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Fitna in our Masajid


Mystic, poet, and philosopher Ibn al-A’raabi, an Arab Andalusian Sunni scholar of Islam, summed up the meanings of fitna (trial) as follows: “Fitna means testing, fitna means trial, fitna means wealth, fitna means children, fitna means kufr [denier of truth], fitna means differences of opinion among people, fitna means burning with fire.” But the term is also used to describe forces that cause controversy, fragmentation, scandal, chaos, or discord within the Muslim community, disturbing social peace and order. The term has also been used to describe religious and cultural divisions that occurred between different factions in the early years of the Muslim community.

Everywhere we look around, Muslims are surrounded by fitna. Whether it's on global level, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir, Yemen, to name a few, or at more micro level, locally, such as infighting or internal discord on issues which could be easily resolved, such as management of mosques - the house of Allah. The question we must ask ourselves, why is that? And what steps we must take to protect ourselves in times of fitna.

The word "fitna" in Islam, also spelled "fitnah" or "fitnat," is derived from an Arabic verb that means to "seduce, tempt, or lure." It is Allah's way to separate the good from the bad. The term itself has various meanings, mostly referring to a feeling of disorder or unrest. It can be used to describe the difficulties faced during personal trials. The term can also be used to describe the oppression of the powerful against the weak (rebellion against a ruler, for example), or to describe individuals or communities giving in to the "whispers" of Satan and falling into sin.

Our beloved Prophet, Mohammed (Peace be upon Him) gave us the seven prevailing signs of Fitna. When we examine those signs, we find all those signs are present today, and we are very much part of it. Those signs are as follows. "people will compete with one another in building high buildings," (Bukhari). "Music and musical instruments will be found in every home," (Tirmidhi). "trials will divide the nation into sects, and safety will be adhering to Al Jamaah," (Ibn Maajah). Sinking (swallowing) of the earth, frequent earthquakes, flying stones with severe winds," (Tirmidhi). "Impact of te tongue is more harsh than the impact of the sword (when people fight over petty issues), (Abu Dawood). "Men will start obeying their wives more than their mothers,"(Tirmidhi). "Voices will be raised in Masjids," (Tirmidhi).

When we closely examine these signs, we realize we are not only very much part of it. We are in fact actively contributing to it.

Most of us by now have heard several versions of what happened in one of our local Masjid past Friday, where two groups having differences of opinions on the mosque management, where one group called the local police to have the Imam removed from the Mimber while he was giving the Friday Khutbah.

In all fairness to the brother giving the Khutbah, we are forced to question why the one group would call the police to remove an Imam from the Mimber. No matter how important or sensitive the dispute or disagreement may have been. We are compelled to ask, was it necessary to remove him from the Mimber? Could they have not address the issue until after the Friday prayers?

Sadly, to state, we have taken our Prophet's warning "Voices will be raised in Masjids," to a whole new level. And we must ask ourselves how could this have happened right here in our local community? We have degraded ourselves to such a level where we cannot even sit-down face to face with our brothers and resolve matters amicably, within ourselves with scholars and elders, to the satisfactions of all parties involved?

Dear brothers and sisters we need to understand and comprehend the negative impact we leave on the hearts and minds of our younger generations, who are so disgusted, when they witness adults fighting and bickering over mosque management, which is supposed to be a volunteer job. They become so disenfranchised that they do not even wish to attend the mosque, leave alone wishing to participate or volunteer their time.

It also gives rise to suspicions, where people already feel that the reason why people fight for these volunteer positions so bitterly is because there must be some personal financial gains. After all people do not even fight for jobs that pays well like the way they do for these volunteer positions. We are not of that opinion, but we are trying to project what people tell us and asks us. This impacts all the mosques as more and more people start withholding their donations. Overall it has a tremendous negative impact on many levels. First of all it denies the  person of doing something good, give donations, sadaqah, zakah, etc. This has a ripple effect of help not getting to the needy and vulnerable individuals and families within our community. Lastly, managing the mosques affairs becomes extremely difficult on volunteer board members who are struggling to meet the expenses, often from their own pockets.

If we reflect upon such recent fitnas in our local mosques it is usually at mosques where few individuals are self-appointed directors, often shutting the doors on the majority from having any say, except when they wish to donate their hard-earned money. That is the only time majority is being giving attention.

We are often accused of promoting the BCMA. However, if we examine logically, reasonably, and with an open mind, without any bias, we would hardly find any other such Muslim organization in Canada that is open to membership, allows the members to elect their mosque directors democratically, those directors are in turn responsible and accountable to the wider memberships, their accounts are audited independently by an outside firm, presented to the public, and filed with the CRA, and members have a right to question their elected directors on tiniest expenses if they wish.

Unless the rest of the mosques adapts the BCMA style of governance – open and transparent – we are sad to say such conflicts will not only continue, rather intensify as our community grows. May Allah Guide us all to do the right thing (Aameen).