salaah, Saum, Dhikr, Haj and all the practices taught by our Nabi (SAW). To view music(whatever style one likes) as a form of ibaadah is bid'ah and the danger of bid'ah is that we do it THINKING we will earn Allah's favor for it and therefore never make taubah for that error. We do not need to alter HOW we practice Islam in order to assimilate into Western society. Our Nabi(SAW) warned us well against Assabiya. Nationalism does not unite the Ummah and we are instructed to unite as one :-)

Quoting Amirah K:
I would disagree with the writer in the way she identifies culture. To truly understand how there is a lack of American Muslim Culture we must identify what makes up a culture . The aspects of culture go beyond music. The organizations that apparently misrepresent most Muslims have a set purpose . If we expect music from CAIR or ISNA then we truly don't understand their purpose. What truly defines a culture? These groups may lack in representation because Muslims want other aspects of culture. Honestly the Muslim American community is so diverse that expecting a set culture as stated above like "Chinese Muslims or Malaysian Muslims" is unfair. A uniquely American culture must be inclusive of all diverse Muslim people . Each diverse Muslim group has a multitude of cultural aspects to offer beyond music , especially the Muslim African American community which does not need to identify with uniquely African American Christian blues and gospel music.


Quoting Jade:
"Most have realized music can be a blessing for Muslims. It can create a deeper faith and be a way to praise our Creator." -KarimaA

Dear Karima
Your logic is sound, dear sister,but your theory is flawed. Be acutely aware of avoiding bid'ah.Just like the enjoyment of anasheed/qasidas are merely forms of inspiration,they are NOT a form of (ibaadah)worship. As Muslims,we are to adhere to the Sunnah of Rasulullah(SAW) and to worship Allah Azzawajal as is prescribed in the performance of Salaah, Saum, Dhikr, Haj and all the practices taught by our Nabi (SAW). To view music(whatever style one likes) as a form of ibaadah is bid'ah and the danger of bid'ah is that we do it THINKING we will earn Allah's favor for it and therefore never make taubah for that error. We do not need to alter HOW we practice Islam in order to assimilate into Western society. Our Nabi(SAW) warned us well against Assabiya. Nationalism does not unite the Ummah and we are instructed to unite as one :-)


Jade, the Quran does not mandate us to pray in Arabic. And KarimA was not advocating for using music as replacing the form of prayer but as a way to enhance spirituality. Very different.
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0 # Duston Barto 2012-09-05 02:44
Quoting ani_columnist:
Jade, the Quran does not mandate us to pray in Arabic. And KarimA was not advocating for using music as replacing the form of prayer but as a way to enhance spirituality. Very different.


The method of prayer is not contained within the Qur'an at all but via Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).

The reason that we pray using Arabic is because that is the way the Qur'an was given to mankind. We are reciting the Qur'an itself.

The Qur'an is not printed words on a page or any translation, it is the recitation of God's words through Muhammad, anything else is not Qur'an it is a representation or an interpretation of Qur'an.

THAT is why we use Arabic in prayer.
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-1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-05 01:01
Quoting Arif:
Dear Ani i live in Australia, which in some ways is similar to America but in others very different so do not feel qualified to comment on your article. I do however want to acknowledge your courage, your ideas and your determination, I have only just discovered Ummah Wake Up and have read all the articles and comments and though disturbed, was not surprised by the attacks of some of our brothers and sisters. Please continue to think outside the square and work towards improving our community. I feel there may be areas on which we disagree but i respect you and your efforts and look forward to following your work.

with peace and love


Dear Arif, your encouragement is greatly appreciated.
In gratitude, Ani
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0 # Jade 2012-07-05 01:33
Please clarify for me, Ani. Are you suggesting we can change the way Salaah is performed from the Arabic to any language or that singing songs of praise in any language is a form of praying, or both, or neither? ;-)
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+1 # Jade 2012-07-05 01:46
"Jade, the Quran does not mandate us to pray in Arabic." - Ani

To be CLEAR: We perform Salaah as it was done by Rasulullah(SAW) himself, the Sahabas and the Khalifahs and carry on all the Sunnah as is required of Muslims. On the 9th day of Dhul-Hijah, 10A.H.(623AD), Rasulullah(SAW) said, "Do not therefor do injustice to yourselves.Reme mber one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O People! No prophet or Apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefor O People! And understand the words that I convey to you. I LEAVE BEHIND ME TWO THINGS, THE QUR'AAN AND THE SUNNAH AND IF YOU FOLLOW THESE YOU WILL NEVER GO ASTRAY.

So, dear Ani, praying(salaah) in Arabic is not something we innovate into other languages, BUT duas can be made in ANY language as can qasidas and anasheed.
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-1 # Elijah 2012-07-05 08:37
[quote name="Jade"]Ple ase clarify for me, Ani. Are you suggesting we can change the way Salaah is performed from the Arabic to any language or that singing songs of praise in any language is a form of praying, or both, or neither? ;-)[/quote For me it would be all of the above. Why not pray or sing in English if you live in a majority english speaking society. I don't see why one would'nt speak the language of the land if one is in that land. I think Ani is on to something wonderful and this practice makes since to me.
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+1 # Elijah 2012-07-05 09:05
Ani, first let me say. Thank you. You have written a wonderful and inspiring article. As an African American let me just say, for me, I don not speak for all AA. I think the idea of music to be included in Mosque services is absolutly fabulous. I grew up in the church before I converted to Islam over 20 yrs ago. Over the last 15yrs I have been going through a spiritual transformstion and have been shuned by many Mosque due to my progressive ideas about reviving the way in which muslims worship. American Islam, asyou explained it, makes perfect sense. And the language peice is absolutly esential to sustain Islamic spiritual growth in North America. I own and have driven Japanese cars all my life. What if I had to learn the Japanese names to all of the parts of my car before I was allowed to drive, I don't think this would make me a better driver, in fact , it would slow down my learning curve. Moreover, the words would have no meaning to me, they would just be words.
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0 # Jade 2012-07-05 11:09
[/quote For me it would be all of the above. Why not pray or sing in English if you live in a majority english speaking society. I don't see why one would'nt speak the language of the land if one is in that land. I think Ani is on to something wonderful and this practice makes since to me.

Elijah, please reference the Sunnah for your answer. I've fairly explained already WHY Salaah is performed in Arabic universally. SubhanAllah, brother, while I understand your frustration of not being able to bring the familiar church singing into the masjid,you must understand that Islam is not incomplete.In Surat Al-Mai'dah, Allah CLEARLY states that HE has PERFECTED Islam for us.There are to be no amendments of HIS commands.Also, the way of the Nasara is not the way of the Muslim.To bring church rituals into the masjid is an act of Shirk. This is how the message of Nabi Isa A.S. got distorted,throu gh innovations. If Allah has perfected our Deen,how are we wiser than our Rabb?
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+1 # Shanaaz 2012-07-05 11:20
As-Salaamu Alaykum. There appears to be a trend in Western society where we have become "Google Muslims". We now have whole generation of Muslims with no formal Islamic education, Google-ing for knowledge and praising the theories of those who themselves lack proper Islamic knowledge. The thing about Haqq is that it is not subjective. It is non-negotiable. If Islam as Allah has prescribed it for us is too hard for some to to practice in its entirety, forming new sects of it doesn't make it Islam.
Jade is right about the followers of Nabi Isa A.S. having followed their own logic,doing one innovation into the other because "it made sense" to them and they ultimately ended up worshiping our beloved Nabi as God. Brother Elijah, remind yourself as to WHY Allahu Ta'Aala sent Nabi Muhammad(SAW) to mankind in the first place.The Khatemun Nabiyeen left us Allah's complete message and warned firmly against adopting the ways of the non-Muslims.We have dhikr,we don't need gospel choirs
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+2 # Mustafa 2012-07-06 13:41
1 of 2:

The only "American Islam" possible is one that allows all the diverse American Islams within it to coexist. But you can only make room for them, not demand that they be replaced.

Re African-America n cultural expression and Islam: just off the top of my head, and in no order, Wadada Leo Smith, Rashied Ali, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Hamid Drake, Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef, James Blood Ulmer, Larry Young, more.

NOI, NGE, 5%, the emergent rap and hip-hop, more.
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+1 # Mustafa 2012-07-06 13:44
2 of 2:
I get very leary of such musical projects as described here ("The music is in a Western musical scale and the singing is more like church choirs") or derived mandates (more Gospel!). While well intended, they can be the worst form of modern cultural imperialism. And such "world fusion" projects tend to weaken, not strengthen the assets of what they "borrow" from.

Artistic expression of - or inspired by - spiritual practice comes from a spontaneous burst by persons at a particular point of culture/space/t ime/faith, NOT from an agenda to win the masses by creating product meant to "appeal."

And when you put a preconceived agenda on art, you're dangerously close to becoming a propagandist.
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0 # Molly Darden 2012-07-09 04:21
Where can I listen to your album, Islamic Hymns -- Celebration of Life?
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-09 10:48
Part I

Peace be unto you both, Shanaaz and Jade. First let me apologize for taking so long to reply back. I have been extremely busy with family and school obligations. I am studying for my final in "Google Islam 101" it's a 90 day ignorant to Imam program, complete with video and a great blog.

In all seriousness, I wanted to give you a decent response to your questions. Before I can do that, I must apologize again, My original intent was to congratulate Ani for the work that she is doing in the realm of Islamic "New" thought (my term not hers). I think that innovation (oh my God, did I just use the "I" word) in the spiritual and religious spectrum allows for wonderful dialogue. I am not interested in being right but living right (we can delve into this at another time). I am not looking for salvation, but self elevation.
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-09 10:50
Part II

I respect your views about how you believe Islam should be practiced, again those are your views, your impressions based on your lenses ( upbringing,educ ation (formal or non-formal) et-cetera. I may not agree with you , but I do respect your right to your opinion. Jade , I think you wanted proof from the Sunnah, in order to justify praying in English, I would love to trade Quranic verses back and forth,a theological boxing match if you will, proving that I am right and you are wrong. But since my certificate from the Google Islamic Institute has not come yet I am afraid I may not be up for the challenge, (Just kidding, right and wrong are not my concern). SMILE!
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-1 # Elijah 2012-07-09 10:54
Part III

I may view the Quran differently from you, in fact I am fairly positive that we do not view the Quran in the same way. I view the quran as a book of guidance, rich with metaphor and allegory and I interpret ( oops,did I just say another "I"word") I under stand it (I think that's better, is it ?) as a metaphysical representation of humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening. Getting into a verse by verse debate would be pointless, prove nothing and would just be a circular exercise and I'm too old for that (spinning in circles makes me dizzy). Before I go, let me try to address this question from shanaaz "Brother Elijah, remind yourself as to WHY Allahu Ta'Aala sent Nabi Muhammad(SAW) to mankind in the first place.
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-09 10:55
Part IV

My answer:
Say (O Prophet), “I am commanded to serve the Lord of this town (Makkah) - Him
Who has made it sacred, and to Whom all things belong. And I am commanded
to be of those who surrender to Him.And to convey this Qur’an (to mankind). Whoever, then, goes right, goes right only for the good of his own ‘self’. As for him who goes astray, say, “I am only a warner!” (27:91-92)
O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness and a herald of good news and a warner.And as one who invites to God by His Leave, and as a beacon of light.So, convey the glad tiding to the believers that they will have a great bounty from God. (33:45-47)

Thank you and Be well,

Elijah
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-09 10:58
Mustafa,
Thank you. I will keep this short and sweet. I am in favor of Islamic music, whether it be hip-hop, rap, R&B, county etc. I am not so concerned with the musicality or genre of the music as I am with the lyrics and that It sounds good to me. I can not speak for Ani, but I think she is creating inspirational music. Her vehicle happens to be a Gospel sound or in a western musical scale or church choirs. Whatever it is, if it can help manifest inspiration in a positive way, then its all good.

good chatting with you,

Be well,

Elijah
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0 # Mustafa 2012-07-09 15:43
salaams Elijah,
I'm not singling out Ani's work specifically as i haven't yet heard it, but was speaking more generally about the risks and implications of this kind of work and approach . As a transcultural musician myself, this can be a very tricky area.
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+1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-10 23:49
Quoting Mustafa:
2 of 2:
I get very leary of such musical projects as described here ("The music is in a Western musical scale and the singing is more like church choirs") or derived mandates (more Gospel!). While well intended, they can be the worst form of modern cultural imperialism. And such "world fusion" projects tend to weaken, not strengthen the assets of what they "borrow" from.

Artistic expression of - or inspired by - spiritual practice comes from a spontaneous burst by persons at a particular point of culture/space/time/faith, NOT from an agenda to win the masses by creating product meant to "appeal."

And when you put a preconceived agenda on art, you're dangerously close to becoming a propagandist.

Quoting Mustafa:
1 of 2:

The only "American Islam" possible is one that allows all the diverse American Islams within it to coexist. But you can only make room for them, not demand that they be replaced.

Re African-American cultural expression and Islam: just off the top of my head, and in no order, Wadada Leo Smith, Rashied Ali, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Hamid Drake, Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef, James Blood Ulmer, Larry Young, more.

NOI, NGE, 5%, the emergent rap and hip-hop, more.


Mustafa, yes we should all co-exist but problem is in reality we don't. And, all the names you listed are men correct?

My artistic inspiration is rooted in my musical and cultural upbringing. I am a classically trained pianist since the age of 5. I'm not of the rap or hip hop background. So I'm faking it simply to 'appeal'?

According to your logic Islamic rap and hip hop should be 'imperialistic' too as that after all is western, as in originating from America and is borrowed from secular rap culture.

Thanks for posting your thoughts!
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-11 00:02
Quoting Elijah:
Part I

Peace be unto you both, Shanaaz and Jade. First let me apologize for taking so long to reply back. I have been extremely busy with family and school obligations. I am studying for my final in "Google Islam 101" it's a 90 day ignorant to Imam program, complete with video and a great blog.

In all seriousness, I wanted to give you a decent response to your questions. Before I can do that, I must apologize again, My original intent was to congratulate Ani for the work that she is doing in the realm of Islamic "New" thought (my term not hers). I think that innovation (oh my God, did I just use the "I" word) in the spiritual and religious spectrum allows for wonderful dialogue. I am not interested in being right but living right (we can delve into this at another time). I am not looking for salvation, but self elevation.


Love the meaning behind: Self elevation!

Thank you for posting Elijah.
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-11 00:06
Quoting Molly Darden:
Where can I listen to your album, Islamic Hymns -- Celebration of Life?


Molly, you can hear samples at: http://www.myspace.com/onehumanity :-)
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+1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-07-11 00:07
Just a note, I am on vacation and will be back July 30th. In the meantime Happy Ramadan!
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+1 # Jade 2012-07-11 01:05
SubhanAllah! "Self elevation" over Salvation, dear brother Elijah? No, I fear not. It's a delusion. Self elevation in the dunyia means sweet nothing if Allah has not granted us salvation in the Akhirah. Self elevation is a matter of ego, a vulnerability, but humility, obedience to Allah over our nafs, on the other hand is a quality. Can we be so confident that we are assured of Jannat-ul-Firdo us that we can seriously offer so much to this temporary dunyia? Anyway, you're right, we could argue back and forth and quote ayah after ayah until the cows come home, but it will serve no one as we are clearly on very different wavelengths.

You have my duas, brother, along with all of the Ummah of our beloved Nabi Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam. May Allah Azzawajal forgive us our errors, our sins and our arrogance and grant us hidayah before our qabrs beckon and that fateful day at the foot of Mount Arafat, insha'Allah. Ameen.
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0 # Mustafa 2012-07-11 01:42
1 of 2
Quoting ani_columnist:

Mustafa, yes we should all co-exist but problem is in reality we don't. And, all the names you listed are men correct?

I was simply recalling any number of African -American Muslim artists and their contributions. The focus was not on gender.

Quoting ani_columnist:
My artistic inspiration is rooted in my musical and cultural upbringing. I am a classically trained pianist since the age of 5. I'm not of the rap or hip hop background. So I'm faking it simply to 'appeal'?


See my 3rd post, #28. Giving you all benefit of the doubt, just noting a lot of projects do this.
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0 # Mustafa 2012-07-11 02:03
2 of 2
Quoting ani_columnist:
According to your logic Islamic rap and hip hop should be 'imperialistic' too as that after all is western, as in originating from America and is borrowed from secular rap culture.

Yes --its not immune, either. Some works , some doesn't.

I tried to qualify my posts sufficiently ("they can be", "tend to"), so don't read them as blanket statements.

Genre-mashing is not automatically imperialistic -- but more often than not it "goes there," coming off as forced and fetishistic , either by design or by default, rather than as a true organic synthesis and a zeitgest cultural expression. I've battled this myself and am on the constant watch for it.

It comes down to the individual artist, their skill, their comfort level with their own cultural space/time. I do know from my own work that the harder you try to make it work, more you force these fusions, the worse it becomes, lol. :)
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-11 22:51
Part1

Jade, yes, self elevation, al -humdulillah! To elevate the self or soul- in other words, to continually work at becoming a better person each day, better then the day before. This concept is not new, it is the example demonstrated by all of the prophets and great wisdom teachers throughout history. The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a living example of self elevation. He (PBUH), along with the sisters of the early Ummah were and are examples that can and should be emulated today. Not their dress or the cultural and social habits and constructs of the time (although one is more than welcome to dress as they please) but his/ their character, which transcends time and place. Self elevation, as I understand it, is a constant cultivation of one's virtue and a shedding of one's vices. It 's a constant work that with time yields consistency.
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-11 22:57
Part II
My sister, it is ego that has us (the Ummah/ community) arguing over issues that are out of our control. It is ego that makes one person think they are right while another is wrong (spiritually speaking). It is ego to judge others. If we were to lay down our ego, we would soon realize that each of us has faith in Allah, the ultimate source, faith in the Quran the guide and criterion for our spiritual lives and faith in our beloved prophet, our physical spiritual example. If we were to lay down our ego, we would not argue over what language prayer can be recited in, (we should thank God people are praying or talking about praying). If we were to lay down our ego we would not argue over Who (gender) can lead a congregation in prayer or lead a khutba/sermon.
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0 # Elijah 2012-07-11 22:58
Part III

Each of us contain the essence of Allah and because of that I love and have compassion for every sentient/ conscious being on the planet,regardle ss of faith, gender, social/economic status (or lack thereof) sexual orientation (yep, I went there). simply because the same source that pumps their heart pumps mine.

with that I would say that I hold you in my prayer, that Allah uses you to help others who thirst for wisdom and guidance and that you quench their thirst and help guide them to Compassion, love, wisdom and peace.
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+1 # Shanaaz 2012-07-12 00:10
Brother Elijah, apologies for the delayed response. I've read all your posts and find myself in agreement with Jade's last post. We are, indeed, on different wavelengths. It's like one discussing AstroPhysics and the other talking about the finer nuances of Wisconsin cheese! :-)
Nevertheless, we can most assuredly bid each other sincere salaam, wish for each other what we wish for ourselves and know with all confidence that what Allah has ordained cannot be altered by any mortal. I would ask you,though, to be mindful of one thing:Please, brother,for the protection of your own Ruh, do not make light of Bi'dah. Surat Al Baqarah speaks so clearly of the fate of so-called Reformers and it is the word of Allah. It is EGO that makes us believe we can ignore Allah's word (Surat Al Ma'idah) and alter the Deen He has completed and perfected for us.
Insha'Allah, we will be blessed with another Ramadaan and let us make dua that Allah accepts our sincere efforts at ibaadah. Ameen
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+1 # Duston Barto 2012-09-05 02:40
It is clear that the author of this article has never attended the services of an African-America n Masjid borne out of the W. Deen Muhammad movement.

I'm Caucasian and my parents and I attend such a Masjid. It is 100% American style Muslim. The khutbahs are all in English, the Taleem service is all in English.

People dress in all different styles.

I encourage the author to visit Masjid Ash-Shaheed in Charlotte, NC

Now, as for the concept of gospel choirs and such; anyone who knows their religion would know that Muhammad (SAWS) specifically forbade the use of music in worship. We can have music all we want outside of the Mosque as long as the words are clean but NONE in worship. Why? Because we are there to give devotion and sincerity to Allah, not to create sensationalism and entertainment.
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0 # luanne hightower 2012-09-05 14:40
You haven't heard my album, released in 2001.
http://www.cdbaby.com/AlbumDetails.aspx?AlbumID=belovedworldmusic
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-09-16 16:05
Very nice work!! Where in CA are you?
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+1 # Dayana 2012-09-06 00:58
Just a couple points:
(1) while music can be beautiful and spiritual, everyone has different tastes. The cultural diversity in Islam in a country of immigrants makes this even more true. So having a musical event sponsored by a masjid could be a great idea, but adding music to Jummah worship services seems like it could be divisive -- like trying to make our worship more like the Chrstian services around us in America. One of the masjids in Atlanta holds an Eidfest every year with various musical groups.
(2) my understanding of Islam comes from my understanding of the Quran: we are supposed to be one Ummah yet value our individual diversity. If Muslims can do that then I believe we are doing God's will and also doing something religiously unique.
(3) in addition to slavery and immigration, there are new Muslims who converted due to taking a religion course in college or reading about Islam. I think this is a growing trend.
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