From Islam In America: Tradition or Extradition?
by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad. Q-News, September 2002 / Rajab 1423: No. 347.

…Imam al-Ghazali provides us with some precious lessons on the conduct of the courteous guest. He cites the saying that ‘part of humility before God is to be satisfied with an inferior sitting-place.’ The guest should greet those he is sitting beside, even if he should privately dislike them. He should not dominate the conversation, or loudly criticise others at the feast, or allow himself to be untidy. Ghazali also tells us that he should not keep looking at the kitchen door, implying that he is primarily present for the food. It is hard to avoid thinking of this when one contemplates the loud demands of many Muslims, particularly in Europe, for financial payouts from the state. If we wish to be tolerated and respected, one of our first responsibilities is surely to seek employment, and avoid reliance on the charity of our hosts.

Some hardline scholars of the Hanbali persuasion took a narrow view of the duty of guests. Imam Ahmad himself said that if a guest sees a kohl-stick with a silver handle, he should leave the house at once. Yet for Imam al-Ghazali, and for the great majority of scholars, one should always give one’s host the benefit of the doubt. And in the West, our neighbours usually fall into the category of ahl-al-kitab, for whom certain things are permissible that we would condemn among Muslims. Resentment, contempt, hypercriticism, all these vices are discourteous and inappropriate, particularly when used to disguise one’s dissatisfaction with oneself, or with one’s own community’s position in the world. The refugee, or migrant, is therefore subject to the high standards that Islam, with its Arabian roots, demands of the guest. Discourtesy is dishonour. And nowhere in the sira do we find this principle more nobly expressed than in the episode of the First Hijra. Here, the first Muslim asylum-seekers stand before the Emperor of Abyssinia to explain why they should be allowed to stay. Among them were Uthman and Ruqaiyyah, and Ja’far and Asma’, all young people famous for their physical beauty. Umm Salama, another eyewitness, narrates the respect with which the Muslims attended upon the Christian king. They would not compromise their faith, but they were reverent and respectful to the beliefs of an earlier dispensation. Their choice of the annunciation story from the Qur’an was inspired, showing the Christians present that the Muslims scripture itself is not utterly alien, but is beautiful, dignified, and contains much in common with Christian belief. Altogether, they made a hugely favourable impression.

Today, of course, we do not usually use Surat Maryam as the basis for our self-presentation to the host community. Instead, we create lobby groups that adopt provocatively loud criticisms of American policy, thereby closing the door to any possibility that they might be heard. Our sermons pay little attention to the positive qualities in our neighbours, but instead recite dire warnings of the consequences to our souls of becoming ‘like Americans’. Again, the danger is that the cumulative image given by many American Muslims will result in our being treated as cuckoos in the nest, deprived of rights, and even ejected altogether. In the long term, the choice is between deportment, and deportation….