Crossposted from The Manrilla Blog with permission from the author:

The last several weeks' events have showcased the utter dismay, confusion, and chaos that the American Muslim community is operating under. The recent affairs regarding Colleen Renee Rose, also known as Jihad Jane, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, and Sharif Mobley, present for us a number of disturbing and urgent dilemmas currently facing American Muslims. It should be staggeringly clear by now that if Muslims in America do not take steps to deal with these issues, the downward slope will only become more and more slippery.

There are many topics or bullet points I can think of when it comes to the aforementioned issues that Muslims face, but I will attempt to list what I have observed to be the most critical ones, as well as hopefully, some ways we can move to address these crises. First amongst these thoughts is the complete absence of authority in the American Muslim community. In a recent conversation with a brother, we both lamented on the fractured structure of authority in the Muslim community here in the States. The reason for this is varied and all the sub-points are beyond the aim of this article, but I would like to point to a couple of social factors that I feel have led to this. The impact of literacy on the modern world has had a plethora of wide-ranging effects and consequences. The results in the Muslim context had had no less impact than it did for modern Europe and America.

There are, however, a number of delicate points to this observation I would like to briefly illuminate upon. Amongst them, has been the tendency to view the Muslim world as “behind” [Robinson 233] the Christian world, in terms of literacy, and in reality, technology. The unquestioned stance of many Orientalist scholars has been to assume for the West and by proxy, Christianity, a tract or trajectory that the West was “a head of the game” if you will. Seen from this position, Islam and by proxy Muslims, could only be seen as lagging behind. Robinson, however, eludes to a number of important points that deserve considerable reconsideration: “…the origin of the negative Muslim response to printing lay much more deeply than this.

The problem was that printing attacked the very heart of Islamic systems for the transmission of knowledge; it attacked what was understood to make knowledge trustworthy, what gave it value, what gave it authority.” The method of transmission of knowledge in the Muslim world has been orally, passed from teacher to student. This system necessitates and places tremendous weight and value on the presence of learned and responsible teachers. The first amongst this transmission of knowledge was the Qur'ān itself [Robinson 235]. From here, this transmission of knowledge of the Qur'ān set a precedent for how knowledge would be transmitted period for Muslims: “The methods of learning and of transmitting the Qur'ān laid their impress on the transmission of all other knowledge” [Robinson 235].

Robinson continues by quoting one of the great Muslim thinkers, Ibn Khaldun, from his seminal work, al-Muqaddimah: “The Qur'ān has become the basis of instruction, the foundation of all habits that may be acquired later on” [Khaldun 421]. In this light, it is clear to see that traditional Muslim learning placed an equal if not heavier weight on the necessity of a teacher to transmit knowledge, not merely information. Without the authority of a teacher, the pupil could very well run the risk of reading the work, but not understanding what the book said. While the discussion on this part of the topic deserves much greater attention, I am forsaking it for the time being to simply highlight and underscore the role and distinction that Muslim authority, scholarship and thinking played in the development of Muslim thought and behavior.

You may ask how the relates to the initial point above: the complete absence of authority in the American Muslim community. I would venture to say it has been precisely the uncritical adoption of methodologies and modes of thought, both from the Western secular perspective, which desacrilizes knowledge, reducing it to “information”, as well as from the modern Muslim world, which despite its claims to classical scholarship, simply does not deliver on this. As to the desacralization of knowledge, this to a great extent is what has happened as Muslims have rejected the role of the teacher-student transmission, and have assumed that they would be capable if not better off, to understand Islam by themselves. This has been facilitated by the rapid growth of literacy, especially in the modern Western context where Muslims are much more likely to be literate in their own respective vernaculars. With no criterion to hold themselves to, Muslims have abandoned traditional methodologies for modern secular ones. The result has been the nearly complete dismantling of religious guidance and authority in the Muslim community.

In my opinion, this has been doubly so in America, where Muslims have been living fractured lives, at times best held up through socio-ethnic bonds. As Muslims have dispersed and assimilated into American society, so has the tradition of attachment to real human teachers as guides. The result has been a buffet of sorts: pick and choose without any consequence or consideration as to whether what you're putting on your plate is good for you. After all, at a buffet, it's all food, isn't it? The recent obsession with American Muslims with “traditional” or “classical” Muslim knowledge can been seen as both positive and negative.

I cite positive in that some Muslims have come to realize that modernity is not the be-all and end-all solution to their woes. And while not all systems of knowledge in modernity are fully bankrupt, as some Muslim scholars have contended, it certainly cannot be imbibed without some measure of scrutiny. The negative aspects have been similar to those cited above, namely, the uncritical acceptance of packaged goods. If it looks like and sounds like it's traditional, then it is. While the contents of the package may indeed include elements of traditional knowledge, the system of delivery is most obviously modern.

I do not use modern here as an epithet, but rather as a critical observation: modernity is not equipped to deliver on the moral, ethical, religious, or spiritual needs of Muslims [for more on this topic, please see Dr. William Chittick's, Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul].

In order to be “traditional,” Muslims in America would have to establish communities in which there are dedicated teachers who can pass on and take responsibility for the knowledge that they pass on. It is this latter part that may have saved our brother Sharif Mobley from his current fate. Brother Mobley, as do so many other young Muslims feel, out of a lack of fulfillment, that they must travel abroad to learn sacred knowledge. Not only is it problematic that there is an assumption that these destinations do in fact contain sacred knowledge simply by proxy of their location in the historic Muslim world, but that such endeavors are not fraught with danger and peril. In a recent Friday sermon, Mufti imam Anwar Muhaimin commented on very concerning condition that many young Muslims labor under: a linguistic or cultural inferiority complex.

The American Muslim community, to paraphrase the imam, has provided woeful substance to our young brothers and sisters; substance to feel that they are and can be legitimately Muslim here in America. That we have the infrastructure to provide to them the sacred knowledge they wish to learn. The results from this quietude on the part of the Muslim community in America for the past ten to twenty years, as my wife has put it, has been the development of a linguistic and cultural inferiority complex.

Perhaps if there could be the establishment of more real living and breathing scholars and teachers in America, then perhaps our youth would not have to trek off to the unknown places of the Muslim world, where we cannot assure that what they will be learning will be of a benefit to them, either in this life or The Next. It is my belief, that if we do not work to develop a crop of active and legitimate American Muslim scholars, not just rock star imams, but live-in teachers, then what we have witnessed will only be the beginning of a very long and unattractive nightmare.

To my Muslim brothers and sisters: please help to develop authentic Muslim scholarship, leaders and teachers in your own communities. We are in desperate need of this, not simply doctors, lawyers, and engineers. We are in need of teachers who will, in exchange for the support and cooperation of their respective communities, teach and lead a new generation of Muslims who are so very desperate for the knowledge of Islam, for their lives here and now, as well as for their lives in the Hereafter. Living teachers, living examples, who will take the appropriate and responsible track in how they teach and propagate Islam and the next generation of Muslims.

Citation:

Francis Robinson, (1993). Technology and Religious Change: Islam and the Impact of Print. Modern Asian Studies, 27(1), 229-251.

The above photograph was taken by my father, Pierre Manley. It is the Amtrak train station in downtown Detroit, Michigan. © 2010.

34 Responses

  1. mofw

    Connecting literacy and extremism is a weak argument. During the time of the Prophet pbuh and his companions there were khawarij. This was during a time that undoubtedly had the best leadership and low literacy.

    The more pertinent issue is leadership. Specifically a confident, native American Muslim leadership. Yet despite strong authority or leadership there will always be extremism.

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  2. Bin Butrus

    Connecting literacy and extremism is a weak argument

    I don’t believe the article connects literacy with extremism. Rather, it looks at how authenticity and authority have played out historically in the Muslim world, especially in the last one to two hundred years. In this light, one may see, if you look closely at the text, that there has been a relation between the expansion of literacy and the contraction of authority in the Muslim community. This is not meant to be a totalizing explantation, but rather highlighting one part of this issue, providing us a glimpse into a part of the whole, that is the authority crisis of Islam in modernity.

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    • mofw

      Correlation does not imply causation. This simplistic view ignores tremendous social, cultural and economic changes amongst Muslims, the most cataclysmic being colonization.

      Other medieval Muslim societies had achieved unprecedentedly high literacy rates, notably Muslim Spain, without the supposed loss of “authority.”

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  3. whoadi

    Also even if you provide the sort of localized infrastructure of learning and teaching he argues for,that by itself will not dampen the passion and indignation many feel when they observe the aggression taking place in the Muslim world. I feel he has a solid argument but he’s misapplying it; it assumes that anyone flying over to the middle east to perpetrate violence has somehow a loose screw Islamically, something that a proper education can shore up and rectify. But it neglects to account for the myriad of issues that motivate people to do what these people have been accused of doing, some of which are religious which a proper education may address, some of which are beyond an education in fiqh, tafsir, Arabic, in an American context.

    In fact you can even make an argument that a traditional education will exacerbate the problem he’s writing about rather than improve it: in a stereotypical, politically pacifist curriculum, we are not taught how to interpret and view world events within a proper paradigm of thought. Simply being advised and told that such and such group and actions are haram will not placate the types of raw emotions we feel when we understand the severity of the events occurring in the Muslim world.

    We need to be taught how to express and release our indignation using proper outlets and mediums. Having an authentic way of learning Islam in our own context may help things, but ultimately a war is still going on, and the Sharif Mobleys need to learn how to address those grievances properly, they cannot be ignored.

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  4. Bin Butrus

    Correlation does not imply causation

    But it does warrant inquiry. And as the author showed, it is neither a “simplistic view” nor does it ignore the “tremendous social, cultural and economic changes amongst Muslims”, but rather, is looking specifically to how literacy, especially as it relates to how literacy in its relationship with American Muslims, plays a role in the absence of any solid, communal authority. In other words, because the information about certain topics in Islam has been made available to an audience sans traditional teachers [and a note here: tradition is not the intellectual property of Islam only. Most, if not all knowledge systems employ the passing of knowledge from student to teacher], who can put that information into context [knowledge], many Muslims have come to the conclusion they are no longer in need of an ‘ālim, a person who has experience and transmitted knowledge and training about these topics at hand. So I find the article neither simplistic nor shortsighted. Rather, it applies a number of techniques, of which you may not be familiar with, to analyze the situation.

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  5. Bin Butrus

    Also even if you provide the sort of localized infrastructure of learning and teaching he argues for,that by itself will not dampen the passion and indignation many feel when they observe the aggression taking place in the Muslim world

    I do not believe the goal of the article was to necessarily “dampen” the passion or indignation felt by American Muslims on what goes on abroad, but rather it seems to be a “wake up call” to reexamine the priority we give those feelings. When American Muslims look upon their brothers and sisters in China, or Afghanistan, Dar Fur, or even Iraq, there is no reason why American Muslims cannot or should not feel a sense of unity with those Muslims who are suffering. However, I feel the article is suggesting to what extent should we spend our imaginative and even economic capital on such issues, such that American Muslims are derelict in their own duties towards themselves. American Muslims will always be at a disadvantage if they continue to hamstring themselves and commit themselves to modalities of thought in which they see themselves as second-class citizens in their own realities.

    To help contextualize this, I ask the following: why do Muslims feel that their money is better spent on the Gaza strip than on their own neighbors in Detroit, Chicago, or Philadelphia, for example? There are thousands, if not more, of Muslims in America who need assistance, both monetarily and otherwise. Why will Muslims in America spend thousands of dollars to build schools “overseas” but won’t work to build solid institutions in America that will serve the needs of American Muslims? Even when this is half-heartedly done, the idea that pervades many American Muslims’ minds is that the overseas ventures are somehow more worthy because they are more “Islamic” than those here in the United States. That is the “cultural inferiority complex”, I believe, that many of American Muslims labor under, to which this article attempted to draw attention to.

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    • whoadi

      salam, thanks for the response.

      Your point about paying attention to ourselves and our problems–Muslim or not–is valid, I believe.

      However, I guess I am puzzled as to why the author links Mobley and “Jihad Jane” and others to what I see as a completely separate problem of our failure to develop viable institutions here at home. I also accept the cultural inferiority observation, but I do–in 2010– think it’s overemphasized. We are a growing community here in the states and, in my own subjective experience, I find that the complex is waning. More and more embryonic Muslim institutions–al Maghrib, Zaytuna, other grass-roots orgs–are increasingly focusing much-needed energies and attention on problems here at home. ISNA and CAIR are among the more developed, mainstream institutions whose commitment to “American Muslim” concerns is self-evident. The Muslim presence in the Obama campaign was palpable, and political and journalistic sensitivity (ignore FOX and the right-wingers) to American Muslims is even more evidence of indigenization processes, in my view. Of course, one may reasonably object to my examples and point out that Muslims in political campaigns, for example, are not necessarily accurate representatives of the type of Muslims we’re discussing, or that their commitment to traditional Islam is suspect at best. For that discussion to take place, however, we have to first agree on what types of “Muslims” and “Islam” we referring to when we reference the cultural inferiority complex theory.
      Yes, a great many students of knowledge still look toward the east as possessing a more “authentic” alternative to institutions based here, but is it fair to generalize—and I don’t think that’s what you’re doing–and attribute this to a cultural inferiority complex? What if someone like Mobley, or myself even, decided that the knowledge experience I could gain overseas is qualitatively better than what I could receive in the states? And, even if I decide that American institutions are superior to those overseas, why must an inferiority complex be invoked when I legally and morally actuate my subjectivity and go overseas, despite it not being the “best” decision? What if what I really crave is the exotic aspect of traveling abroad, the very experiences I cannot gain at home?

      But again, I think for this debate to become more fruitful, we need to define what sort activities and agents we’re referring to when we invoke cultural inferiority complex. Yes, many think the way you’ve described in your post, but there are many whose commitment to American Muslim issues exceeds their commitment to issues abroad; perhaps if we specify who and what we’re talking about, we can take this discussion to the next level.

      salam

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    • Siraaj

      Because in the united states one can resort to political means to bring attention to and funds for the local schools and local causes more easily than one can to those overseas. Further, the room for opportunity is greater in the US provided one is willing to take initiative and advantage of available resources – not so overseas.

      Siraaj

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  6. Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    We do need true, accredited Islamic universities in the West. The Zaytuna Institute is halfway there, but as far as I know, no one else is working toward that goal. Are they?

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        mofw,

        You don’t see the benefits of having Islamic universities in the west? We will continue to have Muslims growing up here who need to attend college. We will have an increasing number of Muslims who want to study Islam. We will have a need for imams, Islamic studies teachers, Qur’an teachers, leaders of non-profit groups, charities, etc. Why not have high quality institutions that attempt to fulfill some of these needs?

        Now, of course, such a project will require massive amounts of resources. It also has potential downsides. There are also many other needs in the community that may be more pressing or other ways that the needs I mentioned in the first paragraph could be addressed.

        This may not be the most important issue facing Muslims in America but I don’t see why you deny the obvious and many benefits such institutions could bring.

        I pray that I live to the day when AlMaghrib and Zaytuna Universities meet on the basketball court.

        Allah knows best.

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      • mofw

        What are the obvious benefits? You did not make a case for it.

        But to elaborate on my skepticism, I hold little faith in the modern university system.

        The US system is irrevocably broken and corrupt. The thought of that happening to a so-called “Islamic” university which will confer legitimacy on its graduates is unappealing to me.

        Furthermore, large unwieldy institutions inevitably become corrupt bureaucratic monstrosities.

        And do not compare medieval Islamic colleges to what we have today. I have studied them thoroughly and they are not at all similar to what exists now.

        Consider these words by Sh. Yaser Birjas, “I learned more in one month living with Shaykh [i believe it was] ‘Uthaymeen’ than I did in all my years studying in Medina University.”

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      • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        mofw,

        I come at the question from an assumption that people will go to universities, and trying to make that experience as beneficial as possible.

        I know, for one, that my children are definitely going to go college and I would advise any young Muslim that asked me that they should go to college. As I said, for most people, this is not even a question, and if you ask the small number of people who took criticisms of western universities by Muslim teachers so seriously that they decided not to attend, those that I have talked to about it regret that pretty quickly.

        I have a lot of criticisms of the universities, which may or may not be the same as yours. I also think there are a lot of beneficial aspects. The key, of course, is to go into the experience conscientiously and be in control of your own experience, don’t just be a passive recipient of whatever is thrown at you. Unfortunately too many college students are still not mature enough to do that at the age of 18, but this probably says more about the way our culture creates the idea of the immature adolescent. I, for one, did very well in both college and law school at a young age, and neither experience ruined me at all, there was a lot of benefit in those years, but I would benefit much more if I could have that experience now.

        I am no expert on medieval Islamic universities but I am confident that a modern view of them as being completely better than modern universities is the product at least somewhat of romanticization and the historical distance which makes one emphasize the good and downplay the bad.

        Again I am not denying any of your criticisms of modern universities (as I understand them) but I am unclear as to what you are saying as the alternative…have imams and teachers that haven’t been to college when the vast majority of the community continues to attend setting up an environment where many of the people will look down on their Islamic leaders as uneducated people who were not good enough to be really successful — a phenomenon we already see in many Muslim societies? Or the imams and teachers go to non-Muslim universities which you have just criticized so harshly so we still have the negative effects of attending but we have the added psychological complex that Muslims are not organized or disciplined enough to run or establish anything of their own but they just attend what others have established (while of course criticizing it at their dinner parties)? Or to Islamic universities overseas which you have also criticized?

        This would be a great discussion to have in person, but perhaps we’re just talking a bit past each other here.

        Allaah knows best.

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  7. bobby

    Saudi Salafis: Allies or Enemies in Countering Terrorism?
    M. Zabara

    Many in the West believe that the Islam practiced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia holds the best chance of defeating jihadi ideology, because of the strength of its clerics and their proximity to militant Salafis, who espouse jihad and support the movement. But such alliances for strategic gain could easily turn to backfire against the West, as it has before.

    At first glance, an Islamic movement relentlessly arguing against jihad would appear to be an ideal ally for the United States in the war on terrorism. Even more appealing, the movement claims to be the modern-day heirs of the Salafi movement and is prolific in issuing condemnations of fellow Salafis who have engaged in organized resistance or encouraged individuals to heed the call of jihad. Clearly, there are many potential dangers in creating such an alliance in order to weaken the global jihadi movement. Yet, in many ways it is occurring ipso facto through the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia and the powerful positions held by Salafi clerics in the kingdom. U.S. support for this movement—whether direct or indirect—should be reevaluated in consideration of the waning influence of the Saudi Salafis both inside and outside of the kingdom, and the resulting long and short term effects on U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

    The fundamentalist rhetoric of Saudi Salafis (commonly referred to as Wahhabis) has been the subject of debate in Washington since September 11. Less frequently discussed is that this same movement also produces a significant amount of literature aimed at impugning the Islamic credentials of Salafi-jihadis and organized Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. In strategic terms, the alliance with a pro-Western Saudi Arabia benefits the U.S. twofold, as it also indirectly supports the Saudi Salafis and their attempt to purify Salafi ideology—the main driver of Islamic extremism—from jihadi tendencies. However, the alliance may prove detrimental as the public image and legitimacy of the Saudi Salafis continues to decline in Muslim eyes.

    Osama bin Laden and countless other mujahidin, as well as Muslim reformers, have turned against the Saudi Salafi movement—which oversees the religious and educational institutions in Saudi Arabia—yet it has remained loyal to the kingdom and its policy of cooperation with the U.S. This, coupled with the decadence of Saudi rulers, has made for an extremely unpopular image in the Muslim world, not just among supporters of the mujahidin. The U.S. must not rule out the possibility that Saudi Salafis may continue to lose influence to the point that Salafis advocating resistance to the tyrannical forces of the West could consolidate the movement and present a unified Salafi doctrine on jihad. Such a scenario would be a significant blow to U.S. efforts to de-legitimize the global jihadi movement, and could serve as a very public loss in the long term struggle against the patron ideology of the mujahidin.

    The main catalyst of the decline of the Saudi Salafis came in the late 1990s with the death of three of their most prolific and well-known leaders (Bin Baz, al-Albani, and al-Uthaymin). They were the leaders of the committees issuing fatwas, or religious rulings, controlling the two holiest sites in Islam, and overseeing the curriculum of the most prestigious Salafi universities. Since then, their successors have attempted to preserve their legacy, treating them as the highest scholarly authorities in doctrinal and ideological issues. But no new leaders have risen to fill their shoes, and Salafi leaders outside the kingdom are now the ones capturing an audience and defining the ideology of the movement.

    The ineffective and often pedantic tactics of the Saudi Salafi movement are a major factor in their decline. They ceaselessly refute their detractors; the “innovators” who have adopted the methods of “deviant sects” and are thus leading the Muslim community into sectarianism and discord. Yet, the rancorous rhetoric used to attack these “innovators”—many of whom are among the most popular Islamic leaders—seems to have little resonance among most Muslims. Because many Muslims lack the rigorous classical education needed to parse through the minutia of Saudi Salafi arguments, their condemnations of jihadists often prove unapproachable or unappealing. Thus, Saudi Salafis obsess over religious doctrine and practice while offering little guidance on political or social affairs in a time of great upheaval in the Muslim world.

    Their failure to address issues of concern to the Muslim nation is exemplified in the networks of English-language Salafi websites, which are aimed primarily at American and British audiences. Salafitalk.net supports the positions of the Saudi Salafi movement, hosting a discussion forum, links web-broadcasts lectures from Saudi scholars and providing extensive refutations of innovators and deviants. Over the past four years, they have posted hundreds of articles on Abul-Hasan al-Ma’ribi, a little known figure outside of volitile northern Yemen and Saudi Salafi circles. The massive number of condemnations and refutations against al-Ma’ribi point to the Saudi Salafis’ fear of defection, especially from those who attempt to mobilize Islamic resistance—the greatest threat to stability in the kingdom. But devoting such resources to de-legitimizing an individual ideology (literally hundreds of detailed refutations of every aspect of al-Ma’ribi’s ideology have been published) has not yielded results for the Saudi Salafis. Instead, more charismatic leaders have been able to win support with simpler messages addressing Muslims’ greatest concerns—bin Laden being the best example.

    It seems apparent that the Saudi Salafi campaign against Salafi-jihadi ideology is having little effect on the morale or public image of the mujahidin. For the very reason that Saudi Salafis have built their movement around the illegitimacy and deviancy of social or political mobilization in Islam makes them an ineffective organization for countering militancy. Without public campaigns that address key societal and political issues, Saudi Salafis are left only to continue the seemingly endless ideological and doctrinal debates with Salafi-jihadis and other figures oppose them, who in turn eventually focus their energies on winning supporters and strengthening their movements rather than wasting resources to convince Saudi Salafis that their methods are sound.

    Indirect support for an ineffective religious movement may seem benign, but the consequences of its failure are not. Abul-Hasan al-Ma’ribi and the numerous others condemned or excommunicated by the Saudi Salafi movement continue to lecture, publish and organize Muslims around a more persuasive call of unity and collective action. Additionally, although the Saudi Salafis are able to issue textually elaborate materials condemning jihadi ideology, their methods of scholarship are not shared by the majority of Sunni scholars, and the language of their arguments are far too detailed for the lay reader.

    Over recent decades, the prestige Saudi Salafis enjoy from ruling Mecca and Medina has won the trust of the average Muslim. But if the current trend of the last five years continues, Saudi Salafis will undoubtedly lose power and in all likelihood an alternate current of either jihadist of Islamic reform-minded Salafis will replace them. U.S. policymakers should not underestimate the importance of Mecca and Medina to organized Islamic movements. If it is indeed the case that these most important and holy cities are lost to supporters or sympathizers of global jihad, the U.S. will be forced to fight a far greater ideological backing for the mujahidin and face a tide with sweeping momentum in the Middle East.

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  8. Bin Butrus

    @mofw

    I did not ignore you points, I addressed them – hence the block quotations of what you wrote. I simply disagreed with them. If you wish to conflate disagreement to ignoring then I suppose we have an impasse of hermeneutics. As you like,

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    • mofw

      There was only one block quotation. That quotation was of a general principle and not regarding any of my main points.

      If you could not extract my arguments from a couple of concise paragraphs, I won’t try and repeat them here.

      Furthermore, “impasse of hermeneutics” is not only incredibly pedantic it is also used incorrectly. Always use simple and clear language, despite the preferences of your professors.

      PS It may seem to you that my comments are very hostile. That is because they are. But don’t take it personally. This is how I bond with people. It is also how I educate them.

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  9. Bin Butrus

    @mofw

    You presume for yourself an elevation that is not due to you. If you want to be an educator I suggest the nearest institution – in your case, it may require revisiting some fundamentals of grade school behavior. Your presumption of “educating me” is as arrogant as it is preposterous. I suggest you come down off your imaginary pedestal and “get real”. I read your post and commented on it in an appropriate way. If you feel you must resort to hostilities in debate, well, perhaps you have some more maturing to do. Are you even Muslim? I only ask because your etiquette for debate leaves much to be desired. If my professorial vernacular has intimidated you, I suggest you leave aside arguments whose words are too big for “junior”.

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    • Amad

      mofw=man of few words
      Bin Butrus, mofw is well-known for his “style” that is usually not serious and can run a person up the wall. 9 out of 10 times he is just joking and getting a kick out of it… don’t let him get you!

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      • mofw

        Ah, you know me so well. It seems like this one took the bait. Puts a smile on my face every time.

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      • Bin Butrus

        So mofw is free to abuse whomever he wills, it’s only when someone refutes his attacks, are they then censored. Why simply not allow him to comment in the first place, or for that matter, not allow anyone to reply to his attacks? MM’s is playing a very unfair game here I think.

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      • mofw

        You are correct that MM is censoring you because of favoritism. It certainly didn’t have anything to do with your highly relevant use of explicit and nonsensical sexual imagery.

        By the way, I wouldn’t call whatever it is you were doing a refutation. It was more like an attempt at “getting even.”

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    • mofw

      Amad is correct. Though obviously my “style” may be abrasive I must say that I do stand by my criticisms.

      While admitting that you are wrong in the face of my obvious arrogance may be difficult, in the long run you will be a stronger person for it., grasshopper.

      I will add that your attempts at responding to me in kind amuse me greatly.

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  10. Bin Butrus

    Hermeneutics: the science of interpretation. This is a definition from a dictionary. It is often, though not exclusively used, in reference to interpreting religious texts. Given the post here was about religion, and we’re all “interpreting” the author’s work, I believe I am correct in my usage of the word.

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  11. Bin Butrus

    I don’t see how that would excuse his vitriol. But I will take your nasÄ«hah to heart, and dismiss any further commentary from him.

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  12. Bin Butrus

    I will add that your attempts at responding to me in kind amuse me greatly

    [Edited]

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  13. mofw

    While I certainly understand why you deleted bin butrus’s last comment, I find that it helped to vindicate my irreverence.

    That last comment fits well with the narrative that I am the MMs misunderstood and under-appreciated champion against pedantry and arrogant stupidity.

    Without it I just look like a bully.

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  14. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    Brilliant!!! A wake-up call so constructed as to trigger an automatic snooze response!!!

    I suggest fewer superlatives. Also, the writer of the piece (name should be stated at the top of the page) makes many sweeping statements about Islam and Muslims in America and offers one citation. I know this is published as an opinion, so maybe the writer has no facts or studies to stand on, but if so, why bother?

    The only things “staggeringly clear” to me on this page are wobbly foundations and comments that veer to far from civil discourse.

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    • mofw

      Agreed. On both your points. (Even though I might be partially responsible for the latter criticism.)

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  15. mofw

    @abu noor,

    As I see it, for many people college is an economic necessity rather than any real choice.

    Regardless of the criticism I have of the modern university system, the original question was, “what advantage would an Islamic University bring?”

    Your conclusion that somehow our imams and teachers will not go to college does not follow. They may still go to secular universities as they do (see many of the Almaghrib instructors.)

    If anyone can go to a secular university, what would be the purpose of an Islamic one?

    Would it teach all the same sorts of subjects as a secular university? Why the redundancy? Just go a secular university.

    In addition, would an Islamic University provide an “Islamic” environment? While I think that, at least theoretically, that would be praiseworthy, I don’t think that it is worth the massive investment.

    Would an Islamic University provide a more “Islamic” curriculum? The surest way to make something loathsome is to make it compulsory.

    Would an Islamic University be used more as Sh. Yasir Qadhi envisions it, an Imam training program? My opinion on the matter [and let’s be honest, why does that even matter] is that I am suspicious of institutions acquiring legitimacy for giving out credentials. Usually the only thing they can certify is the tolerance an individual has for complying with nonsense in order to get a credential.

    The process for becoming an imam should be more organic, based on loose apprenticeships and gradual familiarity with the community rather than solely on the completion of a structured academic program.

    What then is the benefit of an Islamic university?

    PS When I mentioned Medieval Islamic Universities it was not to romanticize them so much as to PREVENT others from doing so in response to my points. Some might have pointed to the supposed Muslim establishment of universities as evidence for why we need one in America. I wanted to simply point out that the modern and medieval Universities are so different that they are not comparable.

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    • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      mofw,

      I continue to think we are missing each other on some points, and in agreement on others…I’m not sure on what, if anything we actually disagree. My contention is there are benefits to having Islamic universities in America…I do not know if it is the most important priority…it is one of many priorities…it certainly is no panacea for anything and whatever Muslim universities are established will certainly have many shortcomings.

      Are there any readings you would recommend on Islamic/Muslim education, either histories or more theoretical works?

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      • mofw

        Abu Noor,

        First, let me say that I sincerely enjoy our conversations. Having beneficial tempered discussions with intelligent folks is rare. Inshallah, I hope to see you again in person soon.

        Again, the question is, “What benefit would an Islamic University bring?” I will assume that you and I both agree that while it might be nice, the advantages are marginal.

        As for some sources, here are the ones I’ve read concerning Islamic educational history and theory. You will need access to a pretty decent university library to get most of them.

        This one’s a PDF you can download now. It’s Abdulhakim Quick’s unpublished PhD Thesis:

        Quick, A. (1995). Aspects of islamic social intellectual history in hausaland: ‘Uthman ibn fudi, 1774-1804 C.E. unpublished: [web]
        http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk3/ftp04/NQ28150.pdf

        If you only read one book on medieval Islamic education, read this one::

        Berkey, J. (1992). Transmission of knowledge in medieval cairo: A social history of islamic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

        Berkey, J. (1995). Tradition, innovation and the social and the social construction of knowledge in the medieval islamic near east. Past and Present. 146, 38-65.

        Boyd, J (2001). Distance learning from purdah in nineteenth-century northern nigeria: The work of Asma’u Fodiyo. Journal of African Cultural Studies. 14, 7-22.

        Boyd, J., & Last, M. (1985). The role of women as “agents religieux” in sokoto. Canadian Journal of African Studies. 19, 283-300.

        Boyle, H. N. (2004). Quranic schools: Agents of preservation and change. New York: Routledge Falmer.

        Eickleman, D. F. (1978). The art of memory: Islamic education and its social reproduction. Comparative Studies in Society and History. 20, 485-516.

        El Hamel, C., (1999). The transmission of islamic knowledge in moorish society from the rise of the almoravids to the 19th century. Journal of Religious in Africa. 29, 62-87.

        Giladi, A. (1987). Islamic educational theories in the middle ages: Some methodological notes with special reference to al-ghazali. Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), Vol 14, 3-10

        Halstead, M. J. (2004). An islamic concept of education. Comparative Education. 40, 517-529.

        Hilgendorf, Eric (2003). Islamic eduction: History and tendency. Peabody Journal of education. 78, 63-75.

        Houtsonen, J. (1994).Traditional quranic education in a southern moroccan village. International Journal of Middle East Studies. 26, 489-500.

        Imam Y. O. (2004). The tradition of qur’anic learning in borno. Journal of Qur’anic Studies. 6, 96-101.

        Makdisi, G. (1981). The rise of colleges: Institutions of learning in islam and the west. Edinburgh, Great Britain: Edinburgh University Press.

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