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Top 10 Terrible Khutbahs (and what I learned from them)

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The Khateeb‘s killing it this Friday! …Literally.

Dr. O blogs at Muslim Medicine, a site that strives to serve only the freshest grade-A certified abiah ḥalāl comedy. Contact your local ḥalāl butcher for more details.

 Every Friday morning, Muslims with a Y chromosome (and a bunch with two X’s) around the globe get ready for their weekly trip to the Mosque for a sermon, or “khutbah” as we call it. For some, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get a much-needed inspiration-boost and “īmān-rush” to last until next week… …and for most, it’s a wonderful opportunity to catch a nap while in an awkward sitting position, or find new fascination with pocket lint or wayward strings jutting out of our clothes, or even discover how pretty the Mosque carpet designs are.

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It’s rather unfortunate to admit that for many, jumu’ah has become an utterly mundane routine every Friday as we shuffle into the Mosque, find a comfy spot to perch, and then space out for half-an-hour while waiting for the “aqimus-ṣalāh” – the clarion call that seems to jolt majority of the crowd back to life again.

carpet

I’ve begun “hifz-ul-carpet-design,” where I spend every Jumu’ah memorizing the carpet patterns.

What was the khutbah even about? I guess something to do with Islam or Sunnah. I dunno. And who gave it? Some generic bearded imām guy. Be honest- after the jumu’ah ṣalāh ends, you tend to forget the entire point and message of the khutbah, don’t you? And I can guarantee you that if you ask any guy right now what the khutbah topic was last week or even the week prior, you’d be hard-pressed to find even a handful of people who can vaguely remember, let alone offer any lessons or take-home messages.

While there’s certainly some blame to toss at the typical attendee for being so disinterested and disengaged, an overwhelming responsibility rests on the khateeb for ensuring that his congregation actually listens and more importantly, remembers his words. And that’s where this list comes in. From my own personal experience both as a khateeb and as an avid attendee (it’s kinda sorta obligatory for me), this is Muslim Medicine’s Top 10 Ranking of Terrible Khutbahs, hand-picked from actual experiences.

10 – The Khateeb Who Can’t Speak English

uncle NO NO NO

I remember attending a khutbah in a Mosque that pours the “back-home” culture on a little too thick, and much to my expectations, the khutbah was delivered in 5% Arabic and 95% Urdu, with zero English. Now this would be perfect if I was in Pakistan, but last I checked, I was in New York. And I walked out of that khutbah with a wonderful 45-minute urdu immersion lesson courtesy of the Rosetta-Stone khateeb, and just like my fellow attendees: the convert, the army of morally-crumbling religiously-bankrupt high schoolers, and the unfortunate traveling Arabs who happened to stop by, we all left that Mosque understanding nothing.

What I learned: “We have not sent any Messenger except with the language of his people so he can make things clear to them” [14:4]. I think there’s an example in there somewhere for khateebs to apply to their audiences…?

9 – Professor Shaykh Dr. Khateeb, PhD

khateeb1

Oh man, this one was just torture. There’s only one thing I remember, and it was the painful realization that I wasn’t attending jumu’ah, I was attending this khateeb’s grad-school level course lecture on the inner machinations of the fiqh of zakat. It had such mind-numbing technicalities and intricate fiqhi rulings that I was completely lost, and I’m positive the entire congregation was just as perplexed. The khateeb’s monotone Ben Stein voice made it even worse, so even the one student of knowledge in the audience capable of understanding this was probably put to sleep.

What I learned: Just like most of my college lectures, I walked out of there wondering if I was even in the right class. Khutbahs aren’t meant to be delivered from textbooks using Powerpoint presentations, they’re meant to be simple reminders for average folks.

8 – The Anesthesiologist

zzzz

I call this khateeb the “Anesthesiologist” because I’m fairly certain that surgeons play his khutbah recordings in Operating Rooms to induce unconsciousness in patients. I don’t know how this khateeb preps himself before his khutbahs– does he swallow a bottle of nyquil, or inject elephant tranquilizers into his neck and then stand at the minbar?

Whatever he does, his voice, energy, delivery, and gusto are so incredibly dull and monotone that whatever message he’s giving to the audience is completely lost since half of them are asleep or passing in and out of consciousness. When “aqimus-ṣalāh” is finally uttered at the end of all the boring droning, its like someone popped a balloon or something because the entire audience seems to look around with wild confusion as they wake up from their deep slumber.

What I learned: If you’re neither energetic nor passionate about delivering your khutbah, why should I as your audience member bother to invest energy and attention in receiving your message? This is one of the most basic lessons of public-speaking 101.

7 – Hopelessly Confused Khateeb

khateeb2

At first the khutbah seems to start off well, but the more you listen, the more confused you get as the khateeb throws in random ayat and ahadith and pulls lessons and morals seemingly out of thin air, while coming to illogical conclusions that don’t seem to fit in with the overall flow of the khutbah. The end result is a cacophonous disjointed mutant-khutbah that doesn’t drive home any particular message and leaves the entire audience scratching their heads.

I remember one particular khutbah I attended where the khateeb began with the usual ABC’s and 123’s of “be a good Muslim” and “make sure you pray,” and then all of a sudden went into a rant about polygamous marriages, then threw some jabs at homosexuality, and then wrapped up his franken-khutbah with Muslim youth getting thrown into prisons. I mean don’t get me wrong, I actually clearly remember this khutbah, but for all the wrong reasons.

What I learned: Come on. Whether it’s done out of a sheer lack of preparation, or the khateeb is just making up his khutbah as he goes along, this is an unprofessional way to deliver a sermon. When your audience forgets your message, but remembers the Titanic Hindenburg that was your delivery, you know your khutbah was a flop.

6 – Law-Abiding Khateeb

khateeb3

This khutbah is a bit rare since most khateebs are sensitive to their audiences and cooperative with the MSA or Mosque Boards that invite them, but once in a blue moon you get to witness a khutbah that’s been distilled into a pure, unfiltered rant. Whether it’s a personal vendetta or something (or someone) who wronged the khateeb, or even biased seething disapproval for some perspective or viewpoint, this guy will make sure that his grievances are made clear by using the khutbah as his weapon of retaliation.

I remember a khutbah where the khateeb took aim at the Mosque Board itself and like Liam Neeson facing down Albanian kidnappers, took down the entire group with a serious vengeance. It was like watching an episode of The Office and seeing an angry Muslim Micheal Scott lambaste the very people who invited him to come speak, and it was incredibly uncomfortable and awkward to witness. Now granted, I didn’t have a clue as to what happened behind the scenes or whether or not such criticism was even justified to begin with, but one thing was for sure- that khateeb was definitely NEVER going to be invited back to this mosque again (and he most likely knew it), so I guess he decided to go down fighting.

What I learned: Imām Shafi’i raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him) said: “To admonish your brother in private is to advise him and improve him. But to admonish him publicly is to disgrace and shame him.” It’s a sad sad day when you see the khutbah itself being used as a personal tool of the khateeb– a “bully pulpit” if you will- for him to viciously use against people, places, ideas, or perspectives that he personally disagrees with. I attend khutbahs to find peace, remembrance, and inspiration- not to be force-fed the khateeb’s own vendettas.

5 – Def Jam Jummu’ah feat. Wiz Khateeba

khateeb4

Unlike their elder counterparts, younger khateebs are excellent for delivering khutbahs to their own age group in high school and college MSAs. Their knowledge base may not be as extensive as a Shaykh or imām’s, but they have an uncanny ability to derive pertinent life lessons from Kanye West lyrics, NBA player trades, or Assassin’s Creed cut-scenes.

To this day, I still clearly remember a fellow student in our MSA delivering a khutbah about Muslims bumping and grinding in the club. Yes, you read that right. Bumping and grinding in the club. It was one of the most bizarre yet entertaining khutbahs that I’ve ever listened to, and I guess it was ironic considering that the Muslims who were probably clubbing the night before most likely weren’t there the morning after to listen to his khutbah. But hey… you never know.

What I learned: despite poking fun at younger khateebs, it goes without saying that there is such an incredible potential in a lot of them to grow and develop into strong public speakers and youth advocates, if they’re just given a chance. It’s a shame that Mosque and Islamic Centers continue to recycle the same tired old khateebs over and over again without giving any opportunities for younger khateebs to step up and gain experience. Perhaps instead of dismissing our youth all the time, we should make an effort to cultivate them.

4 – KHATEEB ANGRY! KHATEEB SMASH!

khateeb5

I don’t know who spat in this khateeb’s cereal, or who cut him off in traffic, or if he’s just a self-loathing Mets fan, but this guy clearly has anger issues, and rather than go to a therapist to vent his frustration, he takes to the minbar instead. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes a good verbal kick in the rear is just what a community might need to get itself back on track, but like many other things in Islam, everything comes in moderation.

Maybe its just me, but khutbah topics about jinns, the dajjal, or the last days are pretty scary stuff, and when you have the Incredible Hulk delivering these topics, the result strikes more fear in the hearts of men than opening up an Īd gift and seeing the complete Twilight Blu-ray Disc collection. Anger in a khutbah can be creatively channeled at just the right time to elicit powerful reactions and really strike home a message, but when the entire khutbah is a volcano of fiery rage spewing fury into the faces of the audience from beginning to end, that’s what I’d call emotional overkill.

What I learned: Khutbahs shouldn’t leave adults cowering and kids whimpering in fear, and there shouldn’t be a mad rush to the bathroom after the khutbah ends so that everyone can make wudu again and put on a clean pair of pants. Have mercy on the sound system, and mercy on the really young and really old members of the audience who can’t handle these voice tones. Also, spare the congregants and the Mosque itself from FBI visits after each furious khutbah.

3 – The Dark Lord Sauron

khateeb6

This khateeb commutes to the Mosque from the very pits of Mordor, and fashions his khutbah from the wretched fires of Mt. Doom. Like a Dementor from Azkeban he swoops onto the minbar and sucks the very life and joy out of the entire audience with his fire and brimstone khutbah. Hope you renewed your prescription for Prozac, because this sermon comes with an extra helping of severe depression and no hope for salvation.

Even for Īd khutbahs, the one time where you’d hope the khateeb would make you feel warm and happy, Shaykh Grinch finds it appropriate to remind his congregation on this blessed day that “you got accepted to Hell University, and Shaitan’s your roommate!” It’s the perfect positive feel-good message for converts, struggling Muslims, and visiting non-Muslims.

What I learned: The immaculate wisdom of the Qurʾān is that Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) beautifully couples His warnings about the Fire with His promises of Paradise, and couples descriptions of His punishments with His mercy and blessings so that everything is perfectly balanced. For a khateeb to cherry-pick only the ayat and ahadith that describe condemnation and punishments and completely leave out repentance, mercy, and blessings, is a travesty of negative emotional manipulation that depresses people far more than it “inspires” them to reform.

2 – Gandalf the Grey Uncle

khateeb7

Oh man, these khutbahs are just painful. It’s always a hit or miss, and more often than not, for an overwhelming majority of the youth in the audience, these khutbahs are a clear miss. Elder uncles are incredible sources of experience and wisdom, masha’Allāh, but there are some that just don’t have the knack for being effective khateebs, at least not for American audiences.

Even when there’s a fantastic message, I usually tend to get sidetracked when the khateeb compares “the internets” to Shaitan’s playground, or suggests that the solution to all of the problems facing the youth are for brothers to go to hifz school and then get scholarships to med school, and for sisters to forget about college, just marry doctors, and send their kids to madrassas so they can grow beards as long as telephone poles. I don’t know what kind of fantasy utopia that is, but it’s as practical and feasible as organizing a Muslim-led Gangnam Style flash mob at Fajr time.

What I learned: Between the thick accent, the mistrust of newfangled technology, the old-school back-home mentality, and an utter misunderstanding of American culture these khutbahs really highlight the sheer generational and cultural gap between the immigrant and 1st generation communities. Every jumu’ah becomes a reminder of just how badly the Mosque board and the khateeb roster miss their mark on addressing serious and relevant issues that are corroding their communities.

1 – WWE’s Friday Afternoon Smackdown

super-saiyan khateeb

Hope you brought some popcorn and managed to grab a front row seat, because these are the khutbahs that are notoriously remembered for years. Usually jumu’ah khutbahs are a one-man show- just the khateeb speaking. But when controversy strikes, or when the audience gets rowdy or offended and tensions start to build, suddenly player two grabs a controller, hits start and “There’s a New Challenger!” gets announced as a brave soul interrupts the sermon to offer a challenge to the khateeb.

And that’s when jumu’ah becomes an episode of Dragonball Z. Ridiculously trivial Mosque fights are nothing new, but when they happen at jumu’ah, the entire community gets to witness the ugliness of our ummah as the khateeb fights his own audience members. Perhaps damage control wouldn’t be as bad if it were just limited to a public war of words and egos, but seeing as how the concepts of tahdhib and akhlaq (manners and etiquette) are nearly extinguished in our day and age, it’s shameful to admit that stories of fist-fights and actual physical violence following khutbahs are hideous moments that some Mosques try their hardest to sweep under the rug.

What I’ve learned: Regardless of whether it’s the khateeb’s fault or the audience member’s, nothing is more saddening than sitting and watching a khutbah turn into such a disgraceful display. Ultimately, it isn’t just the khateeb who loses face, its the entire community.

deco-line-2

 I’m aware that all these anecdotal examples paint a pretty bad picture of jumu’ah, but for every terrible khutbah that I’ve listened to, there have been numerous ones that have truly touched my heart and given my iman the shake-up that it so desperately needs.

The jumu’ah khutbah is a legacy of our ummah established by the beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and to stand at the minbar as a khateeb is to carry that legacy and assume the responsibility of reminding the community of their faith and purpose by aspiring to the same beauty, eloquence, passion, and strength that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself channeled during his sermons.

There’s no denying that you and I have forgotten majority of the jumu’ah khutbahs that we’ve listened to during our lifetime. But there’s no doubt in my mind that like me, you’ve attended at least one jumu’ah where your heart was filled with remembrance, your mind enlightened with haqq, your body filled with renewed vigor, your eyes welling with tears, and your iman cleansed of impurity. Those are the blessed khateebs whose knowledge and eloquence of speech is a gift from Allāh subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), and those are the jumu’ah khutbahs that we don’t ever forget.

In the words of Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda, one of the shuyookh who taught me how to give khutbahs:

“If you want to reach the hearts of the people, give your heart as a khateeb.” 

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Hailing from New York, Dr. O is a current medical student who blatantly misappropriates his study time by posting absurd articles lampooning the weird things he often notices within the Muslim community. His articles often contain unhealthy doses of odd wit and humor, sprinkled with overly-pretentious medical-jargon, but covered in a sweet milk-chocolate coating of small sincere life lessons. Despite not actually having a medical license and pretending to impersonate an actual physician online, Dr. O aims to heal patients with just a tiny bit of bitter advice contained within a sugary pill of light-hearted laughter. He hosts his own blog, Muslim Medicine, at http://www.muslimmedicine.net.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gibran

    March 12, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    JazzakAllahu khair

    Don’t use actual pictures because they are haram and bring severe punishment. You were funny, but at what price? Don’t use those drawings.

    Didn’r An-Nabi sallalahualayhiwasalam speak loudly like a commander in an army during khutbas?

    And weren’t his khutbas really short? Like 4-7 minutes? SubhanAllah when we drop the guidance of Allah look where we end up.

    Also, I wish someone were to make a book on how An-Nabi sallahualayhiwasalam did khutbas…for free. Someone do it for Allah not for worldly gain.

    • Avatar

      Gibran

      March 16, 2013 at 11:23 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Exactly what was wrong with the comment? I don’t know why it got 6 thumbs down…..

      • Avatar

        IM

        March 31, 2013 at 7:20 PM

        Cause you sound like all ten Khaeebs rolled in one bro :)

      • Avatar

        Shaheer Abdullah

        July 22, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        ‘Cause it was a shame grenade.

  2. Avatar

    Abdul-Qadir

    March 12, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    Assalamualaikum,

    LOL on numbers 7 and 5.

  3. Avatar

    broAhmed

    March 12, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    I’m guessing some people are going to find the tone overly mocking, but there’s a good message here!

  4. WAJiD

    WAJiD

    March 12, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Salaam alaikum,

    Well done, an entertaining and funny article with a good message and a nice conclusion.

    We need more like this… ever thought of becoming a khateeb? If you don’t we’ll have to make 11. The guy who could easily deliver an excellent khutba but inexplicably chooses not to.

  5. Avatar

    Asif

    March 12, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Excellent blog post. I read this originally on Muslim Medicine and had a blast reading it. Truth mixed with humor is an excellent combination and as a blogger myself, that’s what I also try to do with my posts since the message gets through to folks better, is shared and reaches more people.

    Big ups Dr. O

  6. Avatar

    iqra tube

    March 12, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Asalamu alaikum

    Well done; and funny :) a vlog for the above would be good!

  7. Avatar

    Hassan

    March 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    For last 2 years, ever since I moved to Dallas (from Houston), I been falling asleep in khutbahs regularly. Very few khutbahs I remained awake (the ones by Sh Yasir Birjas or Imam Omar Suleiman). Are there some remedies? Blaming khateeb is easy, but I want to stay awake somehow, Any tips will be helpful. I even fall asleep in the angry shouting khutbahs (initially I just hated it without falling asleep, but now even shouting cant keep me awake)

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      March 14, 2013 at 1:31 AM

      AssalamuAlaikum:

      Just some ideas – in no particular order:

      1) Have a good sleep the night before :)
      2) Try to sit so that you are not next to a wall or pillar that gives you support
      3) Have some small snack 30 min before the Khubah so it raises your blood sugar
      4) Imagine in your mind that the Khateeb is only talking to you – figure out how every ayat, every hadith, every shouted accusation is about you.
      5) Go to a different masjid once in a while (I’m not sure if that is practical for your location)
      6) Before the Khutbah make dua to Allah (SWT) to make the Khutbah beneficial to you and to help you implement it in your life

      -Aly

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        March 14, 2013 at 8:38 AM

        Jazak-Allah khyran, I will try these remedies.

  8. Avatar

    Sereen

    March 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Very funny!!…thoroughly enjoyed the article..yes its mocking, critical, sarcastic and all that..and thats what makes it a really fun read!! Yes, I’ve been inspired by khutbas mostly but there are some that fit into this article and pls ppl mature up take in some sattire once in a while.

  9. Avatar

    Alkalaamblog

    March 13, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Very well written Masha Allah, and very true.
    May Allah give us the skills to be a good Daii and Khateeb.

  10. Avatar

    O H

    March 13, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    Some great points made in the article although some parts of the article may or may not have crossed the line. May Allaah reward the writer immensely for his intention & effort put into categorizing the different Khutbahs-not an easy task!

  11. Avatar

    Sereen

    March 14, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    JazakAllah khair to brother disco maulvi for those tips.. Will try them InshAllah.

  12. Pingback: Read This Now: Top 10 Terrible Khutbahs (And What I Learned From Them) | Muslim Media Nerd

  13. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    March 24, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    Funny, and a good reminder. I steeled myself for jokes that might be offensive or over the line, but I thought this piece had just the right balance of humor and genuine advice.

  14. Avatar

    Fathima

    July 10, 2013 at 5:30 AM

    This was hilarious and informative, I am a female from South Africa, but I do know of the exact same scenario in some of our musjids. In fact, as a muslim socialising with other muslims, these ‘khateeb’ stereotypes can also be found in our uncles, shop-keepers or some random muslim guy, next to you at the bus stop, giving you advise on your deen :)

  15. Avatar

    Farrah Khan

    March 22, 2018 at 12:20 AM

    السلام عليكم
    I’m sorry for opening this thread 5 years later, but your first photograph nearly gave me a heart attack. I was innocently scrolling along the post above when I thought I’d clicked some news website by mistake and happened upon a massacre. استغفر الله, the world has changed so much since your article. May Allah protect the ummah!
    Sr. Farrah

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#Culture

Mockery: Comedy’s Weapon Against Morality

Danish Qasim

Published

Mock mockers after that
That would not lift a hand maybe
To help good, wise or great
To bar that foul storm out, for we
Traffic in mockery.

-W.B. Yeats

Religion is a common target of mockery, and mockery is one of the quickest ways to destroy reverence. Laughing at the sacred and making seemingly benign comments whose harm is difficult to explicate is subversive to our sense of the sacred. Mockery may be aimed at the institution of religion, sacred texts, or holy figures. While Muslims remain distinctive in upholding the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad, it is common to find Muslims caricaturizing practicing Muslims as judgmental, hypocritical, backwards, and stupid.  Making fun of instances of hypocrisy and judgmental behavior would not be so bad as that would target vices and inconsistencies. The caricaturizing of all practicing Muslims as backwards, however, occurs when basic tenets and practices become linked to absurdities. We should not be surprised when Muslim entertainers do this given that they exist in a larger culture which detests the sacred and champions mockery of authority. Furthermore, it is myopic to support such figures as religious representatives when they do not care to uphold the sanctity of basic religious beliefs and actions.

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A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’ He is not held to decorous standards or expected to hold any positions, nor is he expected to rationally defend the positions he does hold. He is an outsider as a critic, but an insider when on your side. A comedian enters discussions on his own terms, appropriates and disowns, has no committed position, and can always point the finger. The comedian is a transcendental figure not beholden to any moral standard or class of people. He does everything under the canopy of laughter. Mockery is such a comedian’s favorite tool. Mockery requires no critique, and it’s not an argument; however, it’s an effective way of devaluing and dragging something revered down to a level of flaws and the mundane. It’s a sneaky tactic that asserts superiority without making an argument or inviting rebuttals.

A comedian today is a cultural authority holding a role akin to the public intellectual. However, the comedian is not responsible for the views espoused and can always backtrack and say ‘it’s just a joke.’Click To Tweet

The comedian can justify anything by referencing his ability to incite laughter. Laughter – what we consider funny – is determined by the spirit of the age. What was funny 50 years ago is not funny today. There is a relationship between morality and humor. What is comedic is produced in relation to our moral sensibilities. When sacrilege is normalized it becomes a function of comedy. Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.

Jokes about God would not have been funny 100 years ago, but now they are commonplace.Click To Tweet

Mockery is comedy’s weapon against morality. Mocking an aspect of Islam is not an attack on the truth of it, rather it attacks the moral weight. Mockery is not a challenge on epistemic grounds: it’s a challenge of reverence. It removes the weight of veneration. Everything you believe religiously has an external correlate to how you interact with the world. If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith. Mockery provides a material way of making religious practices look stupid. A common target is prayer. We can never materially prove that a prayer has been answered. It’s easy to view unanswered duas with cynicism and chalk it up to a spiritual interpretation of nothing happening.

If you mock a concept enough you will recreate it as a parody of itself. This is extremely corrosive for our faith.Click To Tweet

Recently, Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj made a mockery of dua. Much like voting enthusiasts criticized Colin Kaepernick for ‘only kneeling’ or bureaucrats paint protesters as ‘noisemakers’ who don’t do anything ‘real,’ many Muslims have come to mock the idea of supplication bringing about change in the world. We should not accept any Muslim celebrity partaking in such mockery as it transgresses orthodox Muslim sensibilities and negatively portrays us for taking our rituals and worship seriously.  This is especially true when such figures are bound by the protocols of Hollywood “activism,” in which missteps of a different kind result in ‘listening, learning, and privilege checking’ rituals to prevent excommunication.

In his monologue We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd, Hasan addresses Keith Ellison, asking, “how many Muslim fundraisers have you and I gone to where we   ‘pray for the community…you gotta make dua…'[closing his eyes, raising his hands, as if imitating someone making dua].”  Hasan then says “we cannot just make dua.” His portrayal of dua here is that of being an empty ritual and a way of not dealing with problems.

Minhaj juxtaposes two activities: human activity and prayer, and suggests that all Muslims do is the latter and it’s coming at the expense of the former. This juxtaposition suggests that the only way to take the former is to sacrifice the latter, which is untrue. We only act on our volition by the will of God. Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity in a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Seeking permission from The Creator who determined what we can do in the name of practical activity is a perfectly sensible thing to do.Click To Tweet

Given that he cited such duas as occurring at specific fundraisers, we could have excused this statement as bad taste and getting carried away if it had been his only negative portrayal of dua. If Minhaj’s point was to poke fun at people using dua as an excuse to not act, the inconsistency of dua not substituting going to work or school for worldly success could have been pointed out.

In Minhaj’s follow up, Hasan And Keith Ellison On Justice For George Floyd, he portrays dua as inherently useless. In the episode, Minhaj shares the criticism he received from his last monologue, with Muslims asking “why did you have to go after making dua?” Minhaj then states that he wants to start the interview with Ellison with a dua, and he begins with a Quranic dua making it seem like he is going to make things right. He then pretends to pray with utter seriousness for what he means the audience to understand as frivolous. He nonchalantly tells his “white friends” backstage that they can “just participate” and before officially ending, asks Ellison if he wants him to make anymore “shout outs.”

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent.Click To Tweet

Minhaj’s dua scene has several implications. It mocks the importance of dua and portrays religious Muslims as useless, frivolous, and unintelligent. It also suggests that dua has no capacity to change things, and because it won’t change things, we can make dua any way we want.  One message is that the ultimate point is to change things with your hands because dua has no real power to transform the world. This is used as way of criticizing Muslims for making dua and allegedly not taking action as if the two actions are at odds. Minhaj is also making the point in his mock dua that it makes no difference what we pray for because the act itself is inconsequential.  This portrayal removes the cosmic dimension of prayer and states ‘God won’t intervene in this situation, only you can do it!’ We should not accept tropes which divide prayer and action and presuppose an inherent divide which demands we limit prayer to intensify our commitment to action.

Furthermore, this scene suggests that when Muslims make dua, they are seeking refuge from ‘white women in yoga pants’ and other silly matters, which preoccupies them from doing any important work or having a positive impact on others.

His dua also seemed to be a response to his religious critics by mocking them, as if to say ‘religious people criticized me, so I’ll just show you how silly these religious people are and why they care about prayer, and then I’ll get on to the important matters.’

Dua further becomes an object of mockery when the name of Allah and an address to Allah become a comical address to the audience. In many places in the Quran, Allah glorifies the name of Allah. For example, Allah says

“Exalt the name of your Lord, the Most High” (87:1).

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin. It is not absurd to ask Allah for trivial matters with seriousness, as the Prophet  told us “Let one of you ask his Lord for all of his needs, even if his sandal strap breaks.”

The name of Allah is itself sacred. Belittling the name of Allah or calling upon Allah, invoking His name in jest is a major sin.Click To Tweet

Prayer was foundational for both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in their respective civil rights movements.  They did not belittle prayer and deem their struggles ‘too serious’ for prayer. For oppressed people all over the world, all they have is prayer. Prayer is the barrier between oppression and despair. When Talut’s (Saul) army was to meet Goliath most of his soldiers despaired, saying “There is no power for us today against Goliath and his soldiers.”

But the believers from among them, “those who were certain that they would meet Allah said, ‘How many a small group has overcome a large group by Allah’s permission. And Allah is with the patient’” (2:249). The Muslims were guaranteed victory for the Battle of Badr, and the Prophet  was making dua with his hands raised before the battle to the point of his shawl shaking off his shoulders. The Prophet  also made dua while walking to the masjid and when waking up in the morning.  Dua is not just the refuge of the desperate, it is a manifestation of one’s connection to Allah and the realization of one’s utter dependence. It’s a dependence we affirm regardless of circumstance. It is wrong to view dua as something to do only when we are in a bad situation.

We would not tolerate jokes by non-Muslims which paint Muslims as buffoons and idiots. The fear would be that the negative portrayal would affect all Muslims.  When ‘religious Muslims’ are mocked by Muslims themselves however, it’s easy to stand outside of it as one of the enlightened ‘good ones.’ This leaves those who are hanging on to beliefs which are already mocked open to further mockery.

The Poets 

And the poets, only those in error follow them. Do you not see how in every valley they wander? And that they say what they do not do? Except those who believe and do righteous deeds and remember Allah much. And they avenge [the Muslims] after they have been oppressed.  And the oppressors will soon know to which place they shall be returned (26:224-227).

In this verse, Allah faults the poets as having no grounding in principles or beliefs. They go to and fro without commitment and say whatever they feel like or whatever helps achieve their personal aims. After a general rule, Allah mentions the exception of righteous and believing Muslim poets. The Prophet Muhammad told some of his poets to respond to poems of the polytheists which denigrated them by making poems denigrating the polytheists.  He told his poets that such poetry is harder on them than being hit by an arrow.  The Prophet  made dua for his poet Hassan ibn Thabit that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) assist him with Jibrael 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in his poetry against the polytheists. Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.

Poetry was used as a tool to elevate and defend Islam and denigrate the polytheists.Click To Tweet

Comedy is potentially a positive tool, but we cannot be naive about its nature and the hurdles one has to overcome to make positive use of it. Excessive joking and exaggerated speech are faults of the tongue, and excessive laughter kills the heart. Joking occasionally or being cheerful is not analogous to making a career out of comedy. It is naive to think we can ‘Islamicize’ a medium by changing the content. Mediums which are intrinsically problematic like entertainment will win out and shape the content. This is especially problematic in the mainstream where industry standards push one to speak in a way that is not grounded in beliefs, conviction, or reverence. When a comedic standard is mockery and religion is often targeted, we cannot expect Islamic sanctity to be respected.  Jokes which depend on mockery are only funny if you buy into hidden premises, which are often predicated upon deliberate misunderstandings of their object. If you don’t buy into the premises, the jokes are revealed to be mean, insulting, and condescending

We must move beyond ‘halal and haram’ discussions on comedy and educate ourselves as to how comedy is used. Poetry is halal, but we are warned about it because it can pull us along to places we shouldn’t go emotionally and tug on certain heart strings. Likewise, in comedy, someone might make fun of an ideal in the religion, or a fiqh ruling by making it sound absurd, such as “why do Muslims have an aversion to just one bite of pork but eat plates full of fried food?” The false equivalency of “permit this, but prohibit that” is a common comedic schema for mocking religion. Such jokes are harmful because by coming in the form of a joke, they can get you to implicitly agree without realizing it, and once you laugh along you are entertaining the premise. This is how meaningful acts turn into heartless rituals.

The entertainment industry is very aware of its influence and will use its entertainers to propagate messages in support of its aims and ideals. This is an age-old tactic and we should not be surprised when we see Muslim entertainers used to propagate what we know is explicitly haram as being open to interpretation to begin a major change in the Muslim mind.  For example, five years ago, Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj wrote us an open letter in which they state their disagreement of homosexuality being haram.  This letter is intended for Muslims who seem to view Islam as a cultural identity primarily.

Unfortunately, many Muslims will overlook the anti-Islamic messaging in what they perceive as pro-Muslim messaging.  The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. We should be happier to not have Muslim representation in the field than having Muslims who fall victim to vile industry norms and then want the same for us. However, we can promote comedians who do not engage in the mainstream. We should also expect Muslim organizations to not support or promote those who do mock our faith. Representation, normalization, and acceptance cannot become idols we create to rival God.

The desire for representation, safety, and acceptance overpower their desire to protect our religion. Click To Tweet

When it comes to Muslim celebrities in general, whether activists, politicians, entertainers, or even religious figures, gaining acceptance in the mainstream is often bartered for key Islamic principles.  This is seen as negotiable to liberal secular Muslims who do not believe in the inviolability and honor of the sharia as an eternally sacred institution. They may root their path to success in being Muslim and self-tokenize as Muslims, and while they are okay with weaponizing the oppression capital of Islam and using that as a stairway to fame, will mock institutional ideas of Islam to appease liberal secular sensibilities. They will challenge centuries old views of Islam in order to refashion Islam into the image of secularity. ‘Extreme’ and ‘balance’ are then defined by their own golden mean which is their own comfort level. The Prophethimself, who remains revered, will be reimagined in a way which suits their own sensibilities and parts from his life which do not suit these sensibilities will be ignored. They do not view the Prophet as the ideal person whom we need to adjust our frames to understand, rather they center their own sensibilities as the perfect criterion.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam (opposed to very key tenets and values) become burdensome, and the fluid terms of ‘extreme’ and ‘balance’ will be alternated at will to justify this new approach to Islam.

In this reshaping, Islam is only good when it fits a secularism where we may mock religion and key ideas- just as American Christians mock Christian prayer. The tradition of Islam becomes burdensome.Click To Tweet

Knowing all this, we should not be surprised when Muslims in the mainstream make fun of Islam.  When someone else mocks us, it’s easy to view it as a clash and a challenge to what we believe, which evokes a defense. When we mock ourselves, it makes us indifferent and numb to its consequences.

Ghayra

إن أصل الدين الغَيْرة ومن لا غيرة له لا دين له فالغَيْرة تحمي القلب فتحمي له الجوارح فتدفع السوء والفواحش، وعدم الغَيْرة 

تميت القلب

The root of religion is ghayra. The one without ghayra has no religion. Ghayra protects the heart and protects the limbs and repels evil and lewdness. And a lack of ghayra kills the heart
Ibn Qayyim

Ghayra, which may be described as a sense of protection, honor, and love for something as sacred and inviolable will often better protect one’s religion than a rational understanding. Someone with ghayra for Islam will not laugh at sacrilege.

We exist in a broader culture, which when coupled with lack of knowledge may lead to a default assumption that Islam agrees with what we know of other religions or from our own cultural values. What is ‘good’ as defined by the broader context whether religious or cultural becomes what is ‘Islamic.’ Furthermore, for many, notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vary between what religious authorities say about Islam and what their internal sense of right and wrong is, which is also negotiated within the broader context and mitigated by their own sense of what is or is not a serious issue.

‘Seeing both sides’ to sacrilege relates to its normalization. In a culture where comedy is meant to scoff at everything, a person sounds like a hardliner for affirming a unique status to religion. A point of mockery is to establish that nothing is exceptional and above mockery. Even as Muslims who understand making fun of religion is wrong, while existing in a broader culture where religion is the target of comedy, we understand that making fun of religion is a ‘different norm.’ One way to combat this, in addition to not watching such comedy, is to say astaghfirullah every time we hear such jokes, so the hate in our heart for sin remains and we don’t grow numb to sacrilege.

The tendency to uphold the honor of something comes with the tendency to feel disturbed when something is mocked. If you want a sense of ghayra for the sacred you also have to feel disturbance for its disrespect. The fact that we feel disturbed is a good sign.

All over the Muslim world- as well as inner-cities in America- the drunkard, the criminal, and the reprobate who has submitted to his own desires will have enough ghayra to draw a line at mocking Allah and His Messenger. He himself would not tolerate that disrespect, let alone engage in it.

A common complaint by liberals is the unacceptability of mocking the Prophet Muhammad . They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet  and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.

They are bothered by the honor and reverence Muslims maintain for their Prophet ﷺ and want us to be able to see such mocking as benign. Although their aims will persist, we have to remain uncompromising regarding the sanctity of our Prophet ﷺ and not let any Muslims be the gateway for this.Click To Tweet

Comedic license

The Prophet Muhammad  joked with his companions. His humor involved word play and making matters light while always speaking the truth. In Arabic, such joking is called mu’da’ba, which has a connotation of lighthearted humor that is not offensive. It was not undignified or an exaggerated joking like ‘mizaah.’ As some say, the Arabic word mizah for exaggerated jokes is named such because it expunges truth (إنَّمَا سُمِّيَ الْمِزَاحُ مِزَاحًا لِأَنَّهُ يُزِيحُ عَنْ الْحَقِّ).

Moderate humor is praised in books of tasawwuf.  It is often compared to salt in food, where too much or too little can be harmful. Buffoonery is blameworthy, as Aristotle mentions “The buffoon, on the other hand, is the slave of his sense of humour, and spares neither himself nor others if he can raise a laugh, and says things none of which a man of refinement would say, and to some of which he would not even listen” (104, Nicomachean Ethics).

Popular comedy is often viewed as an expression of truth unbound to convention. It’s a free time to delve into taboo and transgressions. Propriety takes a backseat to unfiltered expression. We do not believe the rules are suspended during comedy hour. Comedic license is not a license to mock, blaspheme, or indulge our caprice.  The Prophet  gave severe warning against using comedy as an avenue to falsehood.  Here are two hadith on the topic:

Verily a man will speak a word to make those in his company laugh and will plunge by it further in the fire than Pleiades

and

“Woe unto the one who speaks then lies to make the people laugh. Woe unto him. Woe unto him.”

Comedy does not give one license to commit sacrilege.

Many times in the Quran, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us the perils of taking His signs in jest, for example “That is because you took the verses of Allah in ridicule, and worldly life deluded you” (45:35).

Comfortable as strangers

“Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers” (Muslim).

We need to get comfortable as non ‘normalized’ religious people. As a religious group, we will have many things which set us apart from larger society, and that is okay. A numbness to blasphemy and sacrilege, mockery of Prophet , or disparaging comments about Allah will spiritually kill your heart. We are better off in this world and the next for upholding the sacred. Being labeled boring and prudish is a small price for what awaits us in reward- God willing.


You will surely be tested in your possessions and in yourselves. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and fear Allah – indeed, that is of the matters [worthy] of determination Quran 3:181

Allah tells us that we will hear much abuse from disbelievers. Not a casual snide remark, nor a microaggression. Much abuse. In the face of that abuse, we are told that being patient and having taqwa are from the great matters of this religion. The earliest known example of such patience and taqwa in America is that of African slaves who fasted Ramadan while being forced to work on plantations.  They performed their salat, even if they had to hide behind trees. As Sylviane A. Diouf explains “The slaves were, as a rule underfed and overworked. Yet these extremely brutal conditions notwithstanding, Muslims fasted.” She goes on to share the description of a slave Salih Bilali by his owner James Hamilton Couper as “a strict Mahometan; [he] abstains from spirituous liquors, and keeps the various fasts, particularly that of Ramadan” (66). This description indicates that Salih fasted non-obligatory fasts despite his horrific conditions.

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’Click To Tweet

These Muslims did all they could to uphold their religion and worship their Creator. They were oppressed and even in bondage displayed a nobility many Muslims throw in the garbage for the sake of being ‘normalized.’ As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?

As we combat Islamophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want to be a normalized faith group at the expense of our actual faith? Are we going to dishonor the legacy and struggles of our predecessors who in the most oppressive circumstances imaginable clung on to their religion and venerated their Lord?Click To Tweet

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Trump And The Holy Gobble: A Tongue In Cheek Short Story

When Donald Trump tries to impress a secretary and is exposed to aloo gobi and black pepper, what follows could mean the end of the world.

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Aloo Gobi

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories. This story is satire, i.e. humor. You’ve been warned!

That’s Why They Love Me

The EEOB

The EEOB

With Secret Service agents guarding his flanks, Donald Trump exited the White House and headed across the street to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which housed the majority of the White House staff offices.

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“Mr. President,” the Special Agent In Charge protested. “I wish you would eat in your private dining room, or at least in the Navy Mess. It’s safer than the EEOB break room, of all places.”

Trump gave the man a condescending smirk. “You don’t understand what it takes to be a great president. I have to let my workers know that I care about them, bigly. I’m the best at that. No one has ever been better than me at being good to their workers. That’s why they love me.”

The SAIC rolled his eyes. He knew the real reason for the president’s desire to hang out in the EEOB break room. One of the new EEOB secretaries, a petite Russian immigrant blonde named Natasha Petrova, was a former “actress” known to her fans as Natasha Lipps. It wouldn’t be long, the SAIC expected, before Ms. Lipps – err, Petrova – would be made a presidential advisor, which would naturally require personal briefings with the president.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, strode beside him. Trump was fed up with the man, who kept trying to talk to him about the need to cover up his affair with Stormy Daniels.

“Can’t we just get the Russians to eliminate her?” Trump demanded.

The Nuclear Football

“Well, heh heh,” Cohen stammered. “That’s not really-”

Trump waved him off. Maybe it was time to fire the dopey dummy, if he couldn’t get things done. As they entered the EEOB, Trump turned to his aide-de-camp, a tall and muscular man wearing a medal-festooned military uniform and a beret. The man carried the nuclear football, and was always at the president’s side.

“Give me the football.”

The nuclear football

The nuclear football

The aide hesitated. The football, a Halliburton Zero aircraft-aluminum briefcase with a protruding antennae, the whole thing further housed within a thick leather satchel, contained a device that the president could use to launch nuclear missiles from any location. It was quite heavy. Besides, the aide knew that Trump only wanted to show it off to Natasha Lipps – err, Ms. Petrova.

Trump snapped his fingers. “Give it, loser.”

The aide handed it over, watching with satisfaction as the president listed to one side, nearly falling over.

In the break room, Trump, out of breath from the exertion of carrying the football, beamed with satisfaction. He’d timed it perfectly. Lipps was making herself a coffee. He admired her figure, resisting the impulse to grab part of her anatomy.

A few other employees sat at the cafeteria-style tables, eating sandwiches and chatting. A brown-skinned young man stood beside a humming microwave oven. They were losers, all of them. They weren’t the president. He was! They didn’t have people all over the world reading their Tweets. He did! Something smelled good, though. He looked around, trying to identify the source of the delicious smell, when the staffers noticed his presence. They all jumped to their feet, and one man saluted. Mental note: promote that guy to presidential advisor.

Natasha Lipps gave him a wide smile. Trump leaned forward even more than he normally did, all his attention focused on the Russian woman.

“Look what I have,” he boasted, grunting as he hefted the case. “The nuclear football.”

“You are such a poverful man,” Lipps purred in her Russian accent.

Cherokee People

“Something smells good in here.” He gave her a wink. “Is that you?”

“I vish it vas, Mr. President. Is Ahmad over there.” She nodded to the brown-skinned man. “He alvays bring delicious food.”

Trump frowned at the man, who had just taken a meal out of the microwave. Ahmad? Wasn’t that a Muslim name? He turned to Cohen. “Do we still have any Muslims on staff? I thought we fired them all.”

“I don’t know, sir. The White House has thousands of staffers.”

“Arrest him. But bring me his lunch. It smells really good.”

“I don’t know if that’s strictly legal, sir, there are laws-”

Trump silenced him with a chopping motion. “Hey, you. Ahmad.”

The brown-skinned man froze. “Yes, Mr. President?”

“You’re not Muslim, are you?”

Ahmad’s eyes shifted left and right. “I’m from California.” Which was technically true.

Trump made a face. “Just as bad.”

“I believe he is Indian,” Petrova whispered.

Oh, that was fine then. Trump had been dealing with Indian-owned casinos in Atlantic City for decades. “Cherokee people,” he sang out loud, “Cherokee trii-iibe. Hey chief, what are you eating?”

Aloo Gobi

Aloo Gobi

“Aloo gobi, sir.”

Holy gobble? What the heck kind of a dumb name? Getting back to more important matters, he set the football on one of the tables, touched his thumb to the biometric scanner, and popped the case open.

Inside, a special laptop computer was custom-fit into the case. The upper panel came on automatically, displaying a map of the world, with all the major cities marked with glowing dots. The lower panel contained a keyboard and a large red button, along with two smaller buttons, one labelled YES and one NO.

Allergic to Pepper

Trump grinned at Natasha Lipps. “Guess what this does? I could destroy the planet from right here if I wanted to. Pretty hot, huh?”

“Is vonderful.”

“Mr. President, sir!” the aide-de-camp protested. “This is highly irregu-”

Trump sneezed into Natasha’s face. It was a wet, jet-propelled sneeze. Her smile flickered for an instant, then returned as bright as ever as she wiped his spittle away. Trump scanned the room. The dark-skinned Indian guy had a hand-held pepper mill and was grinding pepper onto the holy gobble.

“Stop that, you moron!” Trump snapped. “I’m allergic to pepper.”

The man gazed at him pleadingly, and gave the crank a slow-motion turn. “But I like a lot of pepper on my food, sir.”

Trump let out a tremendous sneeze, one that shook him all the way down to his spinal cord. This time he felt himself losing balance, and reached out a hand, which landed right on the nuclear football’s red button. A loud beeping noise sounded, and lights flashed on the screen, along with the glowing words:

CONFIRM MISSILE LAUNCH = YES
ABORT = NO

Trump prided himself on being a positive person. No one had ever been more positive than him in all the history of the world. He didn’t believe in the word NO. He pressed the button for YES.

Arrest That Man

Everyone stared in horror, except for Ahmad, who used the distraction to give the pepper grinder three fast turns. Then he sat, said a quick dua’ and rapidly began to eat his aloo gobi.

“Dear Heaven,” the aide-de-camp breathed. “The Russians will retaliate. We’ll all be destroyed.”

Trump smirked. “You think I would point missiles at Russia? They’re pointed at Mexico and China. Immigration problem solved, plus we win the trade war! Am I the smartest or what?”

The aide-de-camp studied the laptop screen. “One of the missiles is off target. It’s headed for California.”

Trump nodded smugly. “I always keep one aimed at San Francisco.” Grinning widely, he crooned, “Goodbye, Pelosi!”

The SAIC tapped his earpiece. “We’re getting word. The Chinese have launched a retaliatory strike. We’ll be hit in fifteen minutes. We need to get you to the bunker!”

Ahmad took out a portable prayer rug, set it down and began to pray. “Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen,” he intoned. One last salat before the end of the world. He would meet his end with dignity.

“I knew it!” Trump pointed. “Arrest that man. For being Muslim, and for eating holy gobble.”

Cohen sighed, and Natasha Lipps – err, Petrova – began to cry.

THE END

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

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Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at Amazon.com.

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5 Reasons The Muslim World Needs a Jon Stewart

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

Published

There will be many who read the title of this article and think – of all the many, many things that the Muslim world does need – they’re pretty sure that a middle aged liberal Jewish comedian isn’t one of them.

And they would be wrong.

Dead wrong.

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excuse-me-what

Yes, the Muslim world needs another Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Tariq ibn Ziyad. We would be blessed to have an Uthman Dan Fodio or Muhammad Ali Jauhar.

EmelBarbie

Who am I kidding? Even Hijabi Barbie is front page news for us

But I’m here to make the case that we could also do with our own version of Jon Stewart.

jon-stewart_beard

No. This doesn’t count…

Why?

Well, here are just 5 reasons:

1. Someone who tells it like it is

Politicians and leaders often like to hide behind semantics and carefully scripted soundbites. They speak like they’re afraid of what might happen if the masses understood what was actually going on.

Probably with good reason.

Then here comes Jon every weekday evening cutting through the garbage and explaining things in simple, direct (albeit American) English.

js quotes

A dose of raw, passionate, straight-talking truth? Suddenly, college students are interested in the debt crisis or police brutality.

The Muslim world could do with a few articulate souls who manage to move beyond preaching to the converted and instead, try and reach out to the disaffected, the uninterested and the disenfranchised.

Someone who could dumb it down without the dumb part.

2. Someone who is fair

It is well known that Stewart is towards the more liberal end of the spectrum. [Understatement alert]

You would expect him to constantly and mercilessly pick on Fox News and Dick Cheney.

Screen-Shot-2014-03-05-at-9.38.22-AM-1280x701

He does.

But this doesn’t stop him from pointing out the hypocrisy and ineptitude of those he supports. Watching the Jewish American Liberal Stewart rip apart Israel during the last Gaza war showed he was a man of some principle.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w62Q-_upPQc[/youtube]

The Muslim world could do with leaders who are willing to tell hard truths to their home crowds just as much as they were willing to rail against their natural enemies.

3. Someone who nurtures talent

Over the years, the Daily Show has attracted young and unknown aspiring comedians and turned them into confident stars. From Steve Carrel to Steven Colbert – Stewart hasn’t just surrounded himself with sycophants but with talent that pushed him to do better.

Again, the Muslim world could do with leadership that produced more leaders rather than ever more dependent followers. How amazing would it be if the Muslim world served as an incubator for good leaders, where people were valued and flourished and…

926604

Sorry…

4. Someone who pushes the intellectual boundaries

If the Daily Show was to pander to its demographic, they would have movie and rock stars on every evening to plug their latest asinine movie or album. Instead, you were as likely to see an interview with Taylor Swift as with the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

not taylor swift

Stewart often nailed the balancing act of being entertaining to his audience whilst also encouraging them to broaden their intellectual horizons.

The Muslim world could do with leaders who focused not just on individual spiritual inspiration, but also on societal temporal aspiration as well.

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Translation: Where’s the Muslim equivalent of NASA?

5. Someone who tells it with a smile

Lets face it, for someone who has been on TV 4 nights a week for more than 15 years – Jon Stewart has surprisingly few gaffes to highlight. There were only a handful of anger-related meltdowns. There were definitely no unguarded moments where he “heroically” rails against an elected government, but stays silent about a coup and the mass murder of innocent people whose political viewpoint he disagrees with.

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No caption would do justice…

Whatever Jon did, he did with grace. He skewered you like a kebab and cut you up like a … kebab. However, he did so with a politeness that made it hard to dislike him.

The Muslim world could do with leaders that managed the art of making a point without making an enemy.

Conclusion 

Now some will read the above and wonder why someone who holds as many  opinions at odds with Islamic orthodoxy as Stewart should be cast in a favourable light by us. To them I say that I am not advocating taking our religion from him. In fact, the qualities described above are Islamic qualities that are rooted in our deepest traditions, yet somehow are best exemplified these days by non-Muslims like him.

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You don’t have to accept his views or his politics to be a fan of the way the man simply excelled at what he did.

And what he did, was shine a searing light on the state of his nation so that maybe, somehow, some way, they might just realise that they could be so much better than they are now.

If that isn’t something that the Muslim world needs right now…then I don’t know what is.

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