An imam at East London Mosque has justified giving a speech in praise of Queen Elizabeth II after protesters called for his removal as a prayer leader.
Imam Mohammed Mahmoud published a statement saying that there is no Islamic prohibition on praising non-Muslims and “universal principles and virtuous values are deserving of praise, regardless of who is characterised by them.”
The imam temporarily stood down as a prayer leader at the mosque following protests by parts of the congregation “for his own safety,” according to ELM. But he has subsequently returned to lead prayers there.
Parts of the congregation accused the imam of blasphemy after he praised the Queen at London Central Mosque days after her death in September. They said the Queen was the head of an institution that was responsible for the brutal colonisation of Muslim lands. The protesters were also unhappy that Muslim children were encouraged to sing “God Save The King” at the same event.
Following his response, his detractors still maintain he is unfit to lead the Muslim community in East London.
At the London Central Mosque event, Imam Mohammed said: “Character is what one is known by, and the actual legacy which outlives her accomplishments… the outpouring of grief and emotion at Her Majesty the Queen’s passing is not something that can be staged and rarely has it been repeated over the course of history. This is because it was her Majesty the Queen’s character that shone brighter than her crown.”
In his recent statement justifying his actions the imam said: “The personal attacks against me which have circulated recently, aim not only to malign my character, but question my very belief in Allah.
“If not for the gross misunderstandings of Divine texts, the Prophetic statements, and the sayings of this Ummah’s scholars, I would have continued to ignore every malicious accusation levelled against me. But under the instruction of my mashayikh – who have made clear that my silence is an injustice to the Shari’ah – I am now compelled to make this statement in defence of the Allah’s immaculate Deen.
“On the 15th September 2022, I delivered a short speech at a commemoration event for the late Queen Elizabeth II in the Regent’s Park Mosque. In the speech I quoted the following words of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم, ‘You are Allah’s witnesses on earth…’
“In light of my referencing of this hadeeth, I have been accused of apostasy and/or hypocrisy, which we seek refuge in Allah from. The following clarifies the meaning of being ‘Allah’s witnesses,’ in addition to the ruling of praising a non-Muslim before and after their death…
“The claim that referencing the hadeeth in question can only mean one thing is not only simplistic, but grossly ill-informed, or worse, a deliberate distortion of the meanings deduced by Islamic scholars over the ages… No consensus or agreement has ever been reached by scholars on the meaning of the hadeeth.
He added: “There is no legal text prohibiting the praise of worthy qualities possessed by a non-Muslim. In fact, there is an overwhelming number of accounts in which the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم praised non-Muslims, both during their lifetime, and after their death… The Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم loved and adored his non-Muslim uncle Abu Taalib and grieved after his death.”
“In his seerah, Ibn Ishaq mentions the story of Mukhayriq, a Jewish man who upheld his covenant with the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم and died in battle against the Meccans. And when Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, who was seriously injured in that battle, was informed about the death of )طبقات ابن سعد 1/ 502 :Mukhayriq, he confirmed, “He was the best of Jews.”
“To clarify: my praise of the late Queen Elizabeth II was intended in the same spirit as our Master Muhammad’s صلى الله عليه وسلم praise of Mukhayriq. Any potential ambiguity in my speech can only be elucidated by myself – the speaker.”
The imam concluded: “Universal principles and virtuous values are deserving of praise, regardless of who is characterised by them. Admirable qualities do not belong exclusively to one group of people to the exclusion of the rest of mankind.
“Praise is not limited to friends and members of the same religious fraternity, but extended to those we differ with too. Justice is putting everything in its rightful place, and giving credit when credit is due, even to your detractor.”
‘Unfit to lead’
Mohammed Abdullah, of Tower Hamlets Muslim Community (which was involved in the protest), said: “Mohammed Mahmoud released a statement in which he intended to clarify and respond to the publications we had released addressing his evil actions. It’s clear he is unfit for his post as Imam, he didn’t respond to any of the evidence in our publications, rather it seemed as though he was arguing with himself.
“He demonstrated how the scholars differed with regards to the explanation of the Hadith he distorted, however, even with their differences, he was unable to show any of their statements aligning with his fabricated interpretation and thus continues to prove that not only did he fabricate an understanding of the narration, but he continues to defend his stance by stating there is a difference in hope the readers will be fooled and let the issue go.
“In his previous response, he misquoted another narration where the Prophet ﷺ stood up when the body of a Jew was taken past him. He used this narration to state holding memorials for the disbelievers is permissible. We responded to this lie with a clarification on the interpretation of the narration, yet it fell to deaf ears in hope the matter will be forgotten.
“It was shocking to see an Imam, a person who is meant to unite the community was unable to accept his mistake and instead he is found frantically bringing straw man arguments trying to justify his actions. He attempts to vilify and outcast anyone who opposed him for his abhorrent actions by vilifying us as ‘extremists’ a tactic used by the enemies of Allah when attempting to use the tactic of divide and conquer. Rather what is known and was clearly demonstrated in our protest against him is that this is a communal effort to remove him, a gathering that had youth as young as 16 to the elderly ages 70+.
“Mahmoud claimed that the national anthem is a ‘dua.’ Does one really need to approach a scholar of Islam to know that this statement is nonsense? the question would be posed, if it were a dua; is it permissible for Muslims to stand in a gathering like the gathering of the Christians on Sunday for dua? The response from the Muslim world as a whole with the minor exception here and there was disgust with his action.
“He claims in his statement ‘If not for the gross misunderstandings of Divine texts, the Prophetic statements, and the sayings of this Ummah’s scholars, I would have continued to ignore every malicious accusation levelled against me. But under the instruction of my mashayikh – who have made clear that my silence is an injustice to the Shari’ah – I am now compelled to make this statement in defence of the Allah’s immaculate Deen.
“Why did he write a response which was leaked on the 18th of September if he was ignoring ‘malicious accusations’ and only now responded under the instruction of his ‘Mashayikh’ now?
“He says ‘There is no legal text prohibiting the praise of worthy qualities possessed by a non-Muslim’ but no one was ever heard claiming such a prohibition.
“In 2003 RAND Cooperation stated that there is a need to promote and bring about ‘Mullah Bradley’ referencing a type of scholar which is politically aligned with western ideologies, Mohammed Mahmoud is a clear example of such an Imam. How can the Muslim community accept such a person to lead one of the largest and most influential mosques in Europe?”