Sheikh Abu Eesa’s Facebook “slip up” hijacked by American modernists

This was the meme that sparked the outrage on Facebook.

The recent controversy over Al-Maghrib’s Sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah’s comments on Facebook regarding International Women’s Day, has angered many Muslims, including our brethren across the Atlantic, writes Farid Malik.

One of the positives that have emerged from social media phenomena is the lightning quick access that the layman Muslim has to Islamic resources, including finger-sliding quick connectivity to people of knowledge around the world.

Paradoxically, one of the negatives that have emerged from social media phenomena is the lightning quick access that the layman Muslim has to Islamic resources including finger-sliding quick connectivity to people of knowledge around the world.

Abu Eesa Niamatullah

On 11 March 2014, Muslims launched into a scathing attack on Britain’s Sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah over comments on his personal Facebook page. The Al-Maghrib Sheikh is popular for the liberal range of discussions that take place on his Facebook: from David Moyes’s persistence with Cleverley, to Prophetic tradition on manners and courtesy.

Abu Eesa has often had his back to the wall as naysayers from various walks of Islamic life have been critical of his choice of words, leaving the preacher to sarcastically declare that he would eventually offend everyone, somehow. This is common territory for the sheikh as the smoke has just settled on the e-fire that erupted recently from his comments about Britons going to fight jihad in Syria and aid convoys.

Now, the latest drama involves the exasperation of mainly, self-proclaimed, feminists as International Woman’s Day took place. The hashtag #FireAbuEesa was launched, alluding that the Al-Maghrib should rid the organisation of the Manchester based imam.

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For the sake of brevity, the contents of Abu Eesa’s Facebook posts are beyond the scope of this discussion (he makes a point of never deleting anything from his page should you wish to see the posts), and this piece makes no admission or denial as to whether the he has committed a crime (however he has contacted each and every individual who has cried foul, and sent them a direct apology, make of that what you please).

American Islam

Imam Suhaib Webb
Imam Suhaib Webb

The hashtag for Abu Eesa to walk the plank, tellingly, gathered momentum from the United States. Popular American clerics such as Imam Suhaib Webb publically voiced their anger at the Brit’s statement.

Imam Webb is the driving force behind “American Islam”, a vision that Islamic values and American values can live side by side. For those unfamiliar with the concept of American Islam, the best parallel to draw in the UK would be…it would probably be too harsh to say a name.

But imagine a diluted version of Islam that politely (to the tune of God Save the Queen) side steps any directive of the religion which does not sit well with the nation’s liberal, democratic values. By way of example, Suhaib Webb has been involved in controversies surrounding the permissibility of music, homosexuality, and worst of all distancing himself from the Aafia Siddiqui cause. Many critics do feel that the modernist propagation of this methodology that sees “nation married with faith” is at the expense of traditional orthodox Sunni Islam.

If Mary J. Blige made the call to prayer, I’d go to the mosque; I’d be in the front row.”

(Suhaib Webb, LA Times, 2011)

What’s even more surprising is that when Imam Webb was being criticised and attacked for his “unorthodox” views on numerous normative Islamic concepts, Abu Eesa came out defending him stating on Twitter: “I’m not a huge fan of what is known as that American Islam jazz but the attacks on Imam Suhaib Webb are stupid. No fiqh, fahm or maturity.”

So it begs the question, where was the husn-ad’dhan (thinking well of others) from Imam Webb when Abu Eesa applied it to him on much bigger issues concerning Islam?


The crux of this piece is not about defending Abu Eesa at all, nor his comments. He has reaffirmed that his belief towards women is that as declared by Allah (swt ) and His Messenger (saw).

The general consensus is that he should be more tact and careful in what he decides to publish being a man of knowledge. This article is not about criticising Suhaib Webb  either.

It is the modernist version of Islam that is being given an undeserving platform via social media. Prophetic guidance teaches us clearly that the recommended actions of a Muslim differs from capability to capability, and context to context. An unlettered bedouin seeking counsel from the Prophet (saw) would receive different advice to a wealthy merchant. Yet ultimately the religion of both men would be in accordance with the narrations of the only man (saw) whose opinion matters.

Serious scholarly work needs to go into deciding as to whether “American Islam” (or any Islam of that nature) is in line with the prophetic teaching. Giving attention to the perpetual American version of Islam is a slippery slope and they have scapegoated Abu Eesa to propagate their Islam further.

Abu Eesa has admitted the lessons he’s learned from this debacle. But leniency must be given due to cultural differences between the UK and the US. Even those who follow an orthodox version of Islam in the States (of which there are plenty), will struggle to see the nuances in his methods.

It goes without say that changes will need to be made to Abu Eesa’s (and scholars in general) approach on social media, but those who have been saddened by his words, must reconcile their regret and direct it to the matter at hand, and not allow it to give weight to the noisy movement in the US – long may it not come to these shores.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the 5Pillarz editorial board.

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