Azhar Usman responds to Yvonne Ridley

azhar.jpgThis was before Sami Yusuf responded to her, but Azhar Usman (Muslim Comedian from the Allah Made me Funny Tour) wrote a letter about a month ago to Yvonne regarding her little rant. Mecca2Medina also responded to her a while back.
Azhar Usman writes:

It is a rant written by a new convert (who saw the “beauty of Islam” at the hands of the Taliban, incidentally), based on a literalist and highly ideological, fundamentalist understanding of the religion of Islam.

Sadly, the notion that “the world is so terrible and Muslims are being bullied and killed all over the world; therefore, they should be sad, crying all the time, and never enjoy happiness” is a common fallacy believed in and advocated by countless Muslims. As a matter of fact, many new converts (and born-Muslims who come to religion later in life) get sucked into this short-sighted, irrational sort of thought almost immediately after their conversion. Invariably, the vast majority of such people either give up on the religion (b/c such a state is neither healthy nor sustainable), or they temper their views over time. See, e.g., Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution, by Abdal Hakim Murad (in which he details the problem of the “Salafi burnout” syndrome all too common among activist Muslims these days):
Is it true that “eminent scholars throughout history have opined that music is haram”? Of course it is. Does that mean that Sami Yusuf and artists like him are condemned? Of course not. This type of simplistic analysis serves no worthwhile purpose. Besides, eminent scholars such as Imam al-Qarafi (may God have mercy on him) also commented as follows:

“Persons handing down legal judgments while adhering blindly to the texts in their books without regard for the cultural realities of their people are in gross error. They act in contradiction to established legal consensus and are guilty of iniquity and disobedience before God, having no excuse despite their ignorance; for they have taken upon themselves the art of issuing legal rulings without being worthy of that practice….Their blind adherence to what is written down in the legal compendia is misguidance in the religion of Islam and utter ignorance of the ultimate objectives behind the rulings of the earlier scholars and great personages of the past whom they claim to be imitating.”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may God have mercy on him), commenting on al-Qarafi’s position, opined thus:

“This is pure understanding of the law. Whoever issues legal rulings to the people merely on the basis of what is transmitted in the compendia despite differences in their customs, usages, times, places, conditions, and the special circumstances of their situations has gone astray and leads others astray. His crime against the religion is greater than the crime of a physician who gives people medical prescriptions without regard to the differences of their climes, norms, the times they live in, and their physical natures but merely in accordance with what he finds written down in some medical book about people with similar anatomies. Such is an ignorant physician; the other is an ignorant juris-consult but more detrimental.”

I do not wish to engage in a debate about the specifics of the religious legal disagreement, as I am neither a religious scholar nor a trained researcher in the field. I would, however, point interested readers to the following article, where the above quotations are included, cited, and explained in context: Islam & The Cultural Imperative, by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah:
As the above-referenced article convincingly argues, the religion of Islam has never been a culturally predatory religion. The problem of fanatical Islamism –that insists on irrationally emphasizing Arabized elements of early Islam as the normative practices of the religion– is an entirely modern phenomenon. Classical Muslim society, scholarship, and civilization celebrated Muslim art, artists, and creativity. In spite of the so-called “prohibition on music” under religious law, historically Muslim society produced beautifully moving and powerful music, with Muslim musicians even being credited with inventing countless musical instruments.

As for Sami’s respect for and pride in his home country of Britain, this is neither here nor there. The notion that Britain’s being the “third most hated country in the world” as a proof for anything is categorically unpersuasive. By Ridley’s logic, all Muslims should abandon their faith–or at least be ashamed of it– since Islam is the most hated religion in the world. Public opinion on such issues should not become the basis of pride or lack thereof. Instead, one’s pride in one’s culture, tribe, or country should be understood in context. I highly doubt that Sami Yusuf is proud of the terrible things that the British government and law enforcement has done throughout its history. Obviously, this is not what he is referring to. Just as conscientious and PROUD Americans condemn the wrong, immoral, and brutal actions and policies enacted by their government throughout its own bloody history. Just as conscientious and PROUD Muslims condemn the acts of vigilante violence carried out by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam, as well as the political violence and senseless killings that have been a hallmark of the political history of the Muslim world, pride in one’s country or religion is by no means an endorsement of bad actions done by others in the name of said country or religion; this is clear to any thinking person.

And finally, as for those out-of-control sisters. Sure, we can sit here and analyze their behavior and judge them, but I would much prefer to leave that judgment up to God. Could a bit more restraint and self-control be a good thing and more becoming of righteous servants of God? Sure. But if people cut loose and lose control from time to time, guess what; it might be a little thing called love? I know Sami Yusuf personally, and I believe him to be a good man, with a good heart. He sings beautifully, and his voice makes people love him, which, in turn, makes them love God. If loving God and screaming and crying about it are crimes, then I am sure all of those sisters would be happy to admit their “guilt”!

Here’s a thought: If you feel so uncomfortable about pop cultural works and art forms at “so-called Nasheed concerts,” then just don’t go. Perhaps it’s a better use of your time to stay home and try developing a more nuanced understanding of the world and the role of religion and art in it. Maybe then you might understand that the same human being is capable of being a Nasheed singer, a fan of pop culture, a rebellious activist, and one who cries like a beggar before his Lord every night for forgiveness and mercy.
Oh, wait; but that would require one to dispense with a black-and-white view
of the world. And God knows that Bush, Blair, and Bin Laden –the Unholy
Trinity– don’t want that.
In any case, it is my prediction that Yvonne Ridley herself will go back and read that article she wrote in five to ten years, and feel embarrassed by its judgmentalism, narrowmindedness, and lack of nuanced understanding. As such, I do not fault her for her erroneous understanding or commentary.

Ironically, Sami Yusuf, if he wasn’t the star being talked about in the piece, as well as his label (“Awakening”), would probably agree with much of the writer’s sentiment. They are avowed supporters of the so-called “Islamic Movement,” which is basically built on the Islamist ideology of The Muslim Brotherhood –hence his fascination with “My Ummah” (which is the title of his second album). Similarly the boy band 786 has also released albums replete with Islamist notions about religion, not the least obvious example being their hit track “Palestine.”

Oh, Yvonne Ridley, being a Muslim is not about becoming a member of a tribe called “Banu Islam” (The Tribe of Islam); it is about achieving spiritual illumination and connectivity with the Divine through upright conduct, behavior, morals, and ethics. Of course, Muslims must have concern for the affairs of their fellow believers, but this is not the primary purpose of the religion. Once you’ve divorced the religious ideal from a politicized understanding of Islam, it becomes clear that much of this rant is just hot air.

May God and the reader pardon me for any errors in my analysis, for God knows best, and truly success comes only from The Most High.

With fraternal love and respect,

I remain, at your service,

Azhar Usman
Yvonne Ridley responds:

Salaam Alaikum brother Azhar,

I read with interest your response to my column and was mildly amused by the pompous invective which poured forth. Firstly, I did not come to Islam through the Taliban, a major inaccuracy based on a common false assumption, several of which you express in your article by the way. Secondly, I do not rant. I am a columnist and therefore am expected to be provocative and write in a manner which will make people sit up and take notice –object achieved, I would say without doubt, judging from the literally hundreds of emails I have received. By the way, you might be interested to known that 90pc are in support of my column. I certainly do not ‘blindly’ follow Islamic texts, but I do respect the scholars and, by your own admission, you are not one nor ever likely to be. Finally, the reason I embraced Islam had nothing to do with the behavior of the present-day Muslims and everything to do with the Qur’an and the example given to us by the Prophet (pbuh). And, contrary to your belief, I actually do like a good laugh and so shall make it my business to go along to one of your performances; although, please do not expect me to jump out of my seat, cartwheel around the auditorium, or chant your name. I certainly will not applaud you brother, but I might just laugh.

Your Sister in Islam,
Yvonne Ridley

Source: click here

70 Replies to “Azhar Usman responds to Yvonne Ridley”

  1. All of you people need to realize my brotheres and Sisters, That you are destroying the Ummah. All these Sects of Islaam are not healthy for us. Please you stop this nonsense.Stugs man thats all I have to say. You guys should be the people to say, this happened to us and should not happen again. You guys are forgetting the teachings of the Prophet (S). Mujahideen Ryder, you have a very sucessfull site but don’t try and cause ruckus among us, we are all muslims and are supposed to love each other. Be carefull what you post. May Allah Guide us and the Ummah to Sucess

  2. I personally think Yvonne Ridley is one big fat liar who uses anyone any religion to achieve her low down personel ambition

  3. I personally think Yvonne Ridley is one big fat liar who uses anyone any religion to achieve her low down personel ambition
    Why Not?

  4. Personally I think Yvonne owned both of them.

    But wow, i was surprised by the first sentence of his (Azhar’s) quote:

    “It is a rant written by a new convert (who saw the “beauty of Islam” at the hands of the Taliban, incidentally)”

    What kind of a sad argument is that? She is a convert? lol so converts have no knowledge now. Hmm about what time can we start taking any knowledge from converts? What say you: three, four, five years in? Ten years maybe? This reminds me of a lecture by Sheikh AbdurRaheem Green posted at youtube. He was talking about the rampant shirk in lands like pakistan. One person commented (probably out of who knows nationalism, may Allah forgive them)and said something like “oh he converted a few years ago, now he thinks he can pass fatwas/or make takfir”. What kind of logic is this? Convert-bias we have going on now? Let me tell you of the converts I know, they are 1000% better than ANY born Muslim around me!

    Next he goes on with the taliban, and fundamentalism, salafi burnout, extremism (insert some other term)…

    ahh..yeah i stopped reading there.

    I have and still do have a lot of respect for Azhar, some of his jokes i don’t agree with, but i respect him just the same. I’m saddened he would write such a letter.

    I’m saddened even more with the “Salif-burnout” comment (book mentioned)by him, and the “Wahhabi” comments made by others. There is so much ignorance in this ummah.*sigh*

    May Allah distinguish the truth from the falsehood and May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him Most, ameen

  5. salaam,
    What Yvonne Ridley said, I do agree. But we should follow QURAAN & sahih HADITHS to prove other points. We should not give our own points as we may mislead people who have little knowlegge of Islam. I think the ready made source for us is Dr ZAKIR NAIK from India to understand Islam easily & I advice muslims to listen to him if they are not biased against him.

  6. our religion like any other religion can be manipulated to suit our desires. you have to understand, one guy is a comedian and one is a singer, they are entertainers. do you think the guy who owns the bodega on the corner wants you telling him that selling beer and pork is haram? come on. no one wants to hear that and if you try to beat them in the head with qur’an and ahadeeth, they can do the same to you. see it would be great if someone pointed out our mistakes and we said “yes youre right brother/sister, i will change insha’allah, pray for me”. but that almost never happens. see we are a nation who have mastered the art of making excuses but what will be our excuse on yaum al qiyama?. perhaps her (yvonne ridley) words are a bit too harsh, but unfortunately it seems as if this is the only language we can comprehend.

    btw lets say that there was ikhtilaf on this issue of music, what did the prophet (saw) say about doubtful matters? obviously a person who fears ALLAH will abandon the doubtful things but a person enslaved by his nafs will cling to them and utilize the doubt as a justification for his wrongdoing.

  7. Yvonne Ridley is such a clown really.

    She wrote a bad article. And now she is stinking up this place bad.

  8. I applaud sister Yvonne Ridley for writing this. As brother Napoleon from the Outlawz said “Music is the tool of the shaytaan” and there are so many people falling for it.

    Read this article by a sister from London.

    Global Fitna and Disunity!

    Told like it is, by Fatima Barkatullah

    ” I decided to go to the Global Peace & Unity Event with just my eldest son to see what it was like and to feel that good feeling one gets when in an environment where our Brotherhood can be felt. I only went for the second day: Sunday. Ma Sha Allah many of the talks were inspiring: Yaasir Qadhi set out the solution for the problems the Ummah faces: returning to the Deen and doing what we can as individuals to make sure we are on the straight path….Salman al-‘Awdah, George Galloway and others had powerful speeches reminding us of the situation many Muslims find themselves in. There was something for everyone really.

    I think the scale of the Global Peace & Unity Event was different: apparently 50000 people attending between the two days (Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th of November). That is a lot of people. But if you’re going to organise an event that big…you’ve got to meet the challenge, by thinking of everything. Many people accepted Islam at the event and others felt their Iman increase. The comedian was very funny and gave an important message at the same time. The food was good masha Allah.

    I looked at the event as a mother. My son would have felt the Unity of the Muslims for quite a long time during the event. He would have seen that Muslims can excel in having quality businesses designing and selling Multimedia products, modern clothing, services, food and everything in between! That is something that would have boosted my confidence when I was a young girl – the only practicing Muslim in sight at my school. He would have also seen the amount of litter everywhere as well as the free-mixing. Unfortunately though, if he had been older, he would also have probably learnt that singers are more important than scholars. Imagine scholars being told they had to shorten their talks. Do you think anyone would ask a singer to shorten their songs? There was one point when Suhaib Webb was told to finish his talk in one minute. He in fact refused saying that he had been given twenty and he intended to speak for twenty minutes because he had a message he wanted to convey to the people. He even said to the audience many of whom seemed not to be paying attention to him: “If you can listen to singers then you should listen to your Imaams!”
    Allahu Akbar.

    I feel afraid. I am afraid that the Ummah is giving our children, dangerous mixed messages. We tell them not to follow their desires or imitate the disbelievers and then they see the following: Two singers who are known for their good work for Muslim children and education, singers who children often recognise, turn up on the stage with musical instrument in hand and start to sing and strum guitars in a Muslim event, for Muslims, organised by Muslims. One of them did apparently warn the audience and asked for tolerance. I had left the room as soon as I saw the first guitar. I truly believe that this is the fulfillment of the Prophet’s prophecy:
    “In my ummah there will be people who allow fornication/adultery (zina), silk, wine and musical instruments [ma’aazif].

    (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Saheeh mu’allaqan, 51/10. Reported mawsoolan by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra, 3/272; al-Tabaraani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, 3/319; and Ibn Hibbaan in al-Saheeh (8/265-266). Classed as saheeh by Ibn al-Salaah in ‘Uloom al-Hadeeth (32), Ibn al-Qayyim in Ighaathat al-Lahfaan (255) and Tahdheeb al-Sunan (5/270-272), al-Haafiz in al-Fath (10/51) and al-Albaani in al-Saheehah (1/140)).

    But the event was meant to be for Global Peace & Unity. As soon as the instruments were brought out….they divided the Muslims. Why would you do that? Is it so important that your song, (which you claim is for da’wah and to give an Islamic message), be accompanied by a musical instrument that you know half the audience regard as haraam – forbidden by Allah, so they cannot expose themselves or their children to it? I mean was it that important to do that? I heard sister Yvonne Ridley saying on her show once how uncomfortable the new emerging pop nasheed culture was to her. I agree. It is a slippery slope.

    I suppose the key is not to expose ones children to the nasheed culture. I have a Ahmad Bukhatir CD, a Junaid Jamshed CD, some Arabic songs which teach the pillars of Iman and rules of Tajweed, the five pillars of Islam, the six pillars of Iman tapes, which have innocent Muslim poems and rhymes on them. I also had Dawud Wharnsby Ali tapes which I only brought out occasionally but I am seriously considering getting rid of them, for this reason alone: whoever I bring into my children’s lives will be a role model for my children…if they see him with a guitar, that will affect them, especially since one of my relations has a guitar (which I cover whenever I see it at their house) and if they notice that guitar and the guitar of nasheed artists (?) I mean musicians (that’s what they are), then what message does that send them? Then on top of that if those musicians are ‘bigged up’ by the event organisers, (How many times were people at the GP&U event told that Yusuf Islam was in the building? So many times, with so many cheers and applause and takbeers. Much more than the scholars and students of knowledge were bigged up.) If the singers are bigged up and the audience hyped up, then that will be such a strong influence on my child, especially as he gets older. Human beings are affected by those who surround them.

    No doubt about it.
    At the GP & U event Allah protected my son. Before the Nasheeds and songs even started, he fell asleep on my lap. Then when the guitar came out – I picked up all of my bags and my heavy son and walked out of the hall.

    Remember the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by taking action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot then with his heart (by hating it and feeling that it is wrong), but that is the weakest of faith.” (Narrated by Muslim, 49). About that Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Denouncing it in one’s heart is obligatory for everyone. That means hating the evil action and shunning those who do it, if one is unable to denounce it by taking action or speaking out.” From: al-Durar al-Saniyah fi al-Ajwabah al-Najdiyyah, 16/142.
    We cannot be witness to such things nor can we pretend they are not that important. My son woke up, way after the nasheeds finished.

    So many brothers and sisters who I know didn’t listen to music just stayed in the room. That’s how forbidden acts eventually get accepted by people: apathy. Not enjoining the good and forbidding the evil – not even protecting ourselves from witnessing the evil. I am not exaggerating when I say that I think this is the slippery slope that could lead our children into becoming wishy-washy Muslims. That is a disease of the heart.

    One brother did speak out and did it in the nicest way: Br Jalal ibn Sa’eed. After the banjo strumming was over, he came and with a smile on his face said that the guitars were not his cup of tea and then clearly said for all to hear that Music is haraam. The crowd cheered. He called on them to do takbeer and there was loud cheering because so many people there agreed with him. He then said that he doesn’t dislike the brothers who used musical instruments because he knows they thought they were doing good – or something like that. That took guts to do. Barak Allah feehi. He enjoined the good at the event when it was so easy to just act like everything was going fine.

    The only reason I am speaking openly about this is because the singers so openly played their instruments to audiences of millions of Muslims if you include all those who could potentially watch the event on TV and later on DVD. So many children and young people will be influenced by their actions.

    I will be writing to Islam Channel insha Allah and I hope things can improve in the future but I don’t feel that optimistic because there is a current trend to just go along with anything that will impress non-Muslims and show them that we’re not that different to them. It’s sad to me, but I will not be attending such events in the future. I know what the crowd can do to your Iman because I’ve been there.

    If anyone has any doubt about music, read these proofs:

    It is not just one scholars opinion. It is the opinion of the Sahabah, and the early generations, who are the ones who preserved Islam for us because they knew the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. The three infallibles prove it: The Qur’an, the Sunnah as well as the consensus of the early generations of Muslims.”

    P.S: the responses to this post are interesting also. MashAllah.
    Check them out at

  9. I Agree for the 100% too.

    Where’s the scolarly arguments of the Comediant or Samy Jusuf.
    Whers is it.

    I dont See Qala Allah or Qallar Rasoul.

    I only see answers from the heart and mind without clear knowledge.

    We Are a Muslims Ummah that has to agree on clear Knowledge.
    What is haram is Haram. May Allah guide us to the truth, Amien.

    We are only the best of people if we are enjouning good and forbid evil. Without knowlegde we can not differentiate from good or evil.

    We will be like cattle and will follow only our disires.
    Salaam aleikoem wr wb
    I love you all for the sake of ALLAH.
    Abuadam, Ibrahim Dahou

  10. Assalaamualaikum,
    I am brother Hussein Namooya from Mauritius and I am a nasheed artist. My first album MARHABA JADDAL HUSSEIN is already available on Itunes music stores for digital downloads and is also available on the bizmo. Any one can listen to my nasheeds from my link on Alif Music. As a matter of fact downloads represents only 10% of sales of an album as 90% people prefer the physical copies of the album.I am looking for a reliable promoter who can produce my album for sale worldwide and I am available for concerts too. Please note that an album with a song on Gaza entitled THE HELL IN THE GAZA STRIP will be available by end of this month
    Thank you for your kind consideration
    Jazak Allah Khair

  11. Salams

    I remember debates in school, its not about who said what but about who said what how… articulation is the keyword. I remember either reading about or hearing about sister Yvonne’s comment in passin..

    Bless her she has a good point, read most of what Sami had to say, defensive of his art ofcourse, but Azhar started off point. You cant blame the sister for having and expressing an alternate opinion Azhar, I’m sure if i meet you, i’l like you as brother to brother but the jokes? Not my style.

    No its not a dig at anyone but I think Sister Yvonne is in first place had this been a debate. Sami’s sloppy seconds is simply because the whole humility angle didnt really sell well with me, though points well presented but it was self defence while Yvonnes was Deen defence.. Azhar? Its about time you talk less..

  12. There is such a thing as agreeing to disagree. Name-calling and getting emotional takes away from your argument.

    “The Muslim is the one who Muslims are safe from his tongue and hand.”

    There are whole blogs dedicated to discrediting and defaming Muslims, if we are extending that same courtesy to each other on our own blogs, we will be exactly what they perceive us to be. A bunch of disorganized backwards barbarians.

    Islam is supposed to refine us, if we disagree with each other, we can peacefully disagree. I don’t see why we have to resort to labeling and slandering.

  13. LOOL yvonne ridely is the whoaa-maann! She finishedd azhar in a beautiful way…u go girll..May Allah keep us firm on the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed SAW!

  14. Are you guys kidding? If you seriously think that Ridley’s response came anywhere near tearing up Azhar’s, it can only mean that you’re as ignorant as Ridley and blindly follow her just as she blindly follows radical Islam, and therefore it would be a waste of my time to even try to reason with you…

    All I’ll say is this – Azhar Usman gave a lengthy, thoughtful response using important quotes from important scholars. It was grounded in a strong historical context and sociological understanding of Muslims. Ridley gave a pathetic response that did nothing to effectively address any of the valid points Azhar brought up. All she did was try to save face by making defensive comments that were laughable in their attempt to cover up her embarrassment. I completely agree with Azhar – if Ridley has a sensible bone in her body, she’ll look back one day at what she wrote and be genuinely embarrassed.

    What’s with all the radicals commenting on this site? This isn’t a radical site, go away.

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