SUPPORT THE MADMAMLUKS
Support the MadMamluks
written by SIM
Were you shocked that so many people supported the Trump presidency? Do you find yourself pushing away people with differing perspectives? Finding your newsfeed a bit predictable? This could be happening because you are stuck in an echo chamber. The echo chamber is a social situation where you are surrounded by people who agree with you in most (if not all) the things you believe in. It’s dangerous because it leads to damaging relationships, polarized social groups, and overall poor social interactions. If you ever wondered how a pitchfork wielding mob forms in a movie, this is how it happens. Breaking the echo chamber is crucial to a balanced well-being and a healthy society.
The algorithm in our social media newsfeed distributes information that we already tend to agree with. We’re finding ourselves increasingly insular and intolerant of others. Studies have shown that this happens because we generally view ourselves as a ‘good’ people. When we hear about new thoughts, the needle on our compass of right and wrong starts immediately spinning toward a particular direction. When we agree with something we automatically ascribe it into our understanding of the reality around us; everything else is discarded. This, in turn, leads to cognitive dissonance; where we inherit disjointed ideas that upon further introspection, we’re finding they don’t make sense and unable to explain it to others because we never fully understood it to begin with.
Locking people into echo chambers has been a tool used by oppressive governments to stifle dissenting ideas in society. The tricky part of echo chambers is that most people don’t even realize they are part of it. It takes an active effort by an individual to explore different perspectives. It requires setting your biases and emotions aside and actively listening to another perspective and discovering why people hold the beliefs they do.
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By The Mad Mamluks — 6 years ago
I recently came across an article entitled “Why Are Some Muslim Men Obsessed With White Converts” written by Kaya Gravitter. The article basically talks about how some Muslim men are inclined to marry white converts for various reasons, and the author dissects the arguments in the form of mini rebuttals. A lot of the counter responses were very problematic to me and I’d like to highlight them in this article. This is not an attack on the author, I am sure she has her own frustrations, and intended to provide beneficial advice for her male audience. However, as a Muslim male, I feel compelled to respond to some of the points as a response to the general attitude and not the individual.
The author says:
Brothers tell me they want a convert because she was not born a Muslim and she found Islam by herself. I am told by Muslim men that they want a convert so he can teach her about Islam. He does this so he can receive more good deeds. Us converts are not “good deed tokens” you can just receive to get into heaven. God loves humble people. If you are expecting to get good deeds for selfish reasons, don’t waste your time.
The author is criticizing a man for wanting to teach his wife about Islam for reward, as if that is something disliked. One of the reasons people get married is because they feel that is a religious obligation, and they receive rewards for doing so. The Prophet (S) said:
“Marriage is my sunnah. Whosoever keeps away from it is not from me.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
And Allah says:
وَعَاشِرُوهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ فَإِن كَرِهْتُمُوهُنَّ فَعَسَىٰ أَن تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا
Live with them in kindness, for if you dislike them, then perhaps you dislike something but Allah has placed therein much good. (Surah An-Nisa 4:19)
So, if we are looking at marriage as a form of worship and drawing nearer to Allah SWT through righteousness, why would it be wrong for a man to seek that in a revert? The term “selfish reasons” could be used in many examples and can be made to look negative. For example, if a woman says, “I want to complete half my deen and get married”. Would that be a selfish reason? If a woman is looking for a partner who can provide a certain standard of living (beyond basics), could that be selfish? The problem lies in the fact that “selfish” is a very subjective term when talking about marriage. Marriage in many ways is like a business contract. Each side has expectations from the other and they mutually agree to get married. One could call the expectations “selfish” but, it’s human nature.
The author goes on to say:
Some Brothers who marry converts say that they are worried their wife will leave Islam and become a Christian again. Maybe, brother, you are not secure about your Islam and don’t practice it properly, so you think she’ll leave the religion. If you are so worried about that, maybe you should be a better Muslim and husband; then she will never want to leave Islam. That means you should worry about your own faith, before you worry about hers.
Worrying about a convert spouse leaving Islam is a legitimate concern in the modern era since studies have indicated that many reverts to Islam end up leaving Islam as indicated by Imam Luqman Ahmad and Rubain Manzoor. That coupled with that fact that many born Muslims are also leaving the religion for Atheism as indicated in the Washington Post. This is a natural concern given the circumstances we live under today. It’s also important to note that many reverts also chose not to marry other reverts and prefer to marry born Muslims for several reasons. This may be uneasy for some people to digest, but these are legitimate concerns that any person may have. The other interesting point to note is that the author says, “If you are so worried about that, maybe you should be a better Muslim and husband; then she will never want to leave Islam”. I find this to be problematic because the author previously said “don’t expect that converts don’t know anything about Islam. I researched Islam for three years before I converted”. So why would the reverts belief in Islam be dependent upon how the man were to behave if the revert has understood what Islam as all about before becoming a Muslim.
The author continues and says:
“I’ve also heard brothers say they refuse to marry coverts and only want to marry born Muslims, so they can teach their kids everything about Islam. Yes, let’s put all of the burden on women yet again to carry the family. Also, when looking for someone to marry, we should never put aside anyone because of their race or the way they were raised.”
I understand that this maybe upsetting for some reverts to hear but I believe the individuals who make this claim have deeper reasons behind their decision. When and individual gets married, there are many factors that are taken into consideration. Factors such as cultural compatibility, gender roles, in-law relationships, dietary habits, etc. Sometimes people overlook the importance of compatibility and focus only on the deen. Of course, the deen should be the most important thing but if two practicing people are not compatible, it’s inevitable that there will be a strain on the marriage. Based on this, it’s understandable that people will have preferences for individuals from certain cultures over another. In an age of political correctness and social justice, I recognize this may not be the favorable viewpoint. However, the reality is that humans have always had preferences and they will continue to have preferences.
In the final part of the article, the author mentions:
“Basically, when looking for a wife, it’s okay to have a preference of who you want to marry, but it’s not okay to have a fetish. You should be diverse in your mindset. Black Muslimahs, or born Muslims of different ethnicities are just as great, if not better”.
The author choses to use the word “fetish” and I am not entirely sure why because generally the term fetish means “a sexual attraction to objects or body parts of lesser sexual importance (or none at all) such as feet or certain types of clothing”. The author is comparing a man’s preferences to fetishes, when in fact they are not related at all. A person preferring someone of a certain race can’t always be faulted because part of it is related to genuine attraction. Simply put, a person can’t control who they find attractive. The author can say there a plenty of women of different color and backgrounds, but that doesn’t mean the person can simply train themselves to automatically be attracted to something they weren’t attracted to before.
Sexuality is a very sensitive subject among Muslims, but it’s an important one. Men and women are built different and often enough they view sex and intimacy very differently. The reason I bring this is up is because the author attempted to use the word fetish in a negative implication to describe male arousal and intimacy. It is perfectly natural for men to like certain body parts, colors, smells, and so forth. As a matter of fact, this is part of normal sexuality. It seems the author chose to use this term to highlight the point she was trying drive home, which was that Muslim men should not be obsessed with white reverts. The author may have failed to realize that they may be interested in “white” reverts because they may share the same cultural norms that they have or would like to have. It could also be purely based on the fact that they are attracted to “white” women. We will never know unless we hear their reasons. However, it is very normal for women to receive solicitors for marriage, irrespective of their race or religion. The bottom line is that men will always be attracted to women and men have their preferences, as women do. Perhaps the author is more aware of these Muslim men who want “white” reverts because she is one. She most likely has never come across a brother looking for only a “black” revert sister because a brother looking for that probably wouldn’t approach her since she doesn’t fit the criteria. We live in a time where people are becoming more and more afraid to express their political views, preferences, and opinions because of political correctness. We must allow people to express themselves respectfully or we will be creating a generation of individuals that will rebel to the opposite extreme in the future. Let us not label and “shame” preferences/opinions because we may not agree with them, but rather let humans be humans.
October 11, 2017
The views and opinions of contributors do not necessarily equate as endorsements by The Mad Mamluks.
By The Mad Mamluks — 5 years ago
Written by Irtiza Hasan (contributing host)
My friend Muhammad Alshareef once told me, “If we think about people who could claim they may have traveled to every masjid in the USA and Canada – raising money, giving lectures, teaching… that list would probably have on it – Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Ahmed Sakr and of course Imam Siraj Wahhaj.”
These four can only be described as the forefathers and pioneers of the Muslim community in North America.
From 1997 until 2013 I had the opportunity to host Imam Siraj Wahhaj in my city, Houston TX, many times – starting with my days at the University of Houston MSA.
The Imam is almost 70 now but back then he would frequently make trips to Houston. In fact, I remember him once coming three times in a two month period for three different fundraisers. Those of us who grew up in the 1990s and 2000s with the Imam at our conferences and conventions remember him as the man with a million-dollar smile, ability to give fiery speeches and always at least four pens in his shirt pocket.
In Houston, our Muslim community had its divisions back in the day – and many will say we still do – the Imam was always a favorite across Muslim organizations and groups. They all lined up to invite Imam Siraj any chance they could – ICNA Houston, CAIR Houston, Texas Dawah Convention, Taleem ul Islam, Clear Lake Islamic Center, Masjid El-Farouq, Islam in Spanish, MAS Houston, MSA UH, MSA Rice, Masjid W.D. Muhammad, Masjid Al-Islam, Muhammadi Masjid and of course the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.
The Imam in fundraisers alone raised hundreds of thousands – if not multi-million dollars for mosques, conferences, dawah projects and startup organizations – and I only speak about programs I personally attended. I wish I had exact numbers but would not be surprised if it reached 5 million dollars in Houston alone.
I think beyond people like Dr. Siddiqi, Dr. Badawi, Ahmed Sakr and Imam Siraj… there are other notable and respected figures for the American Muslim community such as say Hamza Yusuf or Yasir Qadhi. They impacted many people but largely catered to their bases in terms of Sufi or Salafi leaning audiences and organizations, respectively. There are other well-known national figures who have been surrounded by controversies and scandals – especially in recent years.
Imam Siraj was for everybody. Nowadays, we hear Muslims claiming their disregard for labels and I understand that but I remember a time when most of us identified as traditionalists or progressives, Sufi or Salafi, ICNA or ISNA, Arab or non-Arab, etc. No matter what team you were on, we all loved Imam Siraj. We all benefitted from his talks.
I had the opportunity to host Imam Siraj on behalf of multiple organizations and the man was truly selfless. Even in the age of AlMaghrib Institute – an organization that I care deeply about. It introduced a self-sufficient funding model based on student tuition and was able to pay instructors handsomely. Some of the more qualified and in demand instructors could make up to $10,000 USD per course. That all being said, Imam Siraj never asked for honorariums or minimum payments or deposits up front, etc. Never once. Not for classes. Not for conferences.
He would often ask me or my friends Anees Siddiqui, Zaheer Malik, Ismail Jafri or Mudassar Khan (all UH MSA Presidents during my time there) whether he can set up a small table and sell his old khutbahs on cassette tapes – and this well after CDs and MP3 had already come out! Imam Siraj would bring the old school cassette tapes and sell them for a few dollars.
The Imam was easily the biggest draw at every conference from 1992 to 2008. He knew how much the demand was for speeches and yet would not request any kind of honorariums or payments. Imam Siraj Wahhaj knew when he left his family in his beloved Brooklyn NY he would sometimes visit up to 6 cities before returning home.
Des Moines Iowa.
The list goes on. There were hardly any cities the Imam would not go to. When Muslims needed him, he never let them down. He always showed up.
I was asking my friends whether Muslims believed in the concept of collective sin or collective shame. There was a time a few years ago when Imam Siraj battled cancer. he reportedly struggled with medical bills and costly medical care and only a few brothers resorted to some private fundraisers to help support him. It was a truly shaming time for us.
When you meet Imam Siraj Wahhaj – if you knew Imam Siraj Wahhaj – you know he is a genuine and good man.
Recently Imam Siraj’s family has been in the news and to be honest I have not followed much of the details. Instead, I have been making dua and talking to friends around the country who are either close to the Imam or like me have worked with him in the past. I am personally upset at how the media has mischaracterized Imam Siraj and how they are pulling him into the story. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of seeing your loved ones go through trials and tribulations. I can only express my love and respect for Imam Siraj Wahhaj – he is one of at least four pioneers for the Muslim community in this country. There will not be another like him in terms of impact and influence for a very long time.