A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims Making Them gods above God

Over the last two years, Muslim bloggers and writers have published countless articles that challenge or outright reject the traditionally normative Islamic view on social issues and Muslim life. Often, one reading the article is left wondering if the author realized that many of the premises upon which their opinions are based are in direct opposition to Quranic and/or Prophetic teachings. MSAs, masjids, and other Muslim organizations across the nation have felt the need to redefine Islam as they re-contextualize it. My contention is not only regarding their attempt to redefine essential aspects of Islam, but rather the methods and premises upon which their arguments are based. Islam over the last 1400 years has encountered many cultures and it has always managed to maintain a distinguished and recognizable form, while also adjusting to the natural differences in people.

As of late, attempts have been made to redefine Islam’s position on gender interaction, hijab, homosexuality and even premarital sex not based on authoritative evidence but rather based on two philosophical notions: an appeal to public reason for conflict resolution[1] and a rejection of any authority other than one’s own intellect (anti-heteronomy).

The combination of public reason and anti-heteronymic thought has created Muslim demi-gods who feel empowered by Kantianism to challenge God and empowered by Rawls to feel that only public reason can solve conflicts and not religion.

It seems the Muslim bloggers and writers of the day have learned how to deconstruct Islam, but have failed to deconstruct their own thinking.

Regarding autonomy, Kantianism[2] teaches that all claims to authority must be challenged by one’s own intellect. If it be truth, it must first be destroyed and then rebuilt by the individual. The Western Muslim is thus empowered to challenge God’s revelation with nothing more than their opinion, along with extensive appeals to the ethos of their readers. What then remains of religion? What then remains of the idea of revelation?

The Source of the Problem: Islamic illiteracy

Over the last twenty years the American Muslim community has been incapable of creating an Islamic educational system that promotes and produces individuals with a fundamental religious education. Much of this generation’s religious education was gained in poorly organized weekend or Sunday schools in their adolescent years, which is well below the scope of true Islamic intellectualism. Completion of Sunday school leaves a student with a false sense of a monumental educational accomplishment. The theological masterpieces of intellectual giants like Al-Ghazali, al-Razi and Taftazani are never mentioned or referenced. In fact, one would be surprised to even hear their names. This Sunday school education is followed by an occasional knowledge retreat or conference as young adults, which often is more edutainment than education and does little to rebuild the original Islamic culture of constant religious study throughout one’s life. This has led to a generation of young Muslims who are highly educated in almost every other field but possess a fifth grade level of Islamic education.

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Challenging God

In Islam (and by Islam I am referring to firstly the Quran, secondly the Sunnah and lastly 1400 hundred years of scholarly work.) there are things called musalimaat or givens. These are aspects of Islam which were normally not debated and considered general knowledge. That is of course when religious education was a continuous part of life. Though there are sources for these givens, the traditionally high level of religious knowledge held by the general public made these aspects of religion “common sense”. This “common sense” nature of these givens led to a more simplistic transfer of these things without constant verification by the average muslim. Things such as fornication being wrong, hijab being an obligation from the Quran, homosexuality being forbidden, alcohol being a vice and the communal responsibility to maintain ideals are a few examples of musalimaat. The word “given” is perhaps the most appropriate word for these musalimaat, because it infers to an external source or authority. Meaning these musalimaat were literally given to you from the previous members of the community.

Why do we see Islam going through such a drastic change right before our eyes? Every other day, poorly educated Muslims are changing and challenging the givens of Islam thinking that they can define or redefine Islam. A benign cancer of anti-heteronomy has taken over the minds of those who submit. Articles are written which challenge or outright reject very clear Qur’anic verses or prophetic statements based simply on the authors opinion or public reason. These articles are often over-saturated by an appeal to the ethos of the reader and actual authoritative proof is marginal.

Public Reason and Muslims

Some political theorist deem public reason is an ideal tool for conflict resolution in a pluralistic society. John Rawls[3] felt that public reason gave members of society common ground upon which to debate and resolve problems. Without public reason Rawls felt that differences could never be resolved. The current trend by young Muslims to use public reason as an authority for problem-solving and community interactions is strange. Public reason is even being used to define the ideal piety. Liberalists appeal to public reason, in reality, directly challenges the notion that God is the source of ultimate value. Masjid conflicts, MSA decisions and many other Muslim social issues are being solved by public reason. After a decision is reached through public reason, leaders search for the mufti, scholar, or religious authority to support the agreed upon position. Anyone who does not capitulate is labeled as backward, uneducated, or not cool, or even worse, an example of how religion is incapable of functioning practically in a pluralistic society. The liberals have now defined what is and isn’t normative Islam. As Dr. Sherman Jackson so eloquently points out,

“Finally, to the extent that “public reason” becomes basis upon which Muslims expect to negotiate differences, the concrete and specific dictates of the Qur’ān, Sunnah and recognized tradition will likely strike them as oppressive or as unfairly tipping the balance in favor of those who can claim greater knowledge of the religion.”[4]

Public reasons authority has been challenged in the Quran, almost explicitly,

33_36

 

“And it is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when God and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have a choice regarding the matter”[5]

The definition of right and wrong, the ideal lifestyle, and the definition of piety is not given by your Kantian influenced mind or minds. It is Allah and His Prophet ﷺ. So let us begin our discussion on Islamic issues from there.

Autonomy: A Rejection of Authority outside of yourself i.e. Self-law

Heteronomy is an acceptance of authority outside of oneself. Kant’s plea for man to be autonomous and think for himself was a direct challenge to the establishment of the church. “Be one who gives oneself one’s own law.[6] Blind acceptance of anything other than oneself was to betray the gift of the mind, given to us by the Almighty. One must deconstruct everything and thereafter build it again. There are no givens in Kant’s world other than that which each individual has constructed. For the Muslim who claims to believe in a God who has ordained and prescribed a way of life, who has given man a law by which to live the relative morality of the liberalist becomes drastically more absolute. In fact, present day academics have accurately pointed out the hypocrisy that lies in relative morality, a discussion well beyond the scope of this article.

The Quran displays the gross extent to which a rejection of heteronomy will lead a people. When confronted by Musa (A.S.) Pharaoh responded by completely rejecting any authority other than himself. “I know no God other myself!” He made himself his God.

A society of people who reject heteronomy is a living Hell, consisting of millions of demi-gods. Each believing that their own opinions should be held as authoritative as Allah’s law. Inna lilllahi wa inna ilaih rajioon. The Prophet ﷺ prophesized such a trend.

ائتمروا بالمعروف، وتناهوا عن المنكر، حتى إذا رأيت شحاً مطاعاً، وهوىً متبعاً، ودنيا مؤثرةً، وإعجاب كل ذي

رأيٍ برأيه، فعليك بخاصة نفسك ودع عنك أمر العامة فإن مِن ورائكم أياماً الصبر فيهن مثل القبض على الجمر،

للعامل فيهن مثل أجر خمسين رجلاً يعملون مثل عملكم، قيل يا رسول الله: أجر خمسين منا أو منهم؟ قال: بل أجر

خمسين منكم

“Ordain the good and become and obstruction to evil until you see greed being obeyed, desires being followed, preference being given to the worldly life, and every person being impressed with their own opinion. When these things occur then busy yourself with your own affairs.”[7]

The solution to this problem is, of course, not an easy one. Many young Muslims have spent decades learning how and what to think. This short article is a simple attempt to deconstruct two premises which many of the articles written over the last three years assume. It is hoped that Islamic education will become the serious past time it once was in the Muslim world. Islamic institutions which focus on higher level Islamic intellectualism must create deep thinking scholars who are courageous and not polemist or conformist. Such institutions have already begun to emerge, This will, Allah willing, produce a generation which provides deeper insight to the assumptions of much of today’s discourse.

 

[1] John Rawls is considered the most celebrated political philosopher of our time. Wrote in favor of public reason. However deeper investigation shows that Rawls never truly felt that something called reason could solve our problems. Only state coercion held that ability.

Smith, Steven D. “Chapter 1.” The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. 11. Print.

[2] Moral autonomy, usually traced back to Kant, is the capacity to deliberate and to give oneself the moral law, rather than merely heeding the injunctions of others. Personal autonomy is the capacity to decide for oneself and pursue a course of action in one’s life, often regardless of any particular moral content. Political autonomy is the property of having one’s decisions respected, honored, and heeded within a political context. http://www.iep.utm.edu/autonomy/

[3] John Rawls (b. 1921, d. 2002) was an American political philosopher in the liberal tradition. One of the most celebrated political theorist of our time. Public reason, in the Rawlsian sense, involves justifying a particular position by way of reasons that people of different moral or political backgrounds could accept.

[4] The Impact of Liberalism, secularism, and atheism on the American mosque.   https://www.alimprogram.org/articles/impact-of-liberalism-secularism-atheism-on-american-mosque/

[5] Quran, Al-ahzab, 36

[6] Nagel, Saskia K. “Autonomy—A Genuinely Gradual Phenomenon.” AJOB Neuroscience 4.4 (2013): 60-61. Web.

[7] Narrated by Al-tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah

 

62 / View Comments

62 responses to “A Spiritual Disease in American Muslims Making Them gods above God”

  1. Umm Maryam says:

    Mashallah Imam Sahab,
    Your sermons and writing are a welcome fresh change we need in our Islamic representation today. Please keep up the excellent work.

  2. Wonderfully written!
    Careful analysis & passionately championed!

  3. السلامُ عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

    This is EXACTLY the problem I have been witnessing and feeling for a long time! I was thinking of putting it in words.
    You could also mention Allah’s absolute direct saying:
    **********
    “Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?” (25:43 Al-Furqan)

    “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?” (45:23 Al-Jathiya)
    *********

    Allah has not left us without guidance in any manner. He says multiple times (twice in surah Al-Isra #17 and in Al-kahf #18) that all manner of examples are given, EVERYTHING explained, yet people are in denial and *argumentative*. A direct consequence of following one’s own desires. Which in itself is a direct consequence of injustice & pandering to personal inclinations that is directly negating the Justice Ayat at 4:135. Which is a direct consequence of not realising that one does not have totality of Knowledge/information esp. relating to future consequences. which is a direct result of not being mindful/conscious/cognizant of the VERY FIRST condition of being able to take guidance from this book, as mentioned in beginning of #2 Al-Baqarah 2:3
    “Who believe in unseen…”

    Future is always unseen. Totality of knowledge of future rests only with Allah. That IS why He is Most High. Tor rely on one’s own intellect is to encroach upon that and is akin to saying that I know perfectly well and have completely comprehended the future results of my understanding/viewpoint. Classical shirk. Making oneself god.

    وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

  4. David Kearns says:

    What is missing is what isn’t covered in those sunday schools.

    The Prophet, (ﷺ) said: “The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.” [Al-Bukhari, Ahmad]

    Mere facts about the faith, or wrote memorization without the application of the above is pointless, as suggested by the Proof of Islam, Imam al-Ghazali:

    “Knowledge without action is vanity, and action without knowledge is insanity.”

  5. Ahmed O'Keeffe, Esq. says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,
    May Allah reward you, I appreciate your intelligence but…
    I am writing to tell you that you are wrong and tell you why.
    I am a fan of the Socratic method, I believe that when everyone agrees with you, you learn nothing. I disagree with you because I hope to contribute to the conversation, not to troll you. Allah forgive me to the extent that’s not true.

    Your reasoning is very well thought out and carefully crafted, but its aimed at a straw man, a Kantian-esque philosopher muslim, not real people. Surely these Kantian-esque philosophers exist, but they are a minority of people, and you don’t address a minority of people, but a ‘majority’ of people who disagree with you (or with whom you disagree anyway). The second problem is that you are deflecting blame for the/your problem, and this is simply not a constructive nor mature solution to any problem; there must be some ‘internal’ self critique to understand one’s own role in the creation of the problem, because we cannot, in truth, change others without changing ourselves.

    (Before I go further I want to pin down a separate problem with definitions in your article. You title the article to address “American Muslims” and go on to blame a lack of Islamic education on the abysmal state of Islamic education through Sunday schools and such. The problem is two thirds of US Muslims are foreign born, so if you find American Muslims are ignorant then the reason is foreign in origin (at least 2/3rds of it anyway). Add to this that online reaction from people sharing this article on twitter, where I found it, suggested that you could replace ‘American’ with any other tribe, village or nationality and it would hold equally true. So, the issue is that you’re not addressing an ‘American Muslim’ problem, you’re addressing a problem of philosophy from the perspective of an Islamically educated American Muslim, and you’re imposing blame on Islamic education in the US when the real problem is far broader than that; by miss identifying the culprit for the problem you will fail to reach the solution.)

    I suggest that most American Muslims act the way you perceive because they have been abused, not because they are abusers. Your strawman is an abuser, an abuser of reason, and self and revelation; but normal people aren’t quite so clever. Normal people have gone through society and interacted with ‘Islamic scholarship’ and found them distant, ignorant, demeaning and rude; this is the real reason for rejecting the opinions and teachings of scholarship. There is a huge difference between disagreeing as a Muslim when Allah and his prophet have decreed a matter, and when an ‘Islamic Scholar’ decrees a matter. As a Muslim I am called upon to say “I hear and I obey”, and I do say it, but when people try to pull this line on me when I disagree with them I have to point out to them they they aren’t Allah(swt) or the Prophet(as), this is a key point many ‘Islamic Scholars’ have forgotten. Too many ‘Islamic Scholars’ have forgotten the Prophet’s manners with people, that he was the kindest and gentlest (without ever giving in on what is right) and that he lived like the people; they’ve spent years memorizing books without ever actually living and are drawn from a well of scholarship that suggests that such an education is adequate to go out into the world, that book knowledge untempered by reality is adequate to dictate to those of us in the real world how things ought to be. But the world has changed, as you said, and the education of ‘Islamic Scholars’ is producing ‘leadership’ incapable of dealing with people-as-they-are, of dealing with real problems and providing a connection with anything but books. Regular people are bullied into subservience too often, and the more they are bullied the more likely they are to eventually find tools with which to cope with or overcome their oppressors, this is what you are seeing; the problem stems from a ‘leadership’ inadequate for and abusive of the people.

    You criticize regular people for having a ‘fifth grade equivalence’ in Islamic education; too many scholars demonstrate worse than that in terms of Adab and in knowing the real world and the people they are dealing with. Why should we listen to people who do not demonstrate an ability to understand the world and connect it with the divine? That’s literally your entire job! Scholars are supposed to be, as they frequently like to remind us, the inheritors of the Prophet. If you are the inheritors of the Prophet you (as a class, not you personally) are doing a horrible job as trustee of the message because you fail to address the situation of the people around you. It is not the fault of the people that they do not listen to you, it’s your fault for failing to give them a reason to listen to you. It’s your fault for demonstrating yourselves untrustworthy, deceitful and petty. Putting this in the American context, many ‘Islamic scholars’ here have a bias acquired through their education against America and Americans and frame everything as a conflict. Regular people don’t live in conflict, they have synthesized their existence by internally integrating their roles as believers in and submitters to Allah(swt) and their living in the world today. If you don’t like how we do it (and there are definitely problems with how many people do it, I agree) then you should be the ones showing us how it should be done, but you don’t. It is our opinion that you don’t know how, and that means your scholarship isn’t worth anything to us. Scream and holler and chastise and berate the people, but you won’t do anything but drive a wedge between them and Allah.

    Islamic scholarship was crafted in a world where the divine infused the world, creating a cloistered world in which knowledge was conveyed and that conveyance of knowledge reached such a fine point that for the scholar (they say) the acquisition of knowledge is an act of worship -thereby justifying their light application of other forms of worship. Today this cloistered world continues to exist, but the world outside has changed. The world outside now is no longer infused with the divine, it is not part of public discourse and thinking. Those who believe, who want to believe, have to find a way to hold onto their belief by infusing the world with the divine in their own ways. They have been abandoned in this effort by scholarship who are content and self-satisfied in their own cloisters, confident and self-assured of their own virtue in their isolation. When scholarship appears in the world of regular people they demonstrate themselves to be THE MOST SECULAR PEOPLE AROUND, secular because they reject the world outside and seek to create a separate world for themselves within the masjid; this is the very definition of secular, to separate religion and public life, not to get rid of religion. We are living public lives, we need tools to deal with living public lives as believers, most ‘Islamic Scholars’ deliver NOTHING of value to those living public lives. If we don’t listen to you, if we adopt other methods to make sense of the world, it’s your fault, or the fault of the structure of your training. There is not a Kantian philosophical movement, Muslims are perfectly happy to remain steadfast believers following the sunnah but they refuse to be ignorant and reject what they see in the world just because a person “who can claim greater knowledge of the religion” tells them to without justification. You need to demonstrate, with reason, the virtue of your approach; if you want to help people, be with the people and IMPROVE HOW YOU DELIVER THE MESSAGE ENTRUSTED TO YOU AS THE INHERITORS OF THE PROPHET. Blaming others for failing to listen to you when you are speaking at them rather than to them is never going to solve the problem. Islamic scholarship, you inheritors, need to analyze yourselves and adapt, you cannot change people until you change yourselves, you cannot change yourselves if you’re not critical of yourselves. Focus on your own faults, not the faults of others; this will lead you to success.

    To conclude: this is not an “American” problem. This is a failing of Islamic scholarship, they need to get their heads out of their books and deal with the real world. Stop living a life of fantasy and help people connect with Allah and deal with the dilemmas of living in the world. If you cannot adapt to conditions as they change you will become obsolete. Note that I am saying you will become obsolete, not religion, not God, not even scholarship, but you and the way you learn, and teach, and behave, and deliver the message to the people. If the condition of the people is bad, it may be because of the people and not you, surely prophet Noah called his people for centuries to no avail; but ya’ll ain’t Noah and we are already believers, your row to hoe isn’t nearly so tough. We already believe, we are receptive, but you talk past us and not to us; do us all a favor and examine yourselves first, if something isn’t working try to figure out why and change yourselves.

    [It is dangerous and hurtful to compare the thinking of believers to disbelief, to Pharoah, etc. By drawing your straw man and imposing his beliefs over the majority of Muslims you draw dangerously close to doing so. In so doing you do not invite reflection by those who disagree with you but merely demonize them. This will not draw them nearer to your way of thinking. It only serves to close ranks with those who already agree with you and is a despicable way to treat people; it is part of what leads people to reject ‘scholarship.’]
    [People who agree with you and who do nothing but cheer you on without taking a critical look at your work do you a disservice. Improve.]
    [God save me from ‘Islamic Intellectualists’]

    • hl says:

      Amazing reply. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Thank. You

    • Absolutely superb response Ahmed. Hit the nail on the head. It is not an American problem. It is an Islamic scholarship problem. Sheikhs are so distanced from reality sometimes that its bewildering. When a person loses faith they are frequently told “Go talk to the sheikh”, but this rarely brings a positive result. Often the sheikhs are themselves masters of dogma but never looked into the polemics and issues that face typical Muslims in their daily lives nor opponents coming with well crafted well researched polemics against Islam.

    • Moe says:

      Fantastic reply. The little guys are always getting blamed, but people dont realize its the scholars who are actually to blame for this lack of Education.

    • Sabrine says:

      Wow dude. I was nodding the whole way through this comment.

    • Musa says:

      2/3rds ? what is your proof. Secondly he started the article stating ” talking about muslim bloggers and authors who post articles in the style of the kantian-reasoning he was discussing. Majority of the apparent 2/3rds will not be writing articles furthering the progressive cause.

    • Saba says:

      Bravo Ahmed! Thank you for that response. I just read it out loud to my father as well.

    • Mohamed Hassan says:

      Brother, your response was absolutely on point. I literally cannot find any fault in it and at the same time it REALLY summarized all the issues we muslims have today. I was raised in Saudi Arabia, and I can say for a fact that they did not spend enough time teaching us the true mercy of Allah or how much knowledge is in the Qur’an. I was raised to memorize the Qur’an before I even knew what the words even meant (i still don’t know). If only a fraction of that time was spent explaining the manners that we should adopt from Prophet Mohamed (S.A.W.), things would have been much different. As evident by parent’s generationg, scholars were mindful of the situation around the people and had ways to moderate, not isolate and scold people. As you said: “Blaming others for failing to listen to you when you are speaking at them rather than to them is never going to solve the problem. Islamic scholarship, you inheritors, need to analyze yourselves and adapt, you cannot change people until you change yourselves, you cannot change yourselves if you’re not critical of yourselves. Focus on your own faults, not the faults of others; this will lead you to success.” This is by far the best comment I’ve ever read. Thank you brother, may allah bless you and your family.

    • Mobeen says:

      Walaykumsalam Brother Ahmed O’Keeffe,

      In keeping with this Socratic spirit, I hope you will allow me to indulge a few of your arguments and register my disagreement with your well-articulated reply.

      I would begin by encouraging you to read Inqiyaad’s reply below. It encapsulates much (though not all) of what I have to say.

      It is unclear to me what your disquisition against the purported “failure” of Islamic scholarship is substantively conveying. You seem to think that Muslim scholars have failed their adherents by not offering anything especially relevant, or in your words, “not giving them anything to listen to.” And I would argue that it is precisely arguments such as these that only further the case Imam Mikaeel has made in this article – there is an assumption in much of your reply that what scholars are missing is merely the right talk-track, a magical method of reconfigured articulation that captures peoples soul and enlivens their spirit into a cornucopia of divine indulgence which would occur if only they stepped outside of their echo chambers. That many imams and scholars have attempted for the better part of the past decade to pursue every path imaginable, both public and private, deploying variegated methods of addressing an otherwise disinterested constituency does not seem to factor into your anti-clerical polemic, but I digress.

      Getting straight to your point, what makes you so sure that someone like Imam Mikaeel has not attempted to step outside of the masjid to engage the Muslim community (employing the very strategy you call for)? What would be your concrete proposal for Muslim scholars to do differently – in real, not abstract terms?

      Just as you point the finger at scholars (which it seems is increasingly en vogue these days), dont lay Muslims have some obligation to overcome their spiritual sloth? Shouldnt imams and scholars push back against the type of bullying that unremittingly asks of them to water down the very essence of Islam, one that seeks to “redefine Islam’s position on gender interaction, hijab, homosexuality and even premarital sex”?

      The problem, sadly, is that many Muslims have been infected with the nihilism of contemporary discourse, and unless we are able to unpackage the very assumptions that underlie this discourse, teaching people about purity, the prescriptions of their faith, and the like ultimately falls on deaf ears to the few who are interested enough to show up. It is my sense that Imam Mikaeel took one such attempt to challenge these assumptions, highlighting merely two features that are at the very core of modern discourse, and fundamentally impede ones ability to take from the very inheritance scholars like Imam Mikaeel are looking to pass along.

      In short, you are badly mistaken on many counts, and sadly have elected to harangue a scholarly community that is at the moment fighting an uphill battle to a community that views them as “untrustworthy, deceitful and petty” (unsurprisingly, to some applause). Perhaps it would be worthwhile to take some of the advice that you dished out to Imam Mikaeel – improve on how you deliver your message, seek to rectify yourself, and ask Allah for humility. Maybe it is followers such as you that have resulted in the leader/follower stalemate that seems to so characterize the modern world?

      [Your objection to the Pharaoh reference is a straw man and fundamentally misunderstands Imam Mikaeel’s use of the quote, or his larger point. Suffice to say that Allah told us about Iblis, Pharaoh, Qarun, etc. because as human beings we are all capable of imbibing the very traits that Allah condemned in them. Anyone that finds that offensive, frankly, needs to read the book of Allah as it is filled with such reminders directed toward the believers.]
      [People who cheer your comment without critically thinking it through or understanding its incoherence do you a disservice. Just realize that.]
      [God save us from the fire and gather us with the righteous. Ameen.]

      Allahu Alam.

      I hope you’ll forgive if some of this was heavy-handed. It was all in the spirit of the Socratic method, which I know you are a fan of.

      • Ahmed O'Keeffe, Esq. says:

        Assalamu Alaikum,

        I am perfectly happy to permit you a response, and will address your response though I think you misunderstand the character of Socratic questioning (this is possibly my fault, I’m more practiced being the questioned than the questioner so perhaps I did it wrong).

        First paragraph: I have addressed Inqiyaad’s response, below.

        Second paragraph: you have mischaracterized my comments, not only have I not presented an “anti-clerical” polemic (far be it from me), but I have also not suggested providing the people a cornucopia of divine indulgences via a “magical method of reconfigured articulation”. I do believe that your echo chamber comment is accurate of my position. You suggest that scholars have attempted a “decade” of work to reach out to the people; I would suggest that for many this effort was half-hearted and it showed. There seems an eagerness to blame others for the scholar’s lack of traction, and to abandon the effort and return to the echo chambers. They expect everything to be so easy, as they are in the echo chamber; people living in the real world know that things are never so easy.

        Third paragraph: How do I know Imam Mikaeel hasn’t done outreach? What would I propose Muslim scholars do differently? Firstly, I don’t know anything about Imam Mikaeel, not one thing, and make no assumptions about him nor did I intend to castigate his character or efforts (forgive me brother if I was read to direct my critique to your work). Whether he has done it or not though is irrelevant to my point. My point is that the “outreach” must be done continuously; so continuously, in fact, that it is no longer outreach but simply being with and of the people, that is the level of integration that I am looking for. As for a specific proposal, that was again not the point, but since you seem pressed to demand one of me I will proffer this: when they address the people they should start with the assumption that they don’t know anything, and that their opinion is wrong. If they go about disassembling their own assumptions and conforming them to the thinking of the people then they can understand the people and help the people rebuild the framework upon which correct knowledge and guidance is based. This requires that the scholar maintain multiple inconsistent ideas as true at the same time (something I know to be possible); only by learning to do so will they be able to understand the challenges of their congregation and thereby address the problems they face in a way that can be understood. [or not, this is just one thought, one opinion at one time, I reserve the right to change my mind and improve my thinking.]

        Fourth Paragraph: I challenge your premise that people’s faith is ‘watered down’ or slothful, I do not believe that to be true. I do believe it is not recognizable in some, but it is still present and whole and (like a pearl from the sea) can be drawn forth and beautified. Yes scholars, and not just scholars, should disallow forbidden things from being considered part of the faith.

        Fifth Paragraph: May Allah bless Imam Mikaeel for his writing and work, and the other scholars as well. I do not believe that ‘unpackaging’ a discourse is relevant. The assumption that it could be is part of the problem with scholarship as leaders. In scholarship to ‘unpackage’ a thing would/could lead to its destruction; this does not work in the real world. Your ‘unpackaging’ the thing is irrelevant if you (the unpackage-or) are irrelevant; you are irrelevant if you are not in and with and of the people. There is virtue in the scholarly work, but scholarly work is not the limit of the efforts required to bring benefit to the people. As you suggested in your previous paragraph, people are individually responsible for seeking guidance, but its not guidance if it doesn’t guide them; hence my quote from the Quran in my response to Inqiyaad: that Allah(swt) sent his messages to the people in the language of the people with clear statements. It is Allah(swt)’s sunnah that the message be delivered to the people in a manner they will understand; it is incumbent upon the inheritors to do the same for the people.

        Sixth paragraph: This I read as a personal attack borne out of frustration, I appreciate it.
        First Part: You have failed to identify how I am ‘badly wrong’ or how I ‘harangued’ the scholarly community, so I reject those claims. The only claim you’ve made upon which I could be wrong is suggested by your second paragraph in which you say scholars have made outreach for a decade. We can disagree on this point but you have not proven me ‘badly wrong.’ As for having ‘harangued’ the scholarly community, it is both inaccurate and demonstrative of what has perpetuated the problem I sought to identify. To ‘harangue’ I must provide a lengthy and aggressive speech, or lecture someone at length in an aggressive and critical manner. I concede that my response was lengthy, and that it was critical, but it was not aggressive. I sought to be respectful and calm, I believe I succeeded for the most part; I certainly don’t believe I directed any particular aggression at the author and attempted to make allowances for certain people in the ‘scholarly community’ by suggesting problems exist among “too many” or “too often”, but perhaps I made a mistake. The greater problem with suggesting that I ‘harangued’ the scholarly community in this situation is that the use of such words, particularly in combination, seeks to denigrate my character and signal to others who may agree with me that similarly speaking out will result in them receiving similar treatment. I did not conduct myself aggressively, and yet you seek to characterize me as having done so, and worse (by the calculus of your words) I did dare reproach the ‘scholarly community’ whose moral authority is beyond reproach. Well let me say that this sort of language may work to silence people for a time and in your presence, but it does not convince anyone not already agreeing with you of the virtue of your approach nor that of your opponent; it merely signals that their thoughts and desires are not respected among those in the ‘scholarly community’ and its acolytes, and this is exactly the sort of abuse that has lead people to conclude that scholars are “distant, ignorant, demeaning and rude” (to quote myself). People need to stop doing this to one another in debate in the community.
        Second Part: I can do with humility, that is always true, and so can you, and so can Imam Mikaeel, and so can everyone else. Am I the type of follower that is responsible for the leader/follower impasse? Lul wut? How can I unpack everything that is wrong with that claim; can I even do it, probably not? Definitionally there can be no impasse, if there was an impasse then leadership is not occurring and there is no leader and no follower. Secondly, character assassaination much? To suggest that I am characteristic of the problem complained of, that my attitude is responsible for the impasse (which is leading to people taking off their hijab, fornicating and permitting gay sex) is neither supported by fact or reasoning. Once again you have only sought to denigrate me to suggest that I and others should be silent. Guess what? It ain’t about me, in fact, its about what you’re trying to do to me; the funny/scary thing is: you don’t even realize it. Your attack on me proves my point; your attack on me is a demonstration of what I complained. You cannot treat people like this, neither you nor the ‘scholarly community’ get a free pass. You have to treat people well and earn their respect, you’re failing on both counts right now.

        Your post script:
        1st part: The Quran is a reminder for the believers yes. But we are not Pharoah, we are not Shaytan, Qarun or the hypocrites; even though there are aspects of their character that we all need to remain vigilant to guard ourselves against it is not fair to us as believers to demote us to their level. To suggest that people who disagree with you are acting like Pharoah, Shaytan, Qarun or hypocrites is a) just a few short steps away from the nuclear option of takfir, and b) is intellectually lazy and dishonest. Do yourselves and your audiences a favor and limit references of believers as being like such individuals to special and important circumstances, you will likely do better to communicate your point if you avoid using such imprecise shortcuts sure to elicit such a visceral reaction. To regularly invoke such visceral reactions from a position of claimed moral authority is spiritual abuse.
        2nd part: I agree that if they agreed with me without critically thinking they would be doing me a disservice, just as those who agree with anyone without taking a critical look at their position would, but I believe (given your response) you are more perturbed by their agreement than I am chuffed by it. You should consider it an sign of something you’re missing that people who come to read “Muslim Matters” should agree with me in this regard. Presumably these people, for the most part, consider themselves Muslim and as such amenable to guidance. Very often people will not speak up critically unless/until another voice is raised; this means only they are uncertain that the expression of their thoughts are acceptable, not that they are in doubt about what they believe. So what you see, from people agreeing with me, is that I’m not the only one who feels this way and that you don’t get to continue to go on believing you are right simply because no opposition is voiced. Do not belittle the believers simply because they perceive a problem you do not, or because that problem is inconvenient or uncomfortable for you.
        3rd part: Amen.

        Finally, re: the spirit of the socratic method. I don’t know what you perceive that spirit to be; it is not intended to be ‘mean spirited’ (though some seem to attempt to cover their mean spiritedness in exhortations to the socractic method) but rather a method of methodical questioning intend to bring about a deeper and purer understanding of the issues, or something like that. I cannot claim I did it very well, but the idea of challenge is a part of it and I tried to apply that in a respectful way. I don’t feel that you challenged me, let alone respectfully; I feel that you mischaracterized my statements, sought to assassinate my character and disparage those who agreed with me, all without a single valid and controlling premise and without sound reason. I do not hold your request for forgiveness for being heavy-handed as sincere; I think you very much enjoyed giving me what you thought was a shellacking. You insulted me but did not deliver a shellacking and your apology is insincere; Good luck on the day of reckoning.

        Allah forgive me and God knows best (wa Allahu Alim)

      • Mobeen says:

        Walaykumsalam wa Rahmatullah Brother Ahmed,

        You’ll have to forgive me for not responding exhaustively, but you have written quite a bit.

        Ultimately, you have offered one concrete proposal, which you are at the moment unsure of (the idea that imams/scholars should go into environments with the assumption of their own ignorance and errancy). Meanwhile, you have stated, among your critiques, the following:
        “IMPROVE HOW YOU DELIVER THE MESSAGE ENTRUSTED TO YOU AS THE INHERITORS OF THE PROPHET”
        “‘Islamic Scholars’ deliver NOTHING of value to those living public lives” (the single quotes around Islamic Scholars, I can only assume, means you regard these people as inauthentic or otherwise derelict in their duties)
        You referred to Islamic Scholars “THE MOST SECULAR PEOPLE AROUND”

        I dont think characterizing these, and other statements, as reflecting an “anti-clerical polemic” as being a mischaracterization of your general critique. You may not think you came off aggressive, but if I could offer yet another piece of advice, using all-caps is pretty much universally recognized as being one of the most aggressive ways to convey something in type.

        I may have made the mistake here of assuming you live in the United States. Perhaps in other places in the world, imams have kept to the confines of masajid at the expense of said outreach. But I literally have no idea how you can actually state that imams and scholars need to do more outreach, or that their outreach needs to be continuous, when that is in fact what plenty of imams have taken to doing already. In fact, fewer scholars are entering mosques for vocation, and fewer mosques employ full-time imams which has accounted for the emergence of “freelance imams” which Omar Usman has written about here:
        http://ibnabeeomar.com/the-age-of-the-full-time-imam-is-over-heres-what-the-new-era-looks-like/

        Aside from the discrete contractual commitments these freelance scholars have, many have permanently committed themselves to remaining with the people and trying to meet them where they are at. They are on campuses, at hospitals, and parks. Every avenue online is being pursued (Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope, etc.).

        So if I could ask once again, what is it exactly that you fail to see from imams and religious scholars? Beyond abstract critiques, I am looking for something concrete. I dont deny that there are in fact multiple sides to the current challenges facing Muslim Americans, and that our scholars certainly have room for improvement. I am simply interested in hearing how our scholars can improve given your rather trenchant critique, with specific recommendations inshallah.

        As for your post script objection, honestly this is a bizarre interpretation of Imam Mikaeel’s statement and completely incongruous with the specific anecdotes detailed in the Quran and Sunna. When the Prophet (pbuh) told a Companion that ‘Satan flows through man like blood,’ was he comparing him to Satan? When the Prophet (pbuh) reproached the Companions for lacking in patience, or when Allah warned believers not to be like those who harmed Musa, those who disbelieved, etc. was all of this objectionable too? The role of the Prophet (pbuh), and scholars by extension, is not merely to give glad tidings, but to warn as well. That warnings invoke the memory of those Allah cursed is to be expected and not in the same realm as takfir (or even coming close to it).

        It seems to me that while you have no problem offering critique, you have reacted viscerally to having had your own ideas and thoughts called into question. I think objectively what I wrote was more tempered than your response (though I may be wrong), and it was written in the same vein. I am not sure whether you intended to write in a condescending tone, but statements like “People who agree with you and who do nothing but cheer you on without taking a critical look at your work do you a disservice. Improve.” are extremely patronizing. To tell imams that it is their “fault for demonstrating yourselves untrustworthy, deceitful and petty” goes beyond providing measured, constructive naseeha.

        I do not think I insulted you once – my apologies if it came across that way. I critiqued your ideas, the content of your message, and proffered that perhaps some of what you conveyed may contribute to the type of impasse you see as a problem. I dont know how this constitutes a “shalacking.”

        May Allah forgive us both, grant us good on the day of reckoning, and grant us sincerity. Ameen. Allah Knows Best.

      • Mobeen Vaid says:

        My apologies, allow me to edit one thing I mentioned:

        Although plenty of imams are doing outreach, there’s always room for more. And it is possible that they are missing out on specific types of outreach – again, if you have specific recommendations concerning these omissions, I would be open to hearing them inshallah.

    • السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

      I read the whole thing. Yep.
      Often I have found two individuals arguing. Upon listening to both, I discover that they both point in the same direction, albeit “from” different directions i.e. looking over the same scenario from different vantage points. I find this to be a classic example.

      The article writer has written “some” factual observations; these have come across as blame to some of the readers.
      The long comment up there is also talking about another aspect that contributes to the same problem that has been raised by the article author. Neither author nor commenter have penned the totality of the scenario. Both have written stuff that complements the other: the public isn’t bothered enough to ask for authentic source, they’d rather shop around for someone who can give them a short answer to work with; on the other hand those people who DO want to reason, the majority scholars don’t reason right simply because they don’t have an empathetic approach to dawah/guiding people.

      It’s both in action. Neither author, nor commenter are wrong. Both got a piece of the puzzle right, and they are not the only pieces of this puzzle.

      وعليكم السلام و رحمة الله و بركاته

    • Asdfghj says:

      Excellent reply

    • Danya says:

      Thank you. Well said.

    • Farooq says:

      Jazak Allah Khair for your reply!!

    • Amatullah says:

      Amen, ameen, and ashe!

    • Amatullah says:

      Brother Ahmed, salaam

      What you wrote is truly valuable and insightful. I don’t know if you have a blog of your own or would consider publishing this somewhere–perhaps even here–but I truly think such necessary commentary needs to be circulated more widely. It’s less easy to refer someone to the comments section of a piece, and I would really appreciate the ability to share some version of this with more people. These are necessary discussions.

    • Hue Man says:

      This article is discussing Bloggers and Writers. Not the average Muslim. If one is to speak publicly about Islam, then they need to do proper research.

    • ummer farooq says:

      That is why we have Tabligh Jamaat

  6. Ahmed says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    /hug from your akhi

    Jzk!!!

    I have heard the craziest arguments from famous speakers that i never thought a muslim would say. Like someone clearly going against the verse that says women need 2 witnessess. The guy said that if that was the case then aishas hadith shouldnt be taken unless she has another witness. I was mindblown and this is from a famous speaker that you ALL know. But this same person if you listened to him talk couple of years ago he would give the most beautiful talks about how we must obey Allah at all cost even if we dont get it. And he would give the most beautiful examples like when ibrahim obeyed Allah even though he didnt understand why Allah wanted him to slaughter his son etc.

    O Allah protect us from nifaaq.

  7. Abd says:

    What is anti-heteronomyic thought?

    • Inqiyaad says:

      anti-heteronomous
      adjective
      Hostility to or prejudice against heteronomous thought.
      Compare with anti-Semitism. Not same as autonomous.

  8. Mezba says:

    One of the problems, and I say this with a lot of respect as I am from the conservative spectrum myself, is that many scholars of Islam are not really solving the problems being faced by the Muslims (especially in the West) and in some cases contributing to the problems. They can’t even get along with each other. Some examples here.

    1) Women’s spaces in the mosque. A big issue that many mosque boards refuse to accept. If I had a daughter I would be ashamed to take her to most mosques in Toronto, especially ones run by old desi uncles.
    2) No unity, all politics. Best example is not being able to agree on ONE DAY to celebrate Eid. It doesn’t seem like a big issue but it makes Muslims a joke.
    3) Not addressing problems of sex in the khutbahs or youth programs. Sexual abuse is real and sexual knowledge is needed. I saw an interview of two imams on TV here in Canada during the Ontario sex ed debate and one of them came across as uncouth, uneducated, and completely incoherent. We see these images on TV and we see how our imams are out of touch with reality. (By the way the other imam was well educated and well spoken)
    4) Ignoring muslim family crisis (matrimonial programs) and just saying “dating is haram”. Instead of just fatwas, they should actively provide a solution.

    I could go on and on. Muslim scholars have to rise to the occasion or others will.

    • Akhan says:

      which Toronto do you live in? Secondly, you’re falling into exactly what this article is talking about, for instance the masjid space for women. Perhaps there’s an islamic ruling on this?! Why would they say bring your women for dars or eid prayers if they were so “anti-women” la hawla wala quwatta illa billah

      • Mezba says:

        I will give you a good example about masjid and women. A famous mosque here invited Nouman Ali Khan to give a khutbah. He came. Now the main prayer hall here is men only. Women are normally allowed upstairs which has a glass partition and you can see into the main prayer hall. This day, they were told no – go to the basement. No carpets, straw mats only, much more uncomfortable to sit and pray on. OK, they went. You can’t see Nouman Ali Khan any more, but only hear him. No problem the mosque said they would have close circuit tv and projection. Ooops, none of it worked. So women just sat there trying to listen only to a scholar through very bad quality audio and try in vain to follow a prayer where they are guessing what the imam was doing.

        This is the same mosque that , on its Eid prayer, made a khutbah that was virulently against Shiahs and their alternative hajj this year instead of focusing on Eid. So who will go to this mosque with the kids and ladies?

  9. Sara says:

    Hijab is not an oblogation. This is already debatable amongst scholars.

    • Ahm says:

      Dear Sara,

      No it’s not. There’s disagreement about niqab, but a consensus among the madhahib about hijab. Where are you getting this information from?

    • Muadh says:

      You’ve gotta be kidding me. There’s no disagreement regarding the obligation of the hijab.

    • Yusuf says:

      The hijab is not debated amongst scholars rather they are agreed that denying its obligation takes one out of Islam and makes their blood halal. The scholars have only disagreed on whether the face should be covered and the most sound statement regarding it is that it must be covered if there’s a fear of fitna and hence must be worn in our current age and hijra is an obligation upon the one unable to do this.

      • Iljas Baker says:

        “The hijab is not debated amongst scholars rather they are agreed that denying its obligation takes one out of Islam and makes their blood halal.”

        Are you actually conscious of what you write? Is this what you have come to? Can you actually imagine our Prophet making this statement? I feel sorry for you and those around you.

      • Hue Man says:

        Yusuf, While Hijab is obligatory where do you get the crazy idea that “their blood is halal”? Do you even know what that means?

  10. Noor says:

    The Quran says that women should remain seated patiently in their homes. An authentic Hadith says that a woman’s salah in the inner room of her house is superior to the sallah offered in the courtyard of her house. The orders of Allah and His beloved Rasool (pbuh) are for till the day of Qiyamah, they cannot be changed according to anyones whims and fancies. Whoever leads his/her life accordingly will have a serene life in both the worlds inshaAllah.

  11. Inqiyaad says:

    @Ahmed O’Keeffe
    Ahmed, with all regard to your articulation, the real strawmen here are your assertions that the author is criticizing some rare breed of ‘Kantian-esque Philosophers’. Similar are your attempts to redefine this as an article directed at “normal people.” The author’s intended target is quite clear, “…Muslim bloggers and writers… MSAs, masjids, and other Muslim organizations across the nation…” It is a coincidence that such behavior is not new and can be eloquently categorized using an already existing philosophy, although not well known.

    Two-thirds of Muslims in America are immigrants, yet their culture is despised as detrimental to the practice of Islam, which ‘American Muslims’ should shun going forward. Again, this is not a strawman, and ‘American Muslim’ is not a construct created by the author, it has been in usage for quite some time and we are aware of the imagery the use of this term is intended to evoke. You hear this argument constantly from the blogosphere pulpit, MSAs, and prominent Muslim Organizations and leaders. There are aspects of immigrant culture that are definitely an antithesis to Islam, but so are aspects of ‘indigenous’ American culture that is promoted as a reference point for conforming Islamic law. I haven’t heard one prominent voice, not even one, arguing that Muslims in America come from different backgrounds and hence fatawa should be tailored to their specific cultural background. Rather, an immigrants’ cultural background is irrelevant/toxic upon stepping on American land and should be immediately subservient to an all-encompassing ‘American Culture’. At the same time, any challenge to ‘American Culture’ is labeled ‘latent hatred’ and an obstacle to the ability to practice Islam. This dichotomous posturing might placate a xenophobic outlook that derides any deviations from proclaimed norms of acceptable culture. Perhaps, we can introspect aspects of our culture that promote such an outlook.

    Deteriorating standards of Islamic education are a universal problem. However, the obsession with making culture and reason as a primal source of Jurisprudence is a phenomenon almost uniquely originating from and being promoted worldwide by thought leaders who claim to represent ‘American/Western Muslims’. The author rightly points out that, “Islam over the last 1400 years has encountered many cultures and it has always managed to maintain a distinguished and recognizable form, while also adjusting to the natural differences in people.” I would add that this is true to this day with other cultures for the most part.

    Muslims throughout history and across cultures have submitted their wills to Allah and His Rasul (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) as primal source of legislation. This has been and is being conveyed to them by scholars who to the ‘American Muslim’ are allegedly bullies. The current ‘American Muslim leadership’ has been bullied for too long into conforming to peoples’ misplaced urgency for syncretism out of fear of an apostatical-apocalypse. Advocating education to change the behavior of bullies and the bullied seems to me a very compassionate approach. I concede that there is much work to be done to impart this education and scope for improvement on the part of people imparting this education.

    For too long we have subordinated the requirement of total submission to popular demands for syncretism and urge to rationalize every aspect of Islam to make it acceptable. As you rightly said, “you are deflecting blame for the/your problem, and this is simply not a constructive nor mature solution to any problem; there must be some ‘internal’ self critique to understand one’s own role in the creation of the problem, because we cannot, in truth, change others without changing ourselves.” It is time to reassess our claims of belief and submission, a goal toward which this article seems to be a much-needed first breath of fresh air.

    • Ahmed O'Keeffe, Esq. says:

      Assalamu Alaikum,
      I’m replying only because you @’d me and I prefer to show dignity to those who request to engage with me:
      I don’t believe that I raged against ‘immigrant muslims’, but your response includes a very passionate/upset defense of immigrant muslim cultures and their contribution to Islam in the US. While I have my own opinions about such things I’m pretty sure neither I nor the author made this subject a central part of the conversation. When I mentioned that 2/3rds of US Muslims are foreign born it was only to suggest that the problem is not a US problem, per se, but a universal problem; I’ve seen a number of people from other communities around the globe identifying the problem the author pointed out as existing in their own communities, I therefore conclude its not special to the US. (Someone asked for a citation on the 2/3rds figure, here is one: https://iraq.usembassy.gov/resources/information/current/american/statistical.html) So, assuming that I’m not mistaken I will leave your points on this issue to stand as they are, there is both virtue in them and points to clarify.
      As for your first point, suggesting that the author has not painted a broad brush with his critique, I honestly find it laughable that to suggest that “MSAs, masjids, and other Muslim organizations across the nation” is not foreseeably interpretable to include essentially every Muslim in the US. Are we left to conclude that the issue taken then is with every other person asserting a claim to ‘leadership’ over the lives of Muslims in the US…? Well it would be nice if it was clarified as being ‘leadership’ but it’s not clarified as leadership, it specifically identifies: “The Western Muslim” as being the culprit. If identifying “The Western Muslim” is not a sufficient reference to “normal people” I’m not sure what is (given the context of the title addresses itself to “American Muslims”).
      Finally, I shall clarify. I am not in favor of people reinterpreting things for themselves from their own nafs; this is clear misguidance and a pathway to the hell fire. My point is: the people aren’t bad, they do not reject faith, they wouldn’t even reject scholarship if it wasn’t presented to them so horribly. We are inherently inclined, by our upbringing and education as Muslims, to pay heed to Islamic Scholarship; yet, too many Islamic Scholars seems to expect a free pass to credibility and leadership and they won’t get it. You must say things that make sense, and if we don’t get it you have to find a way to understand why we don’t get it and refine your approach; do that and people will listen.

      In Surah Ibrahim (14), Allah(swt) has said what has been translated as:
      (1) Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that you might bring mankind out of darknesses into the light by permission of their Lord – to the path of the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy –
      (2) Allah , to whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And woe to the disbelievers from a severe punishment
      (3) The ones who prefer the worldly life over the Hereafter and avert [people] from the way of Allah , seeking to make it (seem) deviant. Those are in extreme error.
      (4) And We did not send any messenger except [speaking] in the language of his people to state clearly for them, and Allah sends astray [thereby] whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

      I would suggest that the third verse justifies the general concern of the author, and that my concern is justified in the fourth verse: ‘the language of the people to state clearly for them…’ I beg Islamic Scholarship to realize that too many of them are not speaking the language of the people they would like to address and so are not stating things clearly and that they should adjust accordingly.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Ahmed O’Keefe,

        I have read your numerous lengthy posts here and it is clear you feel very strongly about the fact that there is a disconnect between the scholars and the ordinary Muslim. I am very much concerned with this seemingly troubled dynamic myself and would like to understand it better. However, I find most of your statements very general. Can you give a few explicit examples of where scholars are “not speaking clearly,” or saying things that don’t make sense to the average Muslim, etc.? Also, can you give suggestions, on the specific points you use as an example, of how, in your opinion, the scholars *should* go about addressing the issue in question? i.e., what would a proper response / engagement on those questions look like for you?

        I think this would help some of us understand a lot better. Jazakumullahu khayran.

        Wassalam,
        Ahmad B.

      • Anon says:

        Agreed, some of your statements have some substance, but you have any particular issues that you feel need addressing? I agree many scholars not only failed to deliver the message, but succumb to the environment around them & twist it. But tbh, the Quran is available to read & as are the ahadith. The internet has made Islamic literacy available to anyone who wants to know. True, having a solid community and well principled & spoken scholars helps us understand the deen better, but there are many examples of people finding deen with minimal contact with Muslims. I know brothers who now regularly come to the Masjid after they read the Quran themselves, and through their own exploration of deen. There are principles in Islam that are very well founded through scripture, understanding them through scholars is optional (tho for many preferable).

        Could you give some issues that you feel is not being properly addressed?

      • Inqiyaad says:

        Wa ‘alaikum as salaam,

        Ahmed O’Keeffe, perhaps, the misunderstanding is due to disregard for the role that an exclusionary ‘American Muslim Identity’ plays in facilitating the precipitation of this crisis. Purveyors of ‘American Muslim Identity’ discredit Islamic Scholarship whether here or abroad by stating that, “(Islamic Scholars’) bias (is) acquired through their education (under foreign scholars or at foreign institutions) against America and Americans and (they) frame everything as a conflict.” Therefore, they argue, there is a need to develop scholars steeped in ‘American Culture’ with protean abilities to accommodate demands of a subset of the congregation that is unsettled by any suggestions to subordinate culture to divine decree. These purveyors are motivated not so much by consideration of Islamic allowance to accommodate differences of culture but rather by ideological inclinations/opinions. Because, facts (about American Muslim demographics) dictate that these purveyors should have been talking about the gargantuan protean (language) enterprise it would be if we started catering to individual cultures/subgroups within the American Muslim milieu. It is no coincidence that these same purveyors attack immigrant culture. Having sidelined the silent majority by accusations of backward-back-home culture, these purveyors are empowered to define ‘Acceptable American Culture’ in alignment with their ideological inclinations/opinions. My repetitive references to ‘American Culture’ might sound monotonous, but this has been a prominent theme and obsession of religious discourse in this country without regard for boundaries that govern allowance for cultural accommodation, its subordination to scriptural evidence, demographic facts, or constantly changing nature of popular American culture.

        Intentionally or unintentionally, this discourse has spawned the extreme and vocal mutant crusaders for whom even the ‘givens’ are now subject to negotiations and reasoning. There is nothing ‘normal’ about these positions. Rejecting these ‘givens’ is not merely a rejection of scholars; it is a rejection of Islam. It is these extreme positions (people) that the author intended to address. Trying to reframe this as a conflict between ‘normal’ people and scholars could help you deflect and/or win an argument, but that is the exact definition of a strawman. Ascribing lack of agency to people promoting such views does them disservice.

        Of course, one needs to analyze the events/reasons that result in/facilitate the emergence and advancement of such groups. This is where the influence of such voices on broader community/organizations, their outlook, and education come into picture. Starting with a change in our convictions of our own infallibility and obsessions with shortcomings of scholars, and reassessment of our claims of belief and submission, we can aspire to be educated. Again, reassessment of our claims of belief in revelation and education, are two solutions offered by the Imam Mikaeel.

  12. Paul Ogden says:

    Rather than emphasize the weaknesses or shortcomings of the scholars and the ignorant, all of us can acknowledge that some will learn more readily than others, that some will teach more effectively than others and that it is not the pedagogy or the scripture that rules. God does not place obstacles in our path to restrict our opportunities to learn. To those who will hear He gives more. To those who will not hear (or see or seek or ponder) He withdraws what they will not receive, but they still have the opportunity and right to choose the better path.

    Creating a polarity between the educated and the ignorant is not the will of God, but is one of the patterns presented by the adversary. It is his way of sidelining all the people who never have an opportunity to learn of God from any earthly teacher. Who is to blame for the child who is orphaned, grows to maturity through “survival of the fittest” and lives coping with disease, hunger and strife every day? Where is his or her opportunity for Sunday School, for scripture or being taught prayer? It is not the fault of the child, the absent teacher or God. Contrast that sad life with that of the life child who grows up with all desires provided, all educational and religious foundations provided. Is not the cunning of our common adversary found in all delights and experiences on earth? Aren’t we all subject to adversity either imposed upon us or wallowed in by choice? The real enemy is Satan who has no other objective than to create our misery.

    “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?” (45:23 Al-Jathiya) As quoted above,
    this scripture is helpful only to those who do hear or want to hear. It isn’t of much use to those who do not hear or won’t hear, but Allah is patient and loving. His plan for us is not without a way for us to repent, to choose a new path, to listen and to see. On the one hand we may choose to follow the worldly interpretations and face the consequences by and by. George MacDonald said, “The instant a soul moves counter to the will of its prime mover, the universe is its prison.” Neal A Maxwell put it even more succinctly. “When agency goes awry, agony awaits.” But there is hope as God has allowed and Steven R. Covey reminds us that, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

    I commend all of your comments and replies as being representative of those who will hear and to you I suggest that debate is only part of the answer. While discussion may be intelligent, impassioned or desperate among those who will participate — while feelings of those bystanders who are intimidated, shy or backward may be sympathetic or rebellious — the conclusions need not be all compromise and a dismantling of religion. We may instead embrace the agreeable truths as established in the beginning of man’s existence, praying for each other and continuing the dialogue with love and the expectation that additional truths will be jointly discovered where there is no discord. This is not a process of capitulation or denial, but one of honesty and a recognition of the omniscience of the Almighty who will lead the honest in heart to the complete and ultimate truth no matter what our current position is. And our first lesson could be service to others and discussion of the learning after that.

  13. Naureen says:

    This is spot on. And have noticed this exact same trend. Forwarding a very new opinion (and then often being self righteous about it.)
    I recall one article that left me completely flabbergasted. If I recall correctly, it told people not to pray while they increase their Eman enough to want to pray. The evidence? Just her own personal experience. And the people with even less knowledge are impressed by this amazing solution. may Allah protect us from being enamored by our own opinions.

    I think while some comments above have merit, they don’t seem to be acquainted with the trend this article is critiquing rather accurately.

    It seems the article has somehow managed to ruffle feathers and they feel attacked and have gone on the defensive.

    To people so vehemently decrying scholarship, I say why don’t you step into the arena ad solve this problem instead of blaming and deflecting? I think we can all agree that all of the scholarship isn’t corrupted. Lumping together all scholarship is grossly unfair not to mention inaccurate. In fact I’ve witnessed good imams being kicked out by a masjid fun by lay people. So no i cannot lay blame on scholarship for today’s youth being ill equipped with Islamic knowledge. Those who wished for if went out and got it.

  14. ali says:

    “Things such as fornication being wrong, hijab being an obligation from the Qur’an, homosexuality being forbidden, alcohol being a vice and the communal responsibility to maintain ideals are a few examples of musalimaat. The word “given” is perhaps the most appropriate word for these musalimaat, because it infers to an external source or authority. Meaning these musalimaat were literally given to you from the previous members of the community.”

    The condition of Muslims in the US is very different from say the 1950s , 60s, 70s… At the time, storefront masajid were present in just about every “ghetto” – and provided an incredible range of spiritual services of support to and by people who were rooted in the community. This changed with the mass arrival of “immigrant Muslims” with, what they said was the “true Islam” brought here by the sheikhs etc. This changed the character of Islam from a spiritual liberation movement to a static culture preservation project. It led to a hierarchy that placed the so-called “educated” sheikhs on the top – and the local convert (often, though not always, African American) recently released from prison felon who actually knew Islam at a much deeper and experiential level at the very bottom of the bottom – someone to be feared – and rejected.

    The US is not Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia … etc. there is no culture here to support marriage, hijaab, not being homosexual, or not drinking alcohol. This means that people are living here within what are the norms of this culture/society. When someone who has a girlfriend/boyfriend and may go to the masjid with him/her – they will be roundly and completely rejected – not as much in a predominately African American masjid as much, but definitely so in one run by those of “immigrant” background. Now , fact of the matter we are no longer talking about individual Muslims who have been rejected, or exiled by the holier than thou crowd – at this time there is a critical mass of rejected / exiled Muslims – who have been roundly preached at, judged, and/or attacked in otherways.

    What do folks think is going to happen? These individuals who may have long term girlfriends/boyfriends, maybe going through serial monogomies, not wearing hijaab, maybe drinking wine on the weekend etc. But they are still Muslim, they are not Christian or Jewish or Hindu etc, more than likely they are not atheists nor agnostics. Well, it is totally natural for these folks to now find someway to express who they are by developing their own understanding of Islam. What else are they supposed to do? It is not like the “traditionally educated” “scholars” “sheikhs” gave these folks even a chance b/4 they were rejected and exiled?

    The word “fornication” implies that people are just going around having sex with anyone they find… that is NOT what is going on – many Muslims who are not married but may have girlfriends or boyfriends often have very long term relationships – some over a decade. They are not married for an incredible variety of reasons. Some may have girl/boyfriends around not for sexual reasons but for companionships. In places such as Iran, Pakistan, even the most weird person is going to get married – it is going to happen – family friends etc will make it happen. Not so in the US.

    What gets me about articles like this is that it has no real analyses of society and cultural issues itself – and instead just puts the blame on Muslims who they regard as less than perfect. And I have not even touched on the bigoted sectarian nature of so many of the MSAs, masajids etc – the haughty exclusion of anyone other than their way (or take the highway)…

  15. Ibn Saleem says:

    It can be misleading to use a sound fully logical principle/argument -> and then completely apply it to anything you want and make to sound authoritative. Like quoting “Allah enjoins good” – and then arguing “see the Quran says I’m right”
    Start with an unarguable general point, “only Allah can legislate , humans changing the law are playing God.” Throw in the likes of Kant, and you won the crowd. But the comments below are the PERFECT example of why this logic falls apart. You can apply that same logic to woman serving as witnesses (clearly Qur’anic that their testimony is half), and from the fiqh of 1000 years ago – the majority of madhabs , including many hanafis, seem to have thought niqab was required. Yet it is not controversial at all for modern scholars to say context has changed the ruling about woman’s witness. And most hijabi activist scholars jump to defend the flexibility in Islam that niqab is NOT required , yet they have the audacity to say its “just” an Arabian custom.
    So to take the argument above, and be consistent in logic, you get the comments below, and then you can’t untangle yourself from this mess without agreeing that HUMAN BEINGS are an active part of the divine legislative process, the divine wisdom is rain that falls around us, we filter, collect, purify and turn it into drinking water. That’s not radical, modern, sell out Islam, that IS ISLAMIC LAW, otherwise we’d still be beating wives (100% legislated quranically), having sex with slave woman (100% legislated quranically), embarrassing ourselves in court “Your honor – I object! Mankind cannot play God, I will not accept this woman witness unless there is a second woman saying the same thing” (clearly Quranic).
    The below comments that make his argument fall apart because they are right by his logic:
    “I have heard the craziest arguments from famous speakers that i never thought a muslim would say. Like someone clearly going against the verse that says women need 2 witnessess. ”

    “The hijab is not debated amongst scholars rather they are agreed that denying its obligation takes one out of Islam and makes their blood halal. The scholars have only disagreed on whether the face should be covered and the most sound statement regarding it is that it must be covered if there’s a fear of fitna and hence must be worn in our current age and hijra is an obligation upon the one unable to do this.”

    “The Quran says that women should remain seated patiently in their homes. An authentic Hadith says that a woman’s salah in the inner room of her house is superior to the sallah offered in the courtyard of her house. The orders of Allah and His beloved Rasool (pbuh) are for till the day of Qiyamah, they cannot be changed according to anyones whims and fancies.”
    The scholars of old were acting the same way as “modernists” , using context to eventually allow woman witnesses, to allow woman to travel alone if its safe, etc. By the way, there are way more hadith about a woman not travelling out of her house alone than there are about hijab

  16. Abdullah Chahin says:

    A piece of poorly written and poorly thought blind attack on the intelligence of the others. That is what it is. And it comes as no surprise…

  17. Silvia says:

    The prophet Mohammed PBUH kept saying maintain the woman, over and over for a reason. Think and reflect on the story of Pharaoh, Musa and Aisha.

    • Thanks. Maintain the women well. That was necessary. Some religions (May be Hindu or Christians, I am not sure which) believed that women have no soul. I believe that men and women both have soul and soul has no gender. Soul is not masculine or feminine.
      Do women not require spiritual uplift? How they will enter paradise without attaining spiritual knowledge? There is a discussion on the subject of ladies attending Salat in the mosque and based on some sayings of the prophet (s.a.w.s.) it is being told that they should not go to the mosque but rather pray at their home.
      And I read it some where that the best place for their prayer (for a lady’s daily prayer) is in the very inner part (darker part) of her house. There seems some antipathy for the ladies attending Juma prayer in the mosque. I am surprised. In Surah Juma (Chapter 62), in the last few verses, believers are exhorted to strive hard to attend Juma prayer when call for Juma prayer is made, and shun all business.
      That is an order to believers (AllaDheens Amanou). Are ladies not part of them? Do they not pay Zakat? Do they not keep fast? So why are they being singled out and on what bases? It is perhaps done on the bases of some Hadith or the practice at the time of the holy prophet (s.a.w.s.).
      But I read one report that one wife of the prophet (s.a.w.s.) came to visit the prophet. Later when the prophet s.a.w.s. went to return her to her home, in the street some Momin noticed them coming. He quickly left the way for them so as not to see them seriously (confidently). The prophet s.a.w.s. noticed that. He called that Momin to come back and see that he (the prophet s.a.w.s.) was with his own wife. So that the Momin should see that the accompanied person was the wife.
      If a momin can see the wife of the prophet s.a.w.s. then why other Muslims cannot see the ladies with lowered gaze.
      These are some gentle feelings. May be some one will have the answers to these problems. In the Quran, there is definite mention for the ladies to take some kind of cover (cloth) over their body. But is it necessary to hide the face with cover. I believe that if there is make up then face may be covered but not at security checkpoints or when called upon by some one to remove cover from the face, such as boarding a bus etc. Wassalam.

  18. Siraaj says:

    Really good discussion taking place in this article. If I were to pick a starting point I would start with MaalikSaab’s comment above which states that both the author and Ahmed O’Keefe are right in that they are describing parts of the problem, that there are other parts not discussed, and that these aren’t mutually exclusive.

    To Ahmed, I agree with what you’ve stated regarding outreach, rotten adab, and far more nonsense perpetrated by some scholars locally and globally. As someone who has worked with numerous leaders, I’ve interacted both with people who were amazing gems and with those who have something of a diva complex even when they were not famous and didn’t even deserve to have one.

    However, I appreciate Imam Mikhaeel’s point for a number of reasons. First, with regard to speaking of American Muslims, I don’t think he is negating such problems among Muslims from other nationalities so much as he is speaking to his *locality* and it’s attitudes. Secondly, while I agree with you that most Muslims aren’t reading Kant, I believe that you needn’t know the details of the original source of the idea for aspects of it to be interspered and internalized within the educational curriculums of our schools and universities along with popular culture. Thirdly, it does not surprise me that such ideas are popular in other Muslim nations when juxtaposed with the problems you’ve presented on the Islamic Scholarship side of the equation, given the staggering resources dedicated to undermining conservative authority and pushing puppeted secular democracies, dictatorships, and allies that are amenable to western exploitation.

    In saying this, be clear that I’m not laying all the blame on the West – I began by stating this is one aspect of the problem and i maintain that. I have written elsewhere regarding the Islamic Scholarship side of the equation, such as always blaming laypeople for the problems of the ummah:

    http://aljumuah.com/destructive-patterns-in-muslim-leadership-scapegoating-laypeople-siraaj-muhammad/

    Having said that, I think it’s possible that the scholar / teacher / da’ee is on point, but the nafs and conflicts of interest of the individual simply rules their reasoning. That is also a reality faced by the Prophets themselves, and while we cannot simply make blanket statements like that about everyone, it should remind us that while we must focus on ourselves, there is only so much we can influence, no matter how we fix ourselves, depending on the individuals.

  19. ademC says:

    Brothers & sisters:
    Beware of making the deen your god. Allah is more than you think. Make Allah your God.
    The Creator is greater than this religion that is both divine in origin and man made.
    Is service and worship only about obedience? Will you reach the Ahirah by treating existence as set in stone?
    There are some who are ungrounded or angry and may pass bounds. Estaghfullah!
    Debate with them but from loving hearts not from judgemental mentalities.
    All of us are proud in some way and do not receive the love God sends. Love is the place to begin.

    • Inqiyaad says:

      قُلۡ يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِن كُنتُمۡ فِى شَكٍّ۬ مِّن دِينِى فَلَآ أَعۡبُدُ ٱلَّذِينَ تَعۡبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ وَلَـٰكِنۡ أَعۡبُدُ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى يَتَوَفَّٮٰكُمۡ‌ۖ وَأُمِرۡتُ أَنۡ أَكُونَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ (١٠٤) سُوۡرَةُ یُونس
      Say, [O Muhammad], “O people, if you are in doubt as to my religion (Deen) – then I do not worship those which you worship besides Allah ; but I worship Allah , who causes your death. And I have been commanded to be of the believers (Surah 10:104)

      وَمَن يَرۡغَبُ عَن مِّلَّةِ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمَ إِلَّا مَن سَفِهَ نَفۡسَهُ ۥ‌ۚ وَلَقَدِ ٱصۡطَفَيۡنَـٰهُ فِى ٱلدُّنۡيَا‌ۖ وَإِنَّهُ ۥ فِى ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ لَمِنَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ (١٣٠) إِذۡ قَالَ لَهُ ۥ رَبُّهُ ۥۤ أَسۡلِمۡ‌ۖ قَالَ أَسۡلَمۡتُ لِرَبِّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (١٣١) وَوَصَّىٰ بِہَآ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمُ بَنِيهِ وَيَعۡقُوبُ يَـٰبَنِىَّ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصۡطَفَىٰ لَكُمُ ٱلدِّينَ فَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسۡلِمُونَ (١٣٢) أَمۡ كُنتُمۡ شُہَدَآءَ إِذۡ حَضَرَ يَعۡقُوبَ ٱلۡمَوۡتُ إِذۡ قَالَ لِبَنِيهِ مَا تَعۡبُدُونَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِى قَالُواْ نَعۡبُدُ إِلَـٰهَكَ وَإِلَـٰهَ ءَابَآٮِٕكَ إِبۡرَٲهِـۧمَ وَإِسۡمَـٰعِيلَ وَإِسۡحَـٰقَ إِلَـٰهً۬ا وَٲحِدً۬ا وَنَحۡنُ لَهُ ۥ مُسۡلِمُونَ (١٣٣) سُوۡرَةُ البَقَرَة

      And who would be averse to the religion (Deen) of Abraham except one who makes a fool of himself. And We had chosen him in this world, and indeed he, in the Hereafter, will be among the righteous.

      When his Lord said to him, “Submit”, he said “I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds.”

      And Abraham instructed his sons [to do the same] and [so did] Jacob, [saying], “O my sons, indeed Allah has chosen for you this religion (Deen), so do not die except while you are Muslims.”

      Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.”
      (Surah 2:130-133)
      قُلۡ إِن كُنتُمۡ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحۡبِبۡكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغۡفِرۡ لَكُمۡ ذُنُوبَكُمۡ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬ (٣١)
      قُلۡ أَطِيعُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلرَّسُولَ‌ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوۡاْ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (٣٢) سُوۡرَةُ آل عِمرَان
      Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” Say, “Obey Allah and the Messenger.” But if they turn away – then indeed, Allah does not like the disbelievers. (Surah 3: 31-32)

  20. Picasso says:

    I don’t quite understand the scholar vs layman battle painted in some of the comments above.

    The scholars are from the people, so of we see a deficiency in the quality of scholarship, we should blame ourselves.

    We chose to send our brightest minds to study every subject known man at the expense of islam.

    Putting scholars/preachers aside, just one question: how many muslims in America have read the entire Harry Potter collection?

    How many have ready 7 equally sized books about Islam?

    • Picasso says:

      I ask this question to show that we can’t really be pointing fingers and complaining if we have barely exerted any effort in getting past the “5th grade/Sunday school level” of islamic education.

      • Hue Man says:

        You have a good point. Thats my same comment about women who complain that women are excluded from scholarly discussions. How many of those women who complain about the lack inclusion of female scholars took the effort to send their own daughters down the path of scholarship?

  21. Ahmed says:

    “countless articles” doing this? I wish there were some examples given. Please give just a few bloggers’ names or any websites who you feel are challenging Quran and Hadith.

    • Hue Man says:

      You can find easily if you look. But perhaps by writing in general terms, the author is protecting the honor of his brothers and sisters who blog in this style.

  22. RizKhan says:

    A good effort by the Author.

    ” Often, one reading the article is left wondering if the author realized that many of the premises upon which their opinions are based are in direct opposition to Quranic and/or Prophetic teachings.”

    The problem is that if some one says that it is written in Quran or Quran teaches, he is actually saying that he read that portion of the Holy Quran, understood it while being influenced by his I.Q, environment, Knowledge and other limitless factors and after that he is just communicating his understanding . There may be someone who would have a different understanding of the same portion of the Sacred Scripture. There can be difference of opinion. We should tolerate and respect such difference.

  23. […] autonomy, Kantianism[2] teaches that all claims to authority must be challenged by one’s own intellect. If it be truth, […]

  24. Inasy says:

    I would like to say that I agree. I agree that Kant is the scourge of the modern world. He is anti intellectual and attacked reason and religion and left us with the idolatry of our own whim worship. But, with all do respect to traditional scholars, where the heck have they been. When misinterpretation of Islam was headed and heading in the direction of radical conservatism, we heard nothing more than minor sighs. Now that people’s patience has run out, and rightfully so, I see mission statements being issued like decrees. We don’t like the corruption of our faith when it turns liberal, but we had nothing to say about the corruption of our faith when it became dogmatically conservative and oppressive. I agree with you, but I can’t say i blame the youth. Its too little too late and frankly the credibility of our traditional scholars and their authority is no longer being recognized precisely because they were not able to retain the allegiance of the Muslim community, and they allowed the Saudi global curriculum to poison our faith without much of an intellectual fight. Rather than criticize the little blogger brats, how about offering them something they can embrace. Like a renunciation of the archaic, the anachronistic, the outdated, in exchange for the spiritual sustenance of a more authentic and relevant approach to religion. They are fed up brother, thats all.

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