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ICNA Shariah Council Responds to Al Awlaki

03 18 10



Imam Omar Ahmad Suleiman, member of ICNA’s Shariah Council appeals to the Muslim youth in response to Anwar Al Awlaki’s audio message:


“In the name of Allah, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.


May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His final messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

First and foremost, everything that is written is in assumption that the messages from Imam Anwar that have recently surfaced are indeed from him and no one else.


As American Muslims, many of us used to wonder at how Allah has blessed Imam Anwar with such a degree of eloquence, and the gift of storytelling if you will, that he could move you to tears within 5 minutes of his lecturing. The news that he was detained a few years ago in Yemen brought many of us into a state of shock and depression. We invoked Allah (SWT) to free our beloved Imam nightly until we heard the wonderful news that he had been freed on December 12, 2007. I remember all the text messages, emails, and blog posts with ecstatic Muslims around the country praising Allah for his release.


Then something happened. Slowly, we began to see the post-prison Anwar Al Awlaki express strange radical views. Lectures that were as fiery as ever were being published on various websites that called on Muslims to join the “global jihad.” Out of our blind love for him, most American Muslims simply dismissed his new lectures and writings as tainted by his frustration with what had happened to him in prison. As a community, we were willing to forgive him for his new bitter and pessimistic attitude towards the world because of the ordeal he had faced.


On November 7, 2009, 2 days after the Fort Hood shooting, the love affair between conscience American Muslims and Imam Anwar suffered a huge blow. Although Imam Al Awlaki was sounding increasingly radical in his lectures, he never once before condoned terrorism. In fact, he very clearly denounced the attacks of 9/11 in various interviews and sermons both within public and private circles. This time was different. He not only condoned the Fort Hood shootings but even went so far to say that Muslim organizations and scholars in the United States were guilty of cowardice, treason, and hypocrisy for condemning the shootings. As American Muslims who loved the old Anwar Al Awlaki so much, most of us immediately declared that these words were probably forged in his name to create dissension amongst the community. Then as the interviews started to come out, we couldn’t believe what was happening. Some of us probably questioned our own faith and principles because of our attachment to Imam Anwar. We watched Imam Johari of Dar Al Hijra, where Imam Anwar once delivered a powerful condemnation of 9/11, as he had to stand and denounce one of his former closest friends and a man who captured our hearts for so many years.


Then came Imam Anwar’s praise of the failed Christmas day terrorist plot of Umar Farouk AbdulMuttalib. This left us even more baffled since this was an attack intended to kill 278 innocent airline passengers, many of whom were Muslims. How could an Imam who once seemed so level-headed now be a proponent of such a clear transgression of Islamic law?


Our search for answers and excuses for Anwar Al Awlaki have run out. Today we are hearing the words of hate and violence in the voice of the very same Imam which used to bring us so much good through the stories of our prophets and the remembrance of the hereafter. His call today for us as American Muslims to take up arms against our own country serves no other purpose but to wreak havoc and destruction. It is the same call of the kharijites that has been repeated so many times that feasts on the frustration and uncontrolled emotions of vulnerable youth that do not have the foundation or knowledge to recognize its illegitimacy.


In the next few days, I sincerely hope that American Muslim scholars will repudiate this call of hate using the injunctions of the Quran and the authentic Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). In the long run however, as Muslim communities and organizations we must seek to offer avenues of positive energy, in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah, for our zealous youth. We also should not shy away from repudiating calls of violence and hate that recklessly ignore the manhaj (methodology) of our pious predecessors. It is only through the dissemination of authentic knowledge of our religion that such calls can be drowned.


To our dear young brothers and sisters who grew up listening to the lectures of Imam Anwar and are overcome by emotion, I can only advise you with the words of the late Imam Al Ghazali (ra): “Islam is a commitment to principles, not people.” Think about the repercussions of this call to the religion of Allah. Will yielding to this pessimistic view of world destruction bring about any good to the ummah? Will it really end the occupation of Palestine or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or will it simply make matters worse than they already are. Allah desires from you that you bring about a positive change in your society, not chaos and destruction that will only further jeopardize an already delicate situation.


As for the Imam Anwar of today who spreads messages filled with hate and violence, perhaps no one could refute you more effectively than the Imam Anwar that was so beloved to our community who once said in a sermon back in October, 2001: “We as Muslims… we want to bring an end to terrorism more than anyone else. Our position needs to be reiterated and needs to be very clear. The fact the US has administered the death and homicide of over 1 million civilians in Iraq, the fact that the US is supporting the deaths and killing of thousands of Palestinians, does not justify the killing of 1 US civilian in New York City or Washington DC.”


I sincerely ask Allah to guide Imam Anwar back to the path of moderation, and enlighten him to renounce this new methodology which stands contrary to the Quran and Sunnah. May Allah protect our community and allow us to be amongst those who call to guidance and are guided, and not amongst those who call to misguidance and are astray. Ameen.”


Imam Omar Ahmad Suleiman, New Orleans, LA
Member of ICNA’s Shariah Council


ICNA Scholar’s Committee was renamed as Shariah Council in 2009. Among it’s various responsibilities, the council plays a key role in advising the organization on matters of religion.


  • Inaya Shujaat

    Asalaamu Alaikam,

    MashAllah, very well said! This is a time where moderation must be stressed, especially to our youth.

  • abu ahmed

    nice article…Jazaka’Allah khair.

  • imd

    Jazak-Allah khair for the insight.

  • Z

    very well written

  • Abdullah

    Great article! I really appreciate ICNA taking such a positive and proactive stance on this issue.

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  • Muhammad

    This is absolutely preposterous. Do you actually believe what CNN is telling you? Why should we dare make such a judgment of the Imam based on assumptions?
    Just because the word ‘Jihad’ is incorporated in a speech we suddenly become so defensive. This article relates to the physical approach which is not necessarily what the “so-called” recording alluded to.There is corruption in the society and until we wake up and realize that our ‘Jihad’ as Muslims is to change this corruption in accordance with the sunnah, starting with ourselves, we will continue to be ridiculously defensive in our approaches.
    Jazakumallah Khair.

  • Asim

    Muhammad – Did you read the Imam’s blog before it was shut down? These were his own words, not CNN’s.

  • Niaz

    Salam alikum,
    this is very very politically correct and i didnt expect ICNA to officially say this.

    Who ever talks about armed resistance is not a terrorist. Violence doesn’t equate to terrorism and It is haram to kill an innocent, no matter muslim or not. Shk Awlaki has rightly condemned 9 11 (which btw, more n more ppl have started to believe is an insider job) . but I don’t see how it equates to fort hood, since I am yet to understand the concept of American soldiers being innocent, unless one believe they are in Iraq / Afghanistan to build schools and liberate women.

    Quote from article “…. His call today for us as American Muslims to take up arms against our own country serves no other purpose but to wreak havoc and destruction….”, One may realize it or not, but America is killing our brothers and sisters everywhere. So I am not surprised, if there is a campaign for jihad, America would be among the top in the list of enemies of Islam and humanity. It may boil down to whether one is a Muslim first or an American first, but that is something one can answer to Allah SWT

    Quote from article “….Will yielding to this pessimistic view of world destruction bring about any good to the ummah? Will it really end the occupation of Palestine or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or will it simply make matters worse than they already are….” I am surprised how ICNA felt that Shk Awlaki have a pessimistic view of world destruction. Resistance against a mighty oppressor is not world destruction and need very great sense of optimism and trust in Allah SWT.

    Quote from article “….He not only condoned the Fort Hood shootings but even went so far to say that Muslim organizations and scholars in the United States were guilty of cowardice, treason, and hypocrisy for condemning the shootings.” I would really love to know how he is wrong there.

    Quote from article “….In the long run however, as Muslim communities and organizations we must seek to offer avenues of positive energy, in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah, for our zealous youth.” meaning?: let us try change focus of our kids to more important topics such as..

    I don’t agree with his alleged support of the Christmas Day bomber, but I am yet to hear anything about that other than thru US intelligent officials who spoke on “condition of anonymity?”. Also, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, said he had been told by credible sources that the U.S. government knew Abdulmutallab – the Christmas day bomber was “involved with al Qaeda” for at least a couple of months (he have diluted his statements since then too) And he was also in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database since couple of months before the incident. so I wont be surprised if this is another staged attack for obvious purposes to bring back focus to Al Qaeeda.

  • Haji

    I wonder why nice and decent people turn in to monsters despite have great knowledge of Islam. Why don’t they realize that by spreading hate they are harming.
    This article although lenghty, but is worth reading.
    We should have some seminars for youth telling them that Islam is not revange or hate, it is peace and love.


  • abulsayf

    People starting to realize this on their own, I don’t see why you need to directly “refutre” al-Awlaki except for the purpose of making yourself innocent to the West. He has his errors, but the complete disavowal you make is going too far.
    How about a refutation of the “gay muslims” of CA? How about the “Muslim Canadian Congress” opting for a niqab ban in Canada? Or would refuting them not be worth it since it’s not pleasing anybody?

  • Niaz

    Br Haji, Salam alikum. violence and hate are not synonyms, and many a times one need to resist a tyrant oppressor in any way possible to bring back peace. May it be battle of Badr, or Battles between Salahdeen Ayyubi and Crusaders or even be in freedom struggles in many previously colonized countries in the world. Islam do recommend Jihad, but also prescribes the rules in engaging in one.

  • Shawn Rally

    wow guys…this is what Muslims have come down to. Has anyone asked what would the Prophet (SAW) had done? Would he had united the Muslims and amassed an army against the oppressors as had all the Prophets before him done…or would he had hidden under his eloquent words of self defense and shame? You answer it ICNA?

  • Rashid

    This posting seems to reflect ICNA’s primarily concerned with political correctness, no critical analysis of Al-Awlaki’s views was offered. INMHO this posting is a typical example of the naivety of many Muslim leaders in terms of understanding the complexity of the American system and much less offer a platform to influence it or the foreign policy component, this includes Al-Awlaki himself. The Muslim community in the US is still nascent and yet to get its act and resources together . The paramount responsibility lies with Muslims in the Muslim-majority countries to reform their governments and establish Independence, economically and politically, and not blame the US for wars that their own governments assisted in and enabled.

  • Mohamed

    Has it occurred to anybody to VERIFY whether these messages were actually coming FROM Sh. Anwar? Especially if it is NOT characterstic of him? Have we done so with reasonable certainty? Especially in today’s age of electronic spoofing and identity theft?

  • Zainab

    Asalamu alykum,
    I am quite perplexed at the moment too, first I thought it was just the western media propagating their hatred through the opinions. Now ICNA?

    I don’t know which to take and which to leave?

    Confused Young Muslim

  • Syed

    This is the best and most Islamicaly sound viewpoint. The author seems to had done reasonable research on Imam Al-Awlaki’s background.

    Keep in mind that the very first point of this article is that it ASSUMES that the statements are from Al-Awlaki.

  • Ahmed

    The authenticity of the statements is no longer relevant. I don’t care if Imam Al-Awlaki is being paid by the CIA just like Bin Laden was during the 80’s or if he is being framed or if he really has joined Al Qaeda.

    What I care about is that a tiny minority of our youth are heeding these hateful statements and ending up killed or in prisons across the world, causing endless misery to their own families, the families of thousands of Muslims who they kill and frustrating the positive work of Muslims across the world.

    We have no time to do research on these statements but to respond quickly to our youth. In this respect I salute ICNA for taking the timely and courageous step of speaking out against hate, despite the possible backlash from those with extremist interpretation of Islam.

    Keep it up Imam Omer and ICNA. Our prayers are with you.

  • Alqysee

    For what is worth and a humble opinion, most of so called our leaders do not know what they are talking about or what they are doing and the result is clear as we see it every day. I respect ICNA and what they do and I think they should stick with that and let others take the lead.
    Every where we go we see in our small communities too many unqualified chefs and so few qualified Muslims and the Qualified leaders of our communities are either too humble to lead or do not want to for one reason or the other.
    I like the question was asked “what would our Profit (SW) would have done
    if He was here with us.
    when we agree on the answer we will agree on the direction we need to take May Allah Tabark wa Talaa guide us to what is the best.

  • Ansar

    The killing of innocent women and children should never be acceptable in islam. The following verse in The Holy Qur’an emphasizes the high value that Islam places on humanity.

    “For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind…..” [Surah 5 Verse 32]

  • muhammad ali

    MashAllah, this is an excellent article. I think some people seem to be missing the point. There are young vulnerable muslims who hear these messages and act upon them. Whether the messages have been verified or not, its crucial to act quickly and not be silent so that noone does anything stupid.

    May Allah reward ICNA and Imam Omar for this timely piece. I for one can truly appreciate it

  • Azeem

    If you click on the CNN link in this article there is a video embedded on the bottom left. It has an audio excerpt from Awlaki in which he calls for Jihad against America. So there is no hearsay or slander involved here. Click on it and listen for yourself.

    He really has gone over the top. Back in 2007 he put out an audio in which he praised an al-Qaeda militant Amrozi so anyone who has been paying attention to him would know that he went to the dark side a while ago. The link to that audio was originally here: you can follow the comments. So this is nothing new.

    His blog also praised extremism and militancy against Muslims as well i.e. he supports the violent/armed revolution against the Yemeni government. He actually said: “May this be the beginning of the greatest Jihad, the Jihad of the Arabian Peninsula that would free the heart of the Islamic world from the tyrants who are deceiving the ummah and standing between us and victory.” So he has clearly gone off the deep end and is officially looney tunes.

    You can also see the transcript of his al-jazeera interview in which he praises Nidal Hassan.

    Prophet Muhammad (S) said(paraphrased): “verily my ummah will not agree upon error”. Muslims have to follow the leadership of the ummah and look at their consensus which has been to categorically condemn extremism, terrorism, the killing of innocents.

  • Azeem

    Also just take a look at his facebook fan page: look at the type of messages being posted there coming from him. And look at the type of following he is attracting.

  • Syed

    Its a good article, As per the Quran, we are in any case not allowed to kill innocent people.

    And as far as attachment to a particular man, it should based on how strictly he is following the Sunnah, we should not blindly follow any person but should check whether his sayings are as per Quran and Sunnah and if they are then we can follow him otherwise not.

    The Jihad was also performed by our Messenger PBUH and his companions but it was not like this as some people doing today. We should adhere to the methodology of our Messenger PBUH and follow the way of the Companions in establishing a Islamic state.

    Al-Awza’e (d. 158H) said, “Patiently restrict yourself to the Sunnah and do not go beyond the limits held by the decisions of the Companions; and speak with what they spoke with, hold their positions and avoid what they avoided. Hold to the path of the pious predecessors (As-Salaf As-Saalih), for verily what was sufficient for them is sufficient for you.” Itiqaad Ahle Sunnah wal Jamah by Laalikai No. 315

  • AbdulHakeem

    jazakumAllah khayr… I hope that people will heed this message. May Allah reward you. ameen

  • Salaams to all: Insha’Allah, I plan to send Imam Suleiman’s well written critique to our listserve accompanied by our own brotherly critique. There are major points of agreement, and minor points of disagreement that I have with the imam’s perspective.

    The Ft. Hood attack, for example, was not an act of “terrorism,” it was an act of war on the soldiers of a military installation (at war in the Muslim world). It also constituted – from the government’s point of view – an act of treason; but it was not “terrorism” as universally defined.

    I am disappointed by the offensive tone of Azeem’s criticism. We can criticize our brothers without resorting to the type of verbal defamation that our enemies routinely employ, whenever a committed Muslim has been targeted for character assassination.

    With some of the alleged personality changes that Sheikh Awlaki has undergone since his political imprisonment (and post imprisonment targeting), I am reminded of the Qur’anic ayah that reads: “Oppression is worst than slaughter.”

    This enables me to empathize with the caustive factors behind my brother’s behavior, even while I may strongly disagree with one or more positions taken.

    Finally, for purposes of this writing, the call for a global jihad is warranted; according to the Book of ALLAH (SwT) and the sunnah of the Prophet (saaw). The question is what type of jihad for Muslims in America?

    I sincerely believe that our jihad in this part of the world should be the jihad of the heart, and the jihad of the tongue. Ours should be a NON-VIOLENT, WELL ORGANIZED RESISTANCE in the court of public opinion.

    Muslims in America should be leading the charge against genocidal U.S policies that are causing death and destruction throughout the world. We should also be leading the charge in defense of Muslim political prisoners, both here and abroad. The foremost among these being our sister: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui!

  • Abdullah

    Not to attack anyone…but i have some points i would like to say, not really regarding the article, but peoples comments:

    For those calling Al Awlaki names, be careful since it could be considered backbiting in a way. So refrain from saying he is this way or that. Because only Allah knows what is in his heart. and whatever we say, its is just an assumption.
    For those who are saying that Al Awlaki has changed his view point or become “radical”, consider this, if you were put in a prison and tortured, what would your feelings be when you come out? just something to ask yourself. Put yourself in his shoes.
    For those who are saying that “think about what the Prophet would do”. Well, there are may things that the Prophet did, he attacked nonBelievers, and he also forgave them. it all depended on the situation. And it is all there in his seerah. anyone can find any form of “proof” to support their claim if they look hard enough.

    Overall, I think ICNA’s stance is a very good one and taking out this kind of article is good timing. Also, Imam Omar made it very clear that what we are hearing in the media is and ASSUMPTION that these things are coming from Al Awlaki.
    May Allah guide us all to the correct way of practicing Islam. Ameen

  • Catch

    Typical statement from our “mickey mouse Muslim” leaders. They support their kuffar masters instead of supporting their brothers and sister who are being killed. I say we as Muslims should renounce and completely divorce ourselves from such hypocritical organizations like ICNA.
    3:118 O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom.

  • Ahmed

    Dear Catch,

    Majority of the people being killed today in the name of Islam and Jihad are Muslims. The killers of these Muslims are inspired by Muslim scholars like Al-Awlaki.

    So who is supporting the brothers and sisters being killed and who is supporting the killers of our brothers and sisters?

    ICNA’s efforts like these will inshallah help save Muslim lives while statements like yours will cause more Muslim bloodshed. May Allah give you the wisdom as mentioned in the verse you quoted above.

  • Syed


    For our brothers and sisters who think that the above statement by ICNA Shariah Council is to please the west or sound politically correct, please note that this is NOT a press release. It is a statement to the Muslim youth in America to guide them in making right choices.

    Please note the ASSUMPTION part at the start of the statement. Irrespective of whether they are from Al Awlaki or not, they do have an impact on Muslim youth.

    ICNA is working towards a specific goal (please refer the “About ICNA” section) and has adopted a strategy that it thinks is closest to the Sunnah in the current context. And ICNA will resist any efforts, ideologies, conspiracies, etc. that are detrimental to achieving its mission. Whether they are the forged statements from media or genuine statements of scholars.