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The Art of Dream Interpretation – Part II

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A methodological approach to ancient Sunni dream interpretation:

Without a doubt, among the types of knowledge and the varieties of inherited wisdom with which scholars occupy themselves, there is none more obscure, necessary, exalted, and more challenging than the dream interpretation and analysis.

The ancient scholars would deliberate upon the Book of Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and the traditions of the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as the initial points of focus in their attempt at dream analysis.  The proverbs of sages, the interpretation of language, semantics, and poetry would then be considered to aid in the interpretation.  The interpreter would be considered an expert not only on account of their textual knowledge, but also their personal adherence to it.  These interpreters were normally of refined character, and they would conduct a quick study, equipped with a practical understanding of the cultural context of the dreamer and inquire about their personal disposition. Most scholars before attempting to reflect on a person’s vision would perform ablution and ask the Almightyṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for assistance and fath (clarity).

There are 9 methods of Dream interpretation:

1- Ta’wil al-asma’: Interpretation through Etymology of Names

2- Ta’wil bil-Ma‘na: Interpretation via Meaning

3- Ta’wil bil Quran: Interpretation using the Quran

4- Ta’wil bil-Hadith: Interpretation using Prophetic Narrations

5- Ta’wil bil Mathal wash-Shi‘r: Interpretation using Proverbs and poetry

6- Ta’wil bil Didd wal-Maqloob: Interpretation via opposition and inversion

7- Ta’wil bil Ziyaad wal-Naqs: Interpretation via an Increase

8- Ta’wil bil Naqs: Interpretation via a decrease

9- Ta’wil bil Waqt: Interpretation with consideration of time

These nine methods are applied simultaneously and not necessary in order of the above listing.  A dream may require all, or even just one of the above methods.

Further, knowing which dreams are adghathu ahlaam –confused dreams, or the ramblings of our consciousness- , is important for both the dreamer and the interpreter.

Modern researchers study dreams and attempt to delve into their meanings.  Sigmund Freud for instance, thought that dreams indicated sexual problems, but since the subconscious mind had our best interest at heart, it disguised the abruptness of the message. Freud believed that if the analyst interpreted the dream for the neurotic patient, the patient’s psychological problem would be resolved.

Carl Jung on the other hand disputed Freud’s theory and argued that dreams serve a compensatory function; if we are too one-sided in our conscious outlook, the dream warns us of the inherent danger in our thought and behaviour so we may modify them.

All of that is relevant to the adghathu ahlaam.  Our purpose is the discussion as it relates to the ru’ya (divinely inspired vision).

Here is a Quranic example of dream interpretation that includes all 9 methods, to illustrate how it all comes together. Over the next few articles we can draw discussions from Surah Yusuf and the following verses:

43           And the king (of Egypt) said: “Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring – and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.”

44           They said: “adghathu ahlaam Mixed up false dreams and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.”

45           Then the man who was released (one of the two who were in prison), now at length remembered and said: “I will tell you its interpretation, so send me forth.”

46           (He said): “O Yusuf (Joseph), the man of truth! Explain to us (the dream) of seven fat cows whom seven lean ones were devouring, and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry, that I may return to the people, and that they may know.”

47           [(Yusuf (Joseph)] said: “For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave in ears, (all) – except a little of it which you may eat.

48           “Then will come after that, seven hard (years), which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored).

49           “Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press (wine and oil).”

Prophet Yusuf'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) used all the methods of interpretation by focusing on: names, symbols, increase, decrease, opposites identified, inability to interpret by the king’s priests, time of year of the dream, derivation of benefit, warning of harm, concern and heeding the advice can avert harm, and most importantly, truth becomes manifest.

For our purpose here I will limit our discussion to the most accessible dimensions of interpretation and end at the fourth method – Ta’wil bil-Hadith

Ta’wil al-asma’: Interpretation through Etymology of Names

The first method focuses on the etymology of the dreamer’s name or the name of the object appearing in the dream.   A simple example would be dreaming of someone named ‘Rasheed’ may signify irshaad (guidance) or, depending on the circumstances of the dream, the lack of.

Names and the roots from where they emerge are important in the initial moments of interpretation.  The names of individuals, objects, titles conferred, honourable mention, nicknames, slander, shortening, elongating, changing in pronunciation, etc., are all important in the analysis.

The name of course does not need to be in Arabic to have significance.

Examples of this can be found in Sahih Muslim

Book 029, Number 5647:

Anas b. Malik reported Allah’s Messengerṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as saying: “I saw during the night that which a person sees during the sleep as if we are in the house of ‘Uqba b. Rafi’ that there was brought to us the fresh dates of Ibn Tab. I interpreted it as the sublimeness for us in the world and good ending in the Hereafter and that our religion is good.”

Ibn Tab is the name of significance.  ‘Tab’ means ripened, made ready, good to eat, high quality.

So the interpretation was based on the name IBN TAB, signifying goodness and high quality. We say a person is a good man or woman by calling them Tayib or Tayibah.

Ta’wil bil-Ma‘na: Interpretation via Meaning

This involves taking a characteristic associated with the object of one’s dream and using this as the basis for one’s interpretation.

This is closely linked to the previous method of name association and interpretation.  However, recognising the symbol of importance is at times more intricate than an apparent name.  Further, a symbol may have more than one meaning depending on the context of the dream.

There are a few examples that we can mention here in sha Allah.

Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 135:

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:

Allah’s Apostleṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “While I was sleeping, I was given a bowl full of milk (in the dream) and I drank from it (to my fill) till I noticed its wetness coming out of my limbs. Then I gave the rest of it to ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab.” The persons sitting around him, asked, “What have you interpreted (about the dream) O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “(It is religious) knowledge.”

Is the symbol milk, wetness coming out of the limbs or both?

Milk is pure and when it is “off” it is known to be unusable from a distance (smell, change in colour).  So milk is purity.  Further, milk is nourishment (especially when living in Medina 1400 years ago).  As well, milk is derived from a source that cannot be altered.  You cannot make milk out of something. It is brought out of an animal that has been domesticated for that particular aim.

‘Ilm is derived, learned, and passed on. It is nourishment for the spiritual soul and is clearly demonstrated through rigorous standards of authentication.

The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) drank to his fill and kept drinking past his fill to the point that he dreamt that the milk was seeping out of his limbs (in another narration also in Bukhari, he says “out of my nails”).

This is called ziyaadah (increase of capacity and measure).  Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) instructed the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in Surah Taha to ask for an increase in knowledge.

Milk therefore is religious knowledge when linked with over abundance.

In other moments (Isra and Mi‘raj) and in the Quran (Surah Muhammed) milk represents constancy, pure, lack of tarnish, and incorruptibility.

Another hadith in Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 136:

Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:

Allah’s Apostle said, “While I was sleeping, some people were displayed before me (in a dream). They were wearing shirts, some of which were merely covering their breasts, and some a bit longer. Then there passed before me, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab wearing a shirt he was dragging it (on the ground behind him.)” They (the people) asked, “What have you interpreted (about the dream) O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “The Religion.”

A shirt is interpreted as “ad-Deen – The Religion.”

Clothing shelters you, protects you, identifies your, differentiates you, humbles you, elevates you and accords you a position in the eyes of others.

Being completely covered implies that ‘UmarraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was firm in all aspects of his faith and was adorned with the “Libas at-Taqwa (Garment of Taqwa)” referred to in the beginning of Surah al-A‘raf [7;6]

Ta’wil bil Quran: Interpretation using the Quran

There is a plethora of information regarding the usage of the Quran as the primary text to be utilised by the interpreter of the dream.

This can be established through the Sunnah, and action of the sahaba and the scholars who tread upon their path.

Interestingly, Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will speak of something and link it to more than one circumstance. As such the dream interpreter must have sound knowledge of the Quran and its meaning.

For example: A donkey

A donkey, seen during sleep, may symbolise:

Travel and also seeking knowledge – Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “…is as the likeness of a donkey that carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them).” [Surah al-Jumu’ah ;5]. Burdens as translated here is asfaarun coming from the same root word to denote travel.

Seeing a donkey may also imply a resurgence of livelihood or strength.  Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “And look at your donkey! And thus We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh”. When this was clearly shown to him, he said, “I know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.” (Surah Baqarah;259]

Seeing a donkey may also imply beautification and comfort.  Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says: “And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys, for you to ride and as an adornment. And He creates (other) things of which you have no knowledge.” [Sureah an-Nahl;8]

Seeing a donkey may also imply destruction and the Wrath of Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and evil soon to arrive. Allahsubḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says, “”And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the donkey.” [Surah Luqman;1]

Another example is the Adhaan.

Seeing yourself or others performing the adhaan in your ru’ya can have more than 12 different interpretations all utilising the Quran (Ibn Qutaybah, Al-baghaawi, al-Qadari, ath-Tha‘alibi and others).

It may indicate a person performing Hajj [Surah al-Hajj;27], speaking a word of truth [Surah Yusuf;70], fate to befall , position of authority [Surah at-Tahwbah;3], a journey, a death, wealth after poverty, treachery, suspicion to fall on you, losing faith, or hypocrisy.

More examples of actions or symbols and their Quranic relevance can be:

–              Rope can mean an oath, covenant, contract, agreement [Surah al-Imran;103]

–              Ship can mean salvation or assistance [Surahal-‘Ankabut;15]

–              Wood can mean hypocrisy [Surah al-Munafiqoon;4]

–              Illness can mean hypocrisy [Surah al-Baqarah;10;

–              Clothing can mean woman [Surah al-Baqarah;187]

–              Water can mean difficulty and ordeal [Surah al-Jinn;16-17]

–              Making tasbeeh/dhikr can mean sadness and depression [Surah al-Anbiya;87]

–              Heavy rain can mean difficulty and calamity [Surah an-Naml;58]

–              Light rain can mean comfort and ease [Surah Qaaf;9]

–              Knife can mean evidence or clarification [Surah Yusuf;31]

–              Fields, farms, open earth can mean a woman [Surah al-Baqarah;223]

–              A bed can mean loss of power, authority or influence [Surah Saad;34]

–              Staircase can mean people seeking knowledge or to hear of you good/or evil [Surah at-Tur;38]

Of course there are many more examples to be offered.

Ta’wil bil-Hadith: Interpretation using Prophetic Narrations

The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would also define particular symbols, objects and animals in a way that is significant to the dream interpreter.  Of course using the definitions of the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) require insight into the greater corpus of the Sunnah and a working knowledge of the authentic sahih narrations from the da’eef.

Ibn Qutaybah (Ta’beer ar-Ruyaa pgs 109 onward), al-Baghawi (Sharh as-Sunnah V12 pg 221 onward) discusses many examples.  Below are a few:

–              A crow may mean a deviant treacherous person (The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) labelled the crow faasiq – Saheeha 1825)

–              A rib may refer to a woman (The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) described the woman as being created from a rib – agreed upon)

–              Vases, Cups, Glass vessels may also refer to a woman or women (The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) described woman as fragile vessels – Agreed upon)

–              Sleeping quarters or a bed may mean impregnation (The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the child is to be ascribed to the bed of the father – Agreed upon)

–              Horses may mean an abundance of goodness (The Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that horses have abundant goodness woven into their main until the Day Of Resurrection – agreed upon)

One of the problems associated with interpretation using statements from the sunnah is that many are fabricated and unauthentic narrations have been relied upon by compilers of dream symbol lists and dictionaries.

So for example:

–              It is falsely claimed that the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: In a dream you may see one of these six symbols –  to see a woman is Goodness, a she-camel is warfare, milk is Fitrah, greenery is Paradise, a ship is salvation, dates are Rizq (Daylami and Abul Ya’la report this narration which is Da’eef due to the fact of an unnamed reporter in the chain among numerous other flaws – See ad-Da’eefa 3653)

–              Ibn ShaheenraḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) for example says in al-Isharah (767), “To see yourself walking with yellowish tanned leather sandals on your feet implies that you should look forward to Barakah and Happiness due to the hadeeth of the Prophetṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

The Prophet-saw] (it is wrongly claimed) said, “To wear yellowish tanned leather sandals will have barakat and happiness accompany him. And the hadeeth is saheeh.”  Of course the scholars of hadeeth have refuted the assertion that the previous statement is Saheeh.  It is in fact fabricated as stated by Ibn Abi Hatim in al-‘illal as Sh. Mashoor points out.

As such the dream interpreter must place emphasis only on the saheeh narrations and not follow a manual without knowledge and research.

 

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Ustadh Yahya Ibrahim is Canadian by birth & education, Egyptian through a rich ancestry, Turkish via the blessing of marriage to Songul and Australian by Choice of residence and migration.Since his early teens, in the 90's, Ustadh Yahya has been talking about Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims. He was blessed with numerous opportunities to meet, translate, study and teach alongside some of the Islamic worlds top scholars.Ustadh Yahya is blessed now to be living in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and three wonderful children – Shireen, Omar and Adam. He is a regular lecturer to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences their and around the world. Recently, Ustadh Yahya was awarded by the West Australian State Government the "Individual Excellence in Community Service Award."Ustadh Yahya is a passionate educator with a decades experience in school leadership as an Asst. Principal & registered Teacher.He, also, serves the Muslim community at Curtin University and the University of Western Australia as the Islamic Chaplain and teaches Islamic Ethics & Theology,internationally, with al-Kauthar Institute www.alkauthar.org .

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Podcast: Lessons from the Life of Malcolm X | Abdul-Malik Ryan

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One of the things that happens with historical figures who continue to remain well-known and influential years after they can continue to speak for themselves is that others seek to speak for them.  Attempts are made to co-opt their legacy, either in sincere efforts for good or in selfish efforts for ideological or even commercial gain.  This is especially true of Malcolm X, who is not only a historical and political icon but in many ways a “celebrity” remembered by many primarily for his style and attitude.

The only real and meaningful tribute we can pay to Malcolm X is to follow his example. Click To Tweet

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Once, while in class at college, an Arab girl I was sitting next to said quite loudly to another, “Hey, give this paper to the ‘abdah” referring to a black girl in the class. I wondered if she was even aware of what she was saying in English. Did she think that ‘abdah translates to “black girl” and never thought of its true meaning? Did she think that I didn’t understand?

 

Read by Zeba Khan, originally posted here on Muslimmatters.org.

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When Racism Goes Viral: The Coronavirus And Modern Muslim Orientalism

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Lumping an entire people together for collective punishment, reveling in their suffering, and sniggering at their food choices isn’t an exercise in science, Sunnah, or compassion. It’s good, old-fashioned orientalism.

In the eight weeks since it was identified, the 2019 novel coronavirus has infected nearly 12,000 people in China alone, 200 of whom did not survive. Symptoms are flu-like in nature, and global side effects include acute, apparently contagious… racism.

Online, in Muslim as well as non-Muslim spaces, social media feeds are sniggering “Eww, you eat gross things! Of course you’ll get gross diseases!” In the midst of this human tragedy, orientalist tropes about the Chinese are being sloppily repackaged as health concerns over the coronavirus, and served with a side of bat soup.

Yes, bat soup.

The coronavirus in question is found in bats, and thanks to the scientific expertise of social media, videos of Chinese people consuming anything from bat soup to baby mice and rats are popping up as “proof” of the disease’s cause.

However the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans, the initial source of the outbreak seems to have originated from the Wuhan Seafood market, where a number of employees and a few shoppers were the first casualties to the infection. The 2019-nCoV is moving from person to person the same way the flu does, and what a person eats – or doesn’t eat – has no bearing on whether they contract the virus or not.

In an article titled, No, Coronavirus Was Not Caused by ‘Bat Soup’–But Here’s What Researchers Think May Be to Blame, Health.com writes:

“Coronaviruses in general are large family of viruses that can affect many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In rare cases, those viruses are also zoonotic, which means they can pass between humans and animals—as was the case with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory system (SARS), two severe coronaviruses in people.

Initially, this novel coronavirus was believed to have started in a large seafood or wet market, suggesting animal-to-person spread, according to the CDC. But a large number of people diagnosed with the virus reportedly didn’t have exposure to the wet markets, indicating that person-to-person spread of the virus is also occurring. However, it’s still possible that the novel coronavirus began with an infected animal at the market—and then went on to person-to-person transmission once people were infected.”

Being uncomfortable with things you’ve never considered edible before isn’t necessarily a racist reaction. When my husband told me he ate a chocolate-covered cricket once, I hid my toothbrush for a week, but that’s not what’s happening right now. There is a deadly virus threatening a group of people, and the internet sees fit to make fun of them. Why? Because orientalism.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.

Orientalism is the “intellectual” framework through which Western societies create a clear and permanent line between Western superiority and “Oriental” inferiority. If orientalism were an Instagram filter, it would take any picture of any person, event, or thing, and distort its appearance to be “other,” and in some way inferior.Click To Tweet

The inferiorizing feature is step one, because in order to position yourself as a winner, the other guy has to be a loser in some way.

The otherizing is the step 2, and both steps are important because if you say that your little brother is a loser, in the end you’re still family and you’ve got his back. This would be inferiorizing, but not otherizing.

But if you say that other kind of guy is a loser, then you have no common ground. And when the other kind of guy is in trouble, you need only gloat and make nasty comments on Twitter. That’s inferiorizing with otherizing. Orientalism can be loosely translated as US vs THEM, normal versus weird, and local versus invasive foreign, or exotic.

The otherizing of orientalism is so subconsciously embedded in people that it even creates auditory illusions to maintain the “otherization” of the subject being viewed. As crazy as that sounds, everyone has their own experience. Mine for just last month played out as follows. A homeless man approached my window and said “Ma’am, do you have two dollars?”

I smiled and responded to him, “I have exactly two dollars!”

As I dug around for my wallet, he cocked his head and said, “Your accent. There’s something different about it. Something… foreign, exotic?”

“It’s Chicago,” I said, handing him two dollars.

He blinked a few times. “What’s Chicago?”

“My accent. It’s Chicagoan. English is my first language. My accent is from Chicago.”

He narrowed his eyes at me suspiciously, this gatekeeper of Chicagoness. “What part of Chicago?”

“North side, Lincolnwood area,” I said. “I grew up on Devon Ave.”

“Pulaski Park!” he beamed, pointing to himself. “I’m from Chicago too!”

We smiled at each other, basking for a moment in our mutual Chicagoness. Then I waved and drove away, adding his insistence of my  exotic“otherness” to the dozens of other peoples’ who have heard my perfectly flat, perfectly blandly midwestern accent and perceived something foreign. I call that one “hearing with your eyes.”

I have lost track of people who have tried to insist that I have an accent. One woman even went so far as to imply that I was lying about being a native English speaker, that I must have some other first language, because there’s “Something else in there, I can hear something foreign! But you’re very articulate though.”

(To form your own opinion on my exotic accent or the lack thereof, visit the MuslimMatters podcast here!)

Compliments like “You’re so articulate!” or “You’re so different!” give you partial credit for your exceptionality, while still discrediting every other member of your general race, religion, region, or hemisphere. The left-handed compliment has a long history, and follows a predictable pattern. Take, for example, this excerpt from The Talisman, a crusade-genre fiction published in 1825.

In this scene, our gallant, invading knight finds himself unable to defeat the enemy “Saracen,” aka – Muslim defender of the Holy Land. In grudging admiration, the knight concedes:

“I well thought…that your blinded race had their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you would never have been able to maintain this blessed land of Palestine against so many valiant soldiers of God. I speak not thus of thee in particular, Saracen, but generally of thy people and religion. Strange it is to me, however, not that you should have the descent from the Evil One, but that you should boast of it.”

Translation: “Your people and your religion are the spawn of satan, but not you. I speak not thus of thee in particular. You’re so cool for Muslim!” Spoiler alert: turns out it’s Salahuddin.

From the crusades to colonialism to America’s chronic invasion of Muslim lands, the misrepresentation of people from Over There is both a cause and effect of policy decisions. Orientalism creates the “bad guys” necessary to justify the “good guy” response by “proving” the bad guys to be so weird, inferior, and intrinsically bad that it becomes necessary to call for the good guy cavalry. That gives the good guys permission to take over the resources that the bad guys are too incompetent to manage anyway, and overthrow the governments they’re too stupid to run, and free the women that they’re too barbaric to appreciate.

One excellent reference on this is Dr. Jack Shaheen’s brilliant documentary Reel Bad Arabs, which summarizes a hundred years of Hollywood’s orientalist portrayal of “Arab Land,” a mythical, exotic, treacherous, incompetent, and seductive place, whose capital city is apparently Agrabah which, in 2015, a public policy poll found that 30% of GOP voters were in favor of bombing.

Another side effect of orientalism is the refusal to allow for individual accountability and the insistence on collective blame. “Western” men who harm and oppress women are rightly labeled as jerks and abusers who don’t represent Western morals, ethics, or ideals through their individual actions. Same for white racists, extremists, and criminals in general.

However, Muslims jerks who do the same are awarded representative status of the entire Muslim population (1.9 billion) and Islamic tradition (1441 years). The perception as all Muslim men based on only the worst of them seems ludicrous on paper, and such generalizations are no longer acceptable to make about race, but are still perfectly popular to make about minority religious groups.

Orientalism enables the belief that Muslims are terrible terrorists who are terrible to their women. If they say otherwise, it’s because their religion is terrible and lying about it is part of the religion too. They don’t deserve their own lands or resources, they’ll just use them for more terribleness. We should go in there and save them from themselves! And also, make lots of predictable, idiotic romance novels and movies in which a poor, beautiful Oriental Female is rescued through the power of Love and Freedom. Because just as violence is the natural state of the Muslim man, oppression is the natural state of the Muslim woman. Miskeena. Habibti.

Human beings can be horrible to each other. No ethnic, religious, or racial group is any exception. The problem arises when individual horribleness is elevated to collective attribution, and that collective attribution is used to justify collective punishment, as well as collective suffering.

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)?Click To Tweet

When millions of Americans get sick from the flu, and tens of thousands die every year, why aren’t we making fun of the weird things that white people eat? Like Rocky Mountain Oysters (which are bull testicles) and sweetbreads (which are bits of an animal’s pancreas and thymus glands)? What about snails, frog legs, crawfish, chocolate covered ants, and those tequila-inspired lollipops with an actual worm candied in the center?

The filtering effect of orientalism means that our weird foods – be it maghz masala and katakat– are quirky and fun, but their weird foods are disgusting and totally cause to celebrate infectious disease.

If the tables were turned and a deadly coronavirus originated from say, Saudi Arabia, would it be alright to ridicule Muslims for what they ate, or how they lived? What if that specific coronavirus actually originated in camels.

Yes, camels. The Islamophobic internet would have a field day with that one. Yes, we ride camels and prize camels and even eat camels – and they’re delicious I might add – but if a deadly virus originated from camels, found its way into humans in the Middle East, and from there caused death and destruction in other countries- would it be our fault? Would we deserve scorn? Would the suffering and death of our people be justified by how “gross” it is that we eat camels, even if only a few us actually do, and the rest of us prefer shawarma?

Pause for dramatic emphasis. Open the Lancet. Read.

“Human coronavirus is one of the main pathogens of respiratory infection. The two highly pathogenic viruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, cause severe respiratory syndrome in humans and four other human coronaviruses induce mild upper respiratory disease. The major SARS-CoV outbreak involving 8422 patients occurred during 2002–03 and spread to 29 countries globally.

MERS-CoV emerged in Middle Eastern countries in 2012 but was imported into China.

The sequence of 2019-nCoV is relatively different from the six other coronavirus subtypes but can be classified as betacoronavirus. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV can be transmitted directly to humans from civets and dromedary camels, respectively, and both viruses originate in bats, but the origin of 2019-nCoV needs further investigation.

The mortality of SARS-CoV has been reported as more than 10% and MERS-CoV at more than 35%.”

MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome –Coronavirus emerged in 2012, traveling from bats to camels to humans, killing 35% of the people who contracted it. It originated in Saudi Arabia and found its way across the continent all the way to China. So could the Chinese internet have been justified in ridiculing our deaths because we ate camels?

Could they legitimize posting “gross” videos of whole, pit-roasted camels? Could they say it was science, not racism, as they moved on to our other “gross” foods, like locusts and the dhab lizard?

Read more about the Sunnah of the Dhab Lizard.

Locusts and lizards have as much to do with MERS-CoV as mice and rats have to do with 2019 novel coronavirus, but doesn’t our grossness in general mean we deserve our fate?

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.

No, it doesn’t. Making fun of what people eat isn’t science, epidemiology, or the sunnah. It’s racism, and it is hugely disappointing to see Muslims hurt others with to the same tropes that are used to hurt us.Click To Tweet

Orientalism is alive and kicking both of our communities in the teeth — Chinese and Muslim – but to further complicate the matter, there’s the ongoing genocide of the Uighur Muslims in China, and that’s rooted in orientalism too.

The Chinese government has imprisoned 3 million Muslims in concentration camps, a number equal to the entire Muslim population in America. It is not unexpected that some people wishfully assume the 2019 novel coronavirus epidemic to be the comeuppance that the Chinese government deserves for its cruelty, but that’s sad and wrong on many, many levels.

People cheering the coronavirus on fail to understand a few very big, very important things about the situation. I will list them, because the internet is no place for subtlety and these points have to stand out for those who would sail over the entire article so they can trash it in the comments. They are as follows:


  1. The entire population of China is no more responsible for the actions of its government than you are for yours. If you hate Donald Trump, his border wall, the separation of families, the Muslim Ban, cuts to medical benefits, and corruption in general but STILL live in America, then you understand that a great, frustrated, and powerless mass of citizens can have little to no effect on its government’s choices. Such is politics. Such is life. Such is China too.

    This guy is all our fault specifically. So I hope we all die of the flu.

  2. The coronavirus’s lethality is exponentially higher in people with poor health and weak immune systems. Like the flu, the coronavirus is overwhelmingly most lethal to children and elderly. The coronavirus is not targeted at, nor limited to the Chinese leadership for its crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, that is not how epidemics work.
  3.  The spread of Coronavirus – like all respiratory infections – is greatly accelerated through close living quarters as well as poor sanitation and hygiene. The 3 million Uighur Muslims interred by the Chinese government are imprisoned in distressingly cruel, cramped, and unhygienic conditions. Their close proximity as well as population density mean that if the virus makes it into the captive population, hundreds of thousands – if not millions of Muslims – would die. Don’t root for the coronavirus. It does not discriminate based on religion or race, even if you do.

And now we come full circle. When Muslims ridicule the Chinese for “being gross,” they are simply echoing the same racist, Orientalist talking points that labeled the Chinese – and later the Japanese – as the “Yellow Peril,” a filthy, faceless, monolithic mass deserving all of our scorn and none of the individual considerations that we insist on for ourselves.

Given the abuse that Muslims have been subject to by orientalist tropes, it should make us all the more aware of its dangerous cultural impact. We know what it’s like to be looked down on, laughed at, and blamed for our own suffering. We know what it feels like to have our foods gagged at, our accents mocked, and our cultural clothing turned into Halloween costumes.

Worse still, we know, very painfully and very currently, what it looks like for an entire people to be treated as a disease in and of themselves. China has declared Islam to be a contagious disease, an “ideological illness,” and on this very basis is it holding 3 million Muslims hostage. In an official statement loaded with situational irony, the Chinese Community Party officially stated,

“Members of the public who have been chosen for reeducation have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient.

… There is always a risk that the illness will manifest itself at any moment, which would cause serious harm to the public. That is why they must be admitted to a reeducation hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain and restore their normal mind … Being infected by religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology and not seeking treatment is like being infected by a disease that has not been treated in time, or like taking toxic drugs … There is no guarantee that it will not trigger and affect you in the future.” – source

The dangers of racism and orientalism are real, and the victims number the millions. Knowing how much damage orientalism causes in our community, we must commit to never, ever stooping to the same ideologies that are used to justify our own oppression. No matter how many bats people eat, or how evil their government can be, people are individual people. We stand on equal footing, equally deserving of respect, compassion, and acknowledgement of our humanity.



The Orientalist mindset that diminishes and distances us from each other strips us of our dignity, whether we are its victim, or its the perpetrator. Such racism is antithetical to the Prophetic compassion and mercy that Islam demands from us as Muslims. When Muslims celebrate the suffering of innocent people as some sort of epidemiological revenge for the suffering of innocent people, that’s not Islam.

That’s prejudice.

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