The following email exchange occurred between me and the Jamiatul Ulama of South Africa (KZN) in July/August 2010. This still leaves a bitter after taste because of the blatant double standards and evasiveness of their response. I’ve omitted real names of both the scholar that responded on their behalf as well as my own in order to avoid any unnecessary personal attacks regarding this post. Any thoughts on this will be most appreciated given how much this issue plagues me right now.
At the time, there was a massive drive by Ulama across numerous organisations in South Africa to speak out against the wearing of the soccer tops by Muslims because the emblems of some of the countries contained crucifixes. I therefore raised the following concerns with the Jamiat.
Me: I noticed the raging debates on the mosque boards and now on the CII site about the inappropriateness of the soccer tops, mainly due to the kufr signs that are displayed on them. Whilst I fully agree with the views expressed about the inappropriateness of the symbols emblazoned on these soccer tops, I’m particularly incensed by the statements about how this proves to be an insult to Allah’s majesty…the reason I’m incensed, and this is where I need to hear your views, is that there is such an uproar about these symbols that are entirely voluntarily worn or supported (apart from the irresponsible encouragement by some so-called leaders of the community), yet the symbols that are forced on the Ummah by being placed atop masaajid and numerous publications, garments, adornments, etc. are never challenged…and in fact, when it was challenged, I was told that as long as it doesn’t affect your Imaan, it’s acceptable because it’s simply an adornment! Isn’t this view blatant double standards, if not hypocrisy? (Whilst this may be an unfair generalisation, the adoption of this symbol across the vast majority of masaajid throughout the world, let alone South Africa, attests to the fact that it is widely accepted as appropriate).
At least the crosses on the soccer tops are not purporting to be something other than symbols derived from the Christian faith, whereas the crescent and star have been ferociously adopted by so many Muslims throughout the world as a symbol of Islam, yet there isn’t a single shred of evidence that suggests it was ever hinted at, let alone used during the time of Rasulullah (SAW) or even many generations thereafter! So why is it that our Ulama and other leaders of the Muslim community are so incensed about this matter of the jerseys that are really an individual choice (albeit a misguided one), when they happily lead the salaah to worship none other than Allah Whose Majesty is now being insulted (according to the precedent set by their statements) by these soccer crosses, yet they’re standing directly below, in front of, behind and even on top of the crescent and star symbols which are steeped in pagan and Christian worship?
Please, explain this to me so that I can correct my views if I’m really missing the point here. I’m not for one second suggesting that the soccer tops with the questionable symbols should be condoned. But I’m finding it difficult to reconcile the effort and outrage about these soccer tops when compared to the complacency and open acceptance and support for the use of the kuffaar symbols of the crescent and star as being symbolic of Islam?
Please view the links below for supporting evidence from various sources on the origins of the crescent and star symbols within the context of Islam:
“Incidentally, the ‘Golden Age of Islam’ that we all reminisce so passionately about came to a close about the mid-15th century with the fall of Spain and the invasion of the Mongols. This was about the same time that ‘the star and crescent’ started to be hoisted up as the banner or representation of Muslims. We’ve never been able to regain that greatness again. Coincidence? “
“The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. Information on the origins of the symbol are difficult to ascertain, but most sources agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of sun, moon, and sky gods. There are also reports that the crescent moon and star were used to represent the Carthaginian goddess Tanit or the Greek goddess Diana.”
“The truth is that the crescent was not identified with Islam until after the appearance of the Osmanli Turks, whilst on the other hand there is the clearest evidence that in the time of the Crusades, and long before, the crescent and star were a regular badge of Byzantium and the Byzantine Emperors, some of whom placed it on their coins.”
The American Muslim scholar, Sheik Yusuf Estes, Director of islamtomorrow.com, and National Chaplain WAMY, adds:
“The symbol of Islam IS NOT the crescent moon and the star, but it was used by the last Islamic Dynasty, the Ottoman’s. The Ottoman Empire deemed it appropriate to use the star and crescent as their symbols, but not the symbols of Islam. I repeat, the star and the crescent moon are not a part of the religion of Islam. Because Islam is so strict on the concept of no other gods with Allah; and no images of any kind; it is a mistake to consider that Islam authorized the general use of such things. Additionally, Islam forbids the images (statues) of any kinds of humans, animals or any of Allah’s creations, so how about using a symbol for Islam?”
Me: (6 weeks later) May I please get a response to this email of mine. I would appreciate a clear response indicating the position of the Ulama on the use of the crescent and star symbols in Islam relative to the evidence I’ve provided below regarding the origins of these symbols.
Jamiat: We apologise for the overdue response. This was due to relocating at our new premises…
Likewise, we have not found any evidence in the Qur’an and Hadith linking the Crescent and Star symbol to Islam. It is not part of Islam in any way. With regards to speaking out against it, we feel it best that people be gradually educated about it to avoid contention.
Nevertheless, your input is much appreciated.
Me: Jazakallah for your response. Would you be so kind as to clarify why such a vastly different approach is being adopted by the Jamiat on this matter? The approach on the issue relating to symbolism on the soccer tops was considerably more vociferous and at times blatantly contentious with open public debates on various radio stations, including posters in the Masaajid and discussions from the mimbar. So it’s somewhat confusing to note the comment ‘we feel it best that people be gradually educated about it to avoid contention’ for an issue that is excessively ingrained as a blatant bid’ah in the Ummah across the globe and not just limited to the South African community either. Surely something this serious and this prevalent requires an even firmer and deliberate approach than a gradual educational process?
Jamiat: We do not consider it to be a Bid’ah for it is not considered as part of Deen itself. If a Muslim does not attach the symbol of the crescent and moon on his house, a Musallah or even a Musjid, it is not frowned upon nor does anyone consider it to be a sin if it is omitted. Thus, we feel that other matters of greater concern should be dealt with on the level of higher priority.
Me: Jazakallah for taking the time to clarify your position. I appreciate your views on the status of the crescent and star not being a bid’ah, but I would still like clarification on the point I highlighted below. Please note that my original concern raised is about the imbalance in approach between the symbolism on the soccer tops versus this matter. The symbolism is similar, but the impact of the current use of the crescent and star so much more widespread and detrimental than the use of the symbols on the soccer tops especially given the specific origins of the use of the crescent and star in Islam, namely directly linked to paganism and/or Christianity.
The approach on the issue relating to symbolism on the soccer tops was considerably more vociferous and at times blatantly contentious with open public debates on various radio stations, including posters in the Masaajid and discussions from the mimbar. So it’s somewhat confusing to note the comment ‘we feel it best that people be gradually educated about it to avoid contention‘…
Apologies if it appears that I am labouring this point, because that is not my intention at all. I’m really just struggling to understand why something with such sinister origins is being treated so lightly after being well entrenched into Islamic culture so much so that it has become the default symbol to represent Islam. To my limited knowledge, Nabi (SAW) at one point prevented the Muslims from wearing specific items of clothing so as not to imitate the non-Muslims at the time, so how much more significant is this symbol that represents more than just a custom of the pagans or Christians?
*P.S. To date I have received no further responses and numerous masaajid have since been opened in South Africa with many of them being adorned with the moon and star symbols or variations thereof. The Jamiat has yet to issue any public statement on this and have as yet (to my knowledge) not followed through on any educational process to inform the Muslims of South Africa about the harms of this practice.
Am I really making a mountain out of a molehill, or is there merit to my concerns?