It is a pleasure for American Bedu to have the opportunity to interview Abu Mussab.
To begin with Abu Mussab, please share where you are from.
I now Reside in Jeddah. I was born and raised in Lebanon, then moved to the USA where I lived for about 10 years (at age 18). I moved 5 years ago to the Kingdom.
Do you think that you were raised in a conservative family? Why or why not?
On the contrary; I was raised in a Christian environment. My family had nothing to do with Islam except as the official religion on our passports. We had no relations with religion until a wake up call when I was 11 years old and my grandfather passed away. This resulted in a spiritual awakening on the part of my mother. I never practiced Islam and while in the States I became both a Buddhist and a rapper. I had no relationship with Islam until around 2005/6 Then, Islam came to my life and things changed.
During my transitional phase in the USA I was exposed to different modes of Islam. It was not because of different teachings but the applications of people varied. I received bits and pieces of information. Then I came across a student of knowledge from Medinah University who was the son-in-law of Yusef Estes with orthodox teachings of Islam and authentic resources. This made a difference in my life and thereafter guided me to a Masjid in Los Angeles where the Sheikh had graduated from Imam University in Riyadh. I was a teacher until I arrived in Saudi and I continue to acquire knowledge from Saudis while getting a degree in Islamic study. I have been Involved in the propagation of Islam since coming to Kingdom. Islam influences both thought and dedication which I work for around the clock.
It wasn’t something that was planned for but as a believer in one God I believe in pre-ordained destiny decree. Back in the USA were different Masjids who need someone to deliver the Friday sermon. I was involved in acquiring knowledge and at the same time, the Masjid couldn’t find someone to deliver the sermon so I started doing that. I was a former rapper and used to speaking plus have self confidence. My personality did not mind the spotlight. That was also quite compatible with inviting and educating people to Islam. Personality makes a difference for the audience. The Masjid officials were pleased with my delivery and gave me a regular slot to deliver the Friday sermon. When I moved to the Kingdom, I worked in the Dawa center and the Fillipino community (reverts) gave me a platform to deliver weekly lectures. This led to videoing and posting the lectures on youtube. I received my own channel on youtube with worldwide viewers which had a domino effect of exposure and divine plans.
Did you ever use rap as a tool to share your message?
It crossed mind but the issue of rap is controversial and the principal in Islam is to weigh the harm versus benefit. I do not wish to create evil in community. There is some benefit but also much harm associated. Rap keeps the youth in the mentality of hip hop stars or idolizing hip hop stars and most rappers on the scene are womanizers, druggies and having an unhealthy lifestyle. Therefore, I use poetry as an alternative. My main objective is to bring youth and Muslims to the seriousness religion teaches which is accepting leeway and lawful enjoyment and entertainment. I do not want a party around the clock. Rap done now by Muslims has brought some benefit but more attachment to the individual than the message. The Message and lyrics are lost in the process. Due to the failure of the method, I decided to leave it alone.
There are conflicting opinions from people. How can a single person or single message be interpreted in so many different ways that creates people who dearly love you and cherish you or hate you and despise you…yet the message says the same thing. I deliver lectures at the International Medical Center in Jeddah. The audience is a combination of nationalities (like a mini United Nations) with a mix of cultures. They have been coming to the lectures for three years – all public lectures. The audience enjoys the lectures and bring their families. On other hand there are some (Saudis or expatriates) who disagree with my messages as strict or conservative or narrow minded. They prefer a more modern application of Islam and do not find the lectures entertaining. They find the lectures an infringement of freedom. For any American Bedu followers interested in the lectures they may subscribe either via the website or Facebook where they would receive information about the lecture schedule. Information can also be received by SMS service via mobile phone.
The good news is that a positive reaction to the lectures exists primarily in the UK and USA. There is a thirst or eagerness to practice Islam in the manner as discussed in the lectures. The reaction was beyond my anticipation. I receive emails, appreciation and invitations to lecture. The praise belongs to Allah who makes the large crowd and huge following happen. I receive more praise from abroad than local. A great audience exists in the western world for my lectures. The overall reaction is 80/20 with 80 per cent positive and 20 per cent negative.
Is practice of Islam in the West becoming more conservative?
Yes, that is evident. Islam is on the rise and practicing on the rise, even on recent revolutions and uprise in the Arab world. People are crying for islam, even though this was not initial objective. Same or greater, this is the case in the western world. The environment makes one want to hold on to beliefs and be firm. Human nature, be it Islam or something else, find strength in a steadfastness of way, whatever way may be. Environment imposes the behavior. I do not agree with the manner some Muslims behave in the western world and give the wrong impression/perception of Islam.
Absolutely. I believe they are able to understand. Some of the specific teachings of Islam (honeymoon) may be difficult to digest as audience addresses are different. Every human being, westerner or other, should believe in creation and the existence of God. He would not have created us and left us unattended. God would not create the universe in its complexity and create human beings with intellect and capabilities all in vain. Then there is an objective – analyze with senses we our given. The Quran is laying out these teachings same as the Bible or Torah. Hindu or Buddhism are not the same as scripture but have some shared ideas. So the western world is able to adopt these tenets but some obstacles may be in the way before submitting.
Do you believe a different form of Islam is practiced in Saudi Arabia as compared to Muslims practicing Islam in the West? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe there is a difference primary because of context. Geography, history and government will have an effect and influence on the behavior of Muslims as practiced in their countries. But when we look at an individual basis then true teachings are equally applied in and outside of the Kingdom but depends on the individual. Resources are available. It depends on ones view to what extent he or she can adhere and comprehend adequately and correctly. Living in the Kingdom with some of the rules in effect ultimately impact on society at large. If people do not understand the wisdom behind restrictions then they may rebel. You may bring a westerner such as an English language instructor to Saudi Arabia and they love it. They love that they can live Islam 100 per cent and then there are others who can not wait to get out of the Kingdom. They feel that their freedom is limited.
What do you think is the single most important aspect of Islam a Westerner should understand?
The most important aspect is the universality and compatibility of Islam. It is universal and not the religion of Arabs, Indonesians or minorites. It is a way of life suitable for every human being from now until end of time. Islam is universal because the message is universal and not restricted to group of people or geographic location. Islam calls its followers to believe in Adam, Eve, Jacob, Noah, Jesus and all the prophets God sent. We admire them and do not undermine their greatness and status. Salvation in Islam is universal. It is not specific to time or location to receive a blessing. Salvation lies in believing in the oneness of God and messenger of that time. A believer in one God and messages of God have salvation. Some may complain in areas where Islam restricts. The basic and rational answer is why were you created? If you were created to entertain self, then that idea is creating a problem. But if created to be tested in this life in order to attain eternal life in paradise, then that must be earned. It is human nature to understand the idea to exert some effort to obtain happiness and life. It is priceless.
There are practicing Muslims who do not agree with the guidance and instructions you provide on your videos. Some of these Muslims are in Saudi Arabia. What do you say to them?
First and foremost I apologize to them in case I come off as rude or insensitive as that is not meant. During the time when speaking, I truly believe in what I say and may appear to some as insensitive or inconsiderate. I believe that the truth is powerful and if someone is not ready for truth they will react negatively. The culture and the history of a person and upbringing plays a major role. Someone like myself, who lived a lavish life, followed desires and lived in different countries of the world, coming to Islam, my efforts are different than someone who was born into the religion and practice it as cultural rather than convinced by it. If they produce evidence why they don’t agree then great, let’s debate. If their displeasure is based on ‘I think that or I don’t like that’ then truth is conflicting on their beliefs, they are unable to react in a positive way. They have been practicing Islam in a habitual ritualistic way that when truth came with spirituality, then can’t handle it. If I hold debatable views, then I must find the truth. I will admit if I am wrong and also correct and explain myself to the people. It depends on legitimacy of one objecting – is the reason Islamically valid or a personal choice which is not Islamic? Rejection base of own weakness is not befitting
Of course, we go back to the older issue – depends on the angle a matter is approached. If culturally and modern lenient, then my view is extremely extreme and very much unacceptable. How dare he – what audacity – what people do that is viewed as unislamic. But go back to the core teachings of Islam, the Muslims themselves must understand that what has been revealed is sufficient and outside sources not part of our practice. Otherwise God would not have forgotten and legislated. There are some practices Islam acknowledged and endorsed and does not violate. Whereas other practices Islam nullified and explicitly said that people may not engage in such actions as they contradict Islam. Honeymoon is classic example. It is brought from another religion and not merely cultural. The teachings of Islam are so comprehensive and complete; there is no room for outside sources to integrate into religion. One hand, actual practice brought from a scripture – not from Quran where there are practices Quran approved. We have to look at the same principle at weighing benefits and harms. It is not against the newlywed couple to go out and enjoy – ludicrous to say not. Islam teaches marriage brings about love, compassion and husband/wife expected to be clothing to one another. Play role for each other. The issue is if a couple go outside where vice is prevalent and people take vacation from work but also from God, so when go out, everything goes. Based on knowing what happens, the issue is addressed as in the video. If go out and benefit spiritually and in religion, then it is approved. People believe in God but compromise religious commitment then such things should not happen as a wedding is to receive blessings as God. You need assistance and support and blessing from God in early stages so last is to disobey blessings from God. A couple should not see alcohol being served or people dressed unislamically. The environment will inevitably change your view in some way. The whole picture is looked at and taken in to consideration in order to deduce lawful and unlawful. Does not need to be an ayat but scholars can deduce to protect the Muslim from leading to salvation.
What do you see as a perfect Islamic state?
The perfect state is one where justice is served; where people are not oppressed and one true God is worshiped in the ultimate sense. This is what Islam always strove and strives for. Islam is against oppression and terrorism of people – as many Muslims have experienced and suffered. Those Muslims act against Islam such as killing people and blowing up places. These acts are against Islam and not endorsed. The Islamic state is where everyone is living and given their rights. During the history of Islam when Islam spreading, people of other faiths were not forced to change to Islam. Whatever they had as a religious symbol, they were allowed to keep and maintain – no Muslim was allowed to attack or harm. This is the ideal Islamic state. One God is worshiped, justice is served and what God revealed is the governing law of the world; not man-made laws which oppress human beings. The law continues to change even though it is supposed to be compatible with civilians, but in reality conflicts with peoples choice and freedom of speech. For example, in Lebanon a person rents an apartment from the owner and the owner decides to want the property back. The owner does not have the right to make the renter leave the apartment unless he is paid a huge amount of money, sometimes equivalent to half the value of the house, depending on the number of years the tenant resided in house. This is a law which is a form of oppression against the owners right but in Lebanon the law does not support the owner because the tenant has lived there for too many years to make them leave. Laws may be decent and serve humanity but many don’t. An Islamic state is where the Creator knows what is suitable and legislates; then people go by the legislation. At least the people are given their God given freedom by the time when He created them.
How do you feel about the many expats of differing faiths in Saudi Arabia? Should they be replaced by Saudis?
I would not say that…let’s be frank. The idea of non-Muslims being in Saudi is a controversial aspect of religion and which scholars have already issued verdicts. The idea, and I am a student of knowledge, to address issues of this magnitude are beyond my level of knowledge. This requires someone very much aware of the intricate details of religion – which I am good in explaining basics but not here. We can agree that the idea of replacing Saudis with someone else may not be a form of justice. Islam requires that a person’s credentials and qualifications are what determine if a person gets a particular job or not. Replacing all expats with Saudis is not feasible or just and depends on qualifications. In any countries, the residents or citizens are given privileges not given to others. Both will be treated with justice but according to the Constitution. Not all privileges are shared in the same sense. Citizens should be given rights due to them for this is their homeland. If others take over, then they have nothing to do. Whereas, expats are guests. There needs to be a balanced way so local citizens are not repressed, are trained and given positions provided that they have earned them and working hard.
What do you think Saudi Arabia will be like within five years? Do you think there would be a stricter form of Shariah imposed or do you think women may be driving?
I cannot really say as I believe the future is in the hands of Allah. I can not tell the future. I do not claim to have the wisdom to foresee future. I am clueless one way or the other whether improvement or go into the other direction. It is possible that women may or may not be driving.
Islam does not prohibit women from working. There are areas where only women should be working; men should not be playing these roles because Allah made men and women different. Each has own role to play. Allah against women working is fallacy and propaganda spread about Islam. Islam provides guidelines where men/ women protected while going about their daily work. Both may work and if women given opportunity to work while they are protected from men (which is liberating to women) Islam honors and values women to such a degree that she is equivalent to a diamond or a jewel to be protected and preserved. Man should not impose things on her – although some may do. Men are responsible for the well being of women and protecting her from an environment which is hostile. There are places where women are raped such as University campuses or on the streets because the women have not been protected in the same manner as Islam has protected their women. There are men hunting for women, who are crazy, who are sick and sexually fascinated with women, so paving the way for them where women become an easy prey is a problem for the woman and society at large. So it is imperative to provide the protection for woman and she is provided her right to be treated like a queen.
Media is a type of propaganda which skewers facts and the mainstream. They go hunting for a woman such as an afghan woman who was raped and forced to marry her rapist. They put this before the people as an example. Not every woman gets treatments because of ignorance of men who make them oppressed or subjugated which Islam did not put them in. This becomes a social, culture problem. It is not an Islamic issue.
What is your youtube channel for anyone interested?
Are there any additional comments you’d wish to add?
Yes, I would like to thank you, Mrs. Carol Fleming, in particular, for your courteous consideration to have this interview and a valuable opportunity to address any misconception of the videos circulating on the net. I appreciate the opportunity to put in my two cents and in a more comprehensive way. I apologize to any readers who may have been offended by what I say. The context and audience always make a difference. Whenever I go to a youtube channel of someone else or from a different religion I must always take into consideration what he was saying and to whom was he speaking. Christian audience may be addressed differently than a Muslim audience. Speech, content may all change to convey to the people what their minds are able to understand. This as a formula, make it easier to all of us and bring harmony to human beings who live on this earth.
In closing, thank you, Abu Mussab for sharing your views and perspectives.
American Bedu’s entire interview with Abu Mussab can be heard at the link below:
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