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A Wakeup Call


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.

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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.


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.

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  1. Avatar


    March 23, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    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.

  2. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 23, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    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.

    • Avatar


      March 23, 2010 at 4:59 PM

      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.”

  3. Avatar


    March 23, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    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.

  4. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 24, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    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.

    • Avatar


      March 24, 2010 at 12:13 PM

      I like how you ignored ALL of my valid points.

  5. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 24, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    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.

    • Avatar


      March 24, 2010 at 9:07 PM

      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.


    • Avatar


      April 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM

      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.


  6. Avatar

    Wael -

    March 24, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    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?

    • Avatar


      March 24, 2010 at 6:20 PM

      No we don’t. What advantage would that bring?

      • Avatar

        Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

        April 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM


        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.

        • Avatar


          April 1, 2010 at 10:02 PM

          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.”

          • Avatar

            Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

            April 2, 2010 at 9:53 AM


            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.

  7. Avatar


    March 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    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. 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.

  8. Pingback: Literacy, Perspective, and Invisibility « ThoughtPad

  9. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 24, 2010 at 10:55 PM


    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,

    • Avatar


      March 25, 2010 at 1:12 AM

      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.

  10. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 25, 2010 at 5:53 AM


    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”.

    • Amad


      March 25, 2010 at 6:40 AM

      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!

      • Avatar


        March 25, 2010 at 6:46 AM

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

      • Avatar

        Bin Butrus

        March 26, 2010 at 7:10 AM

        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.

        • Avatar


          March 26, 2010 at 7:35 AM

          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.”

    • Avatar


      March 25, 2010 at 6:54 AM

      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.

  11. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 25, 2010 at 6:01 AM

    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.

  12. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 25, 2010 at 7:00 AM

    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.

  13. Avatar

    Bin Butrus

    March 25, 2010 at 7:25 AM

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


    • Avatar


      March 25, 2010 at 7:36 AM

      Stay classy.

  14. Avatar


    March 26, 2010 at 5:33 AM

    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.

  15. Avatar

    abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 31, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    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.

    • Avatar


      April 1, 2010 at 8:45 AM

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

  16. Avatar


    April 2, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    @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.

    • Avatar

      Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      April 3, 2010 at 3:25 PM


      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?

      • Avatar


        April 3, 2010 at 4:00 PM

        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]

        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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I Once Spent Ramadan Semi-Quarantined, Here’s How It Went

Even though it was over 10 years ago, the memory of that Ramadan is seared into my mind.

I’d just taken my first consulting job – the kind in the movies. Hop on a plane every Monday morning and come home late every Thursday night. Except, unlike in the movies, I wasn’t off to big cities every week – I went to Louisville, Kentucky. Every week.

And because I was the junior member on the team, I didn’t get the same perks as everyone else – like a rental car. I was stuck in a hotel walking distance from our client in downtown, limited to eat at whatever restaurants were within nearby like TGI Friday’s or Panera. This was a pre-Lyft and Uber world.

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A couple of months into this routine and it was time for Ramadan. It was going to be weird, and no matter how much I prepared myself mentally, I wasn’t ready for it — Iftar alone in a hotel room. Maghrib and Isha also alone in a hotel room. Suhur was whatever I could save from dinner to eat in the morning that didn’t require refrigeration.

Most people think that with the isolation and extra time you would pass the time praying extra and reading tons of Quran. I wish that was the case. The isolation, lack of masjid, and lack of community put me into a deep funk that was hard to shake.

Flying home on the weekends would give me an energizing boost. I was able to see friends, go to the masjid, see my family. Then all of a sudden back to the other extreme for the majority of the week.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Ramadan with the prospect of a quarantined Ramadan upon us. I wish I could say that I made the most of the situation, and toughed it out. The truth is, the reason the memory of that particular Ramadan is so vivid in my mind is because of how sad it was. It was the only time I remember not getting a huge iman boost while fasting.

We’re now facing the prospect of a “socially distanced” Ramadan. We most likely won’t experience hearing the recitation of the verses of fasting from Surah Baqarah in the days leading up to Ramadan. We’re going to miss out on seeing extended family or having iftars with our friends. Heck, some of us might even start feeling nostalgia for those Ramadan fundraisers.

All of this is on top of the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis.

Ramadan traditionally offers us a spiritual reprieve from the rigors and hustle of our day to day lives. That may not be easy as many are facing the uncertainty of loss of income, business, or even loved ones.

So this isn’t going to be one of those Quran-time or “How to have an amazing Ramadan in quarantine!” posts. Instead, I’m going to offer some advice that might rub a few folks the wrong way.

Make this the Ramadan of good enough

How you define good enough is relative. Aim to make Ramadan better than your average day.

Stick to the basics and have your obligatory act of worship on lockdown.

Pray at least a little bit extra over what you normally do during a day. For some, that means having full-blown Taraweeh at home, especially if someone in the house is a hafiz. For others, it will mean 2 or 4 rakat extra over your normal routine.

Fill your free time with Quran and dua. Do whatever you can. I try to finish one recitation of the Quran every Ramadan, but my Ramadan in semi-quarantine was the hardest to do it in. Make sure your Quran in Ramadan is better during the month than on a normal day, but don’t set hard goals that will stress you out. We’re under enormous stress being in a crisis situation as it is. If you need a way to jump-start your relationship with the Quran, I wrote an article on 3 steps to reconnect with the Qur’an after a year of disconnect.

Your dua list during this Ramadan should follow you everywhere you go. Write it down on an index card and fold it around your phone. Take it out whenever you get a chance and pour your heart out to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Share your stresses, anxieties, worries, fears, and hopes with Him.

He is the Most-Merciful and Ramadan is a month of mercy. Approach the month with that in mind, and do your best.

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

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To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.

Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

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“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids


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