Let me clearly state a few notable facts that I hope will guide those that may come to this blog with critical commentary as a result of the inevitable ruckus my post may create:
1. I am NOT a Scholar of Islam, nor have I ever claimed to be, I’m just a friendly neighborhood American Muslim giving my opinions.
2. By disagreeing with any fellow Muslim on any issue relating to our Deen it is merely a disagreement, nothing against that brother or sister directly as a person, just a respectful disagreement
Now that the particulars are out the way, please be mindful of point number 1. as much of the criticism will be related to the perceived, assumed, or accused “scholarship” that many may attribute to me, and I don’t want anyone to be confused as to where I’m coming from.
So I found a little gem on facebook an article written by a sincere brother Umar Lee, whom I have enjoyed reading over the years, entitled “Is It Permissible To Join A Kaafir Army?” this article was being heralded by many gotcha types who used his writing as proof about who Muslims “really” are and the “threat” we supposedly pose to “ordinary” Americans.
Given the method of dissemination, the author, and the title of the post, I was immediately intrigued and decided to further investigate as I did not appreciate Brother Umar being used as a tool against Muslims, as I seriously doubted that it would be the intention of brother Umar Lee to add to any hostilities against Muslims in the West.
His post is being promoted by some non-Muslims as if he is one of those “I used to be a Muslim” types, slamming Islam, which is far from the truth.
Be that as it may, once I actually read the post in question, I decided to write a pseudo-response because I have to admit Umar’s post and some of the pats on the back he received in the commentary from some of his readers touched a nerve with me on many levels.
So I decided it would be prudent and respectful to avoid an intense back and forth on his site and instead point out what issues he raised that I disagree with and why.
Now back to point 1. because I am not a scholar, this post will be devoid of any direct Qur’anic or Hadith exegesis, tafsir, etc. if there are those who support or are against my positions that want to supply texts and commentary feel free to do so as it’s a very rare case that I reject any commentary.
Since I am not a scholar and this is a very serious topic, I would rather give my blunt opinion which is of course based on my understanding of the texts, but not in a way that would appear that I’m either deliberately or out of gross negligence or ignorance misrepresenting either the Qur’an or Hadith. Now that the “disclaimer” is out of the way:
I would like to start out by addressing one of my main disagreements and it concerns the title that refers to the US Military as a “Kaafir Army”
I have to admit that assessment of the US Military alone struck me as over the top. I know in some Muslim circles it has become cliche’ to call everything they disagree with as Kaafir, but I believe we have to be more intelligent about usage of that term and what it implies.
First of all, I don’t believe that everyone and everything that doesn’t fit within my Muslim worldview is automatically Kaafir. As I understand it, Kaafir describes a person that is either one who denies the Oneness of God, or one prevents the knowledge about the truth of the Oneness of God to be shared. Maybe I’m wrong, but if the Qur’an gives the very specific title to Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” then at least on the surface, barring that Christians and Jews don’t believe in the Oneness of God, then they cannot by definition be Kaafir. If this is in fact the case, since the US has a population in which 75% of the citizens identify themselves as Christian, then that would also mean that by definition the majority of the US is not Kaafir. Once you factor in how many citizens in the remaining 25% are Jews and Muslims, then the population of those who can seriously be considered actual Kaafirs living within US is minimal. So if we were to use these rough estimates as a guide, statistically speaking, if the US raises an Army and it has of course, then we would have to accept that by definition, given the numbers, it is highly unlikely that the Army could seriously be considered a “Kaafir Army” for a myriad of reasons chief among them being that the majority of soldiers are not Kaafirs but “People of the Book” but also, the mission of the US Military is not to promote the denial of the Oneness of God and not to prevent the free worship thereof. This is why I think the title is a little too sensationalized for my taste.
Now to concerning the Arabic word and theological term “Kaafir”, this one word has become so common place in some Muslim circles to identify anyone and anything that disagrees or rejects a particular Muslim worldview that it has become nothing more than a trifling attempt to disparage, name-call, and levy a barrage of accusations and insults. This word has come to define an acceptable means to slur, label, or defame, doing such should have no place within Islamic belief, thought, or practice as it’s a deplorable means to an end that should be rejected for being against the basic decency and civility encouraged of Muslims in their interactions with others regardless of background.
Of course the US engages in activities and many of her citizens engage in practices that are often against the norms, beliefs, and traditions, of Muslims, however, that alone does not necessarily make them Kaafir, but a myriad of other things which we have terms for. Most can be identified simply as sinners and maybe even guilty of shirk neither of which identify a person or entity automatically as Kaafir.
It is my belief that some Muslims use the slur “Kaafir” in this manner instead of the term “sinner” because “Kaafir” hides the individual hypocrisy of the accuser veiled in language and theology in a way the term “sinner” could not.
If one were to accuse another of being a sinner their hypocrisy would become manifest as many are guilty of sin in some form or another. The term “sinner” has a way of equalizing the field of the accuser and the accused humanizing each in a way “Kaafir” cannot. Using loaded and lofty terms to judge others gives the accuser the means by which to dehumanize the accused vocally and it becomes easier not to see another human being but an “other” unworthy of compassion or respect in any form. It’s easier to give criticism of this nature and seriousness when the accused is looked at through the prism of inferiority.
Another issue I had with the brother’s posting and the commentary that followed, was the manufactured issue that somehow having US citizenship is in direct competition or should be seen as separate from one’s faith. It was alleged that many Muslims in the US value their citizenship above Islam…
I believe it almost impossible to address this issue seriously without addressing the cultural background and or perspectives of those who allege such things as I believe that culture does affect religious ideology and points of view. As such, my perspective on this issue reflects my background as a Black man in America, who’s origin and roots in this nation extend several centuries to those Africans who first arrived here in chains as slaves. This background shapes my perspective rooted in the pride I have as a descendant of those very slaves who by the sweat of their brow, immense pain, and unbelievable suffering still with faith in their God many of whom called Him Allah (swt), helped build this nation brick, by brick, in more ways than one. While I will spare my readers the history lesson, know that my pride in being an American has a lot to do with the history of this nation and the role my ancestors played in it’s creation. To me, who I am and what I believe are not mutually exclusive. I know that it was the belief in God that sustained my ancestors in their sojourn in this nation. I know that faith is rooted firmly in my culture and people. Our pride in our homeland is tempered by our reliance and faith in God. My pride in the title “American” stems from all these things and therefore, it’s near impossible for me to distinguish my faith from the land in which God has blessed my people to strive in.
Maybe the targets of these types of commentary are Muslims who are either 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. generation Muslims who originate from “Muslim” countries, I don’t know. But what I do know as far as I’m concerned, is that my acceptance of Islam as my faith, did not automatically disconnect me from the country of my origin, I did not receive an official membership card, t-shirt, or baseball cap that officially identified and recognized me as a universal citizen of the “Muslim World” with the right to live or travel to any Muslim country of my choosing.
In fact, as I understand it, in most Muslim countries my black butt would be ran out of there so fast and for so many reasons too numerous to discuss in this particular post, that it’s almost too ridiculous to consider the possibility of visiting the “Muslim World” let alone calling it my home.
It is an illusion to suggest that outside the confines of the nation in which you are born and raised that there exists this Muslim World that embraces any who claim the title of Muslim. The very post in which I am responding is proof of that. It’s not real and it does not exist period, it’s a fantasy that Muslims tell themselves in order to stroke the ego and ignore the realities of our 1.3 billion member divided community. Racism, Tribalism, and a myriad of isms’ are huge issues within the Muslim community so much so that even in the United States Mosques are often segregated as a result.
We can deny it and pretend it’s not there, but try being the African American Muslim and go into a majority Arab, South Asian, and even some AFRICAN Mosques. Note the way you are treated then go to a majority African American Mosque and note the way your treated and then get back to me about this Ummah that exists that is more important to maintain a tie to than the nation in which your forefathers built on their backs by the whip?
I just can not buy into this line of thinking. Maybe it is my cultural reality and worldview. Islam is my way of life, not a way to govern my loyalty to this piece of land or that, all of which belongs to God. Islam determines how I see Our Creator and by which means I submit. How I talk, how I live, how I eat, etc. all are governed by Islam. What I don’t happen to see or agree with is that Islam determines what countries I should be a citizen of or which countries I should deny outright.
When I hear one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all, I just happen to believe that those are Islamic principles, maybe I’m just an ignorant black convert as some will dismissively suggest.
I’m just not feeling this line of arguments and what they imply, I’m not Arab, Pakistani, Somali, etc. this is my country, my nation, and where I practice Islam, I have no ties or desires for any other place, and if you happen to live in America and do have these ideas and desires, then to be quite frank, no one is making you stay here, if it’s so great in the “Muslim World” I’m certain you can go there. Just saying…
A very specific question that was asked I also felt deserved a response of sorts:
It is permissible to join an army that calls for the men to shave their beards, salute the kufr flag and judge by other than what Allah revealed?
This one series questions summarize why I mentioned the cultural issues that run rampant within the Ummah and which I believe govern for the most part, this entire discussion.
What in the world does having a beard or not have to do with being a Muslim? Islam originates with the Originator, it has been in existence since God has been in existence, it has no beginning and no end. How people dress, groom, etc. has no bearing on one’s soul, especially over one’s heart and actions. I wouldn’t care if your beard touched the floor, you can be just as much a sinner as someone who waxes all their hair! It’s just ridiculous, defies all logic, and highlights one of the huge problems within our community. If we can’t accept people based on their hearts and actions, and only care about their outward appearance, then we are in more trouble than we think, and sadly this is the modus operandi of many Muslims today.
These unfortunate ideas are wonderfully exhibited in this illogical chain of argument that suggests that due to US Military grooming standards requiring men to shave that this is proof of their “Kaafir” nature. I have to laugh to stop from crying, because many Muslims think like this even if your not in the Military. There are those who will judge this or that brother based on whether or not they have a beard. Go into some of the aforementioned Mosques without a beard or not dressed in various others’ cultural garb, and tell them your Muslim and see how they look at you. Decide to dress and look like the country of YOUR birth and they will often accuse you of not being Muslim in some shape or another, as If God really cares how much hair we have or our style of clothing outside of being half-naked!
On the entire “Kufr” flag thing, I already gave my opinion on the usage of this word, but let me reiterate here that a flag is a thing not a person, so it can’t be “Kufr”. Now if we are stating this to loosely mean the people in the nation by which the flag represents, then I maintain my original argument, if want to talk about the principles in which the flag represents, then I challenge the critics to explain how the principles of America are against the principles of Islam.
That would be a more meaningful discussion than loosely looking at a flag and calling it Kufr. I’m really curious what Muslims who share this opinion think about the flags of countries such as I don’t know, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, etc. you know all those predominantly Muslim countries where the streets overflow with milk and honey.
As far as the last part of the questioning that mentions “Judging by other than what Allah (swt) revealed”, this is a topic within a topic…, within a topic…, which I doubt any Muslim would seriously want to tackle the task of going into that at length, especially when no two Muslims barely agree on the same interpretation of “that which Allah (swt) revealed” let alone how to apply that in the legal sense.
Let’s not dumb down the discussion by loosely affiliating anything seen “American” as automatically Kufr, once again, I have to add, that no one is making those Muslims who hold these opinions that happen to live in the US stay here. Feel free to go to non-Kufr lands, is wish you good luck on your quest.
The final question to which I feel compelled to address is:
If a group of Muslims in Mecca attacked the United States and the US Army wanted to retaliate by taking the haram, would it still be permissible to join the kufr army?
This question in my opinion, was stated as a “gotcha” question that’s very ridiculous when you actually think about it. Call me uncle Tom, Kaffir appeasing Muslim, etc. I really don’t care.
However, I do believe that experience often trumps shouting from behind a keyboard about things one has no real life clue about. There is nothing, zero, nada, in any official policy, directive, etc. from the DOD or any Federal Institution that I have been apart of or experienced, that states that it is the mission of the US to attack Muslims or Islam. Even in those countries where the US does have troops, agents, etc. rightly or wrongly, the US goes through great pains to try to respect cultural sensibilities and minimize the deaths of innocents overall.
The US is also the NUMBER ONE provider of funds to “Muslim Countries” in terms of aid. When earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. strike Muslim countries, the first country to ordinarily donate funds and give aid both federally and through private citizens is the US, not oil rich and other wealthy Muslim nations, but the good ole “Kaffir” US.
Even if terrorists, extremists, etc. were to attack the US from Mecca, using past and recent history as a guide, aside from the rhetoric of some Americans, in that situation were it to theoretically occur, the US would not glass Mecca, assault it, etc. the US would most likely risk civil war within the US first, before making such a move as it deliberated and fought within the White House and Congress the best way to retaliate without having a US boot enter Mecca. The US would most likely practically beg Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries to go to Mecca on their behalf since they are Muslim before it would even consider fighting in Mecca, let alone Saudi Arabia. We all know this to be true, so let’s stop with the sensationalism.
For all the military might the US has, it would rather risk the lives of it’s volunteer citizens in countries all over the world hostile to the US justifiably or not. The US at the troop level gives its soldiers lengthy cultural training classes, spends billions of dollars trying to improve the quality of life of the countries we are at war with, and when incidents do occur, the military often will throws it’s own troops whom they trained to kill under the bus, to gain the respect of, and to ease tensions within Muslim countries.
What we never seem to discuss when we are bashing the “Kufr” Army is that the US could just do as the Romans did or any other militarily superior country did in centuries past and just totally disregard the beliefs, practices, etc. of the nations they are at war with and just do what they want. The US could save it’s manpower and save billions of dollars and just nuke Muslim countries into submission if that’s what it really wanted as so many are quick to suggest, and there really wouldn’t be anything anyone save God could do about it.
America could just do a proper invasion and insurgent pacifying operation that included killing everyone first regardless, until there were no threats. I mean it’s not outside the US capabilities. HOWEVER, do we see that? No, what we see is Americans trying their best to fight for a cause, again rightfully, or wrongfully, that has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims as a whole, even though those they are fighting against happen to well at least claim to be Muslim, all the while allowing US kids to go without food, education, healthcare, etc. as it spends billions of dollars trying to ensure others around the world get these things. Again, maybe it’s cultural perspective, because I’m not buying it.
Is it lawful/permissible for Muslims to join the US Armed Forces and by extension any of her federal agencies? I will leave that up to the scholars who are mostly mute on this issue save those who are in many cases from countries where it’s easier to criticize the US than it is to criticize their own regimes, that too I will leave for another discussion.
What I will say it what I have since becoming a Muslim to all who have emailed me or asked me in some other fashion the very same thing: Go with your individual heart. If you feel that it’s not a good idea for any reason, don’t join, it’s a volunteer force and no one is begging or forcing you. If however, you feel that the principles in which these services and their various and diverse missions stand for and believe are similar to your own, than feel free.
Personally, I see the US and the US Military as a force for good overall. If I were ever in a briefing, discussion, etc. where the expressed idea and intention was to destroy Muslims for being Muslim or Islam, I would have turned by chevrons in and in my civilian capacity resigned from my position. However, I have never come across such and I doubt I ever will. What I do see and have seen is a country with principles that closely mirror what I believe are in keeping with the highest principles of Islam, that recognize God and our choice to serve Him, that recognize service to humanity in a myriad of ways as amicable and good traits, that seek to protect and defend the weak against tyranny and oppression, that seek to give aid to those who are in need, and much, much, more. These are the principles our the US Military, these are the principles of Americans in general. Of course, we are not perfect, and I’m certain the critics are not either, many of whom ironically live in the very country that gives them the freedom to call America “Kufr” and quite frankly I can think of no other country I would rather live in, practice my faith, and raise my family, regardless of the which religious box the majority of the inhabitants check in their census.
If America was so evil and so “Kufr” then why do so many come here? Why not go to your home countries and change the conditions there? Why not fight for those things you care about and be willing to sacrifice your lives to establish those beliefs, as we Americans did?
The truth is, Muslims have no one to blame but the reflection in the mirror. “Our” countries are some of the most un-Islamic countries on the planet, yet the majority of the inhabitants claim Islam as their religion. “We” are a bunch of hypocrites.
Articles such as the one I am commenting on reflect the condition in which I openly criticize, where we find it much easier to call others “Kufr” but never criticize the very countries in which Muslims live that have way more in common with the term “Kufr” than America.
A wise man once said you can judge a people by the condition in which you find their women.
Do I need to return fire and begin a discourse on the status of women in Islam versus that which we see everyday in Muslim countries?
Do I need to begin a discourse on the rights of minorities in Islam versus that which we see everyday in Muslim countries?
What about the poor, the orphan, or the wayfarer?
What about education and access basic human rights?
In truth, what I really want to say to my brothers and sisters pointing the finger at the US and throwing around terms like “Kufr” toward America and Americans, to be blunt in a non-PC manner utilizing the street vernacular common in my culture and really not caring what my readers think, is “negro please”.
Only in America and countries similar can you enjoy the freedoms necessary to practice our faith according to the various interpretations that we have, and have those beliefs and practices protected by law.
Only in America and countries similar can you enjoy the freedoms necessary to act out your choices and preferences such as whether or not you wear a beard or not, study or belong to various schools of thought or not, etc. and have the freedom to openly criticize the Government, it’s leaders, and institutions, etc. all at the same time, also protected by the law.
Only in America and countries similar are these rights not only expected but guaranteed and for those things you don’t like, there are processes in place to change them by peaceful means at the ballot.
Only in America and countries similar, can you expect those who you will readily call “Kufr” to volunteer and if necessary die in the process to not only protect your right to say and believe whatever you want about them, but cheerfully do so, all the while as you enjoy your nice home, education, cable TV, etc.
The irony of the entire thing is that in the big scheme of things, the so-called “Kufr” do more universally for Muslims, than Muslims do for themselves. Don’t believe me? Watch what happens the next time there is a natural disaster in a Muslim country.
See who’s the first to promise billions in aid, send relief, troops, etc. to help and then see how many Muslim countries do the same and/or in the same degree. I guarantee you, when the dust settles, America will still be criticized and no one will say a word against the Muslim countries.
So in the end, maybe I didn’t answer any of the questions that were raised, maybe I didn’t justify one way or the other whether or not it is permissible to join a Kaafir Army, and to be perfectly honest I don’t care. But since we want to raise “serious” issues, let’s raise them, let’s come to the table and truly discuss the reality of what’s going on and not hide behind sensationalism or catchy rhetoric. Let’s discuss if we are truly wanting to discuss, and evolve beyond unbecoming name-calling and insults. Read the commentary on brother Umar Lee’s blog regarding this question, and you will see what I mean, everything from insulting other Muslim’s directly such as “the white Sheik” to whole-heartedly throwing Muslims who think like me under the proverbial bus as Uncle Tom’s and worse insinuating that our Islam is any less than theirs.
In the end, Allah (swt) Knows Best,
May Allah (swt) guide the Ummah in these difficult times,