Islam

Khabib proves that chivalry is still alive

Written by Hasnet Lais

As the dust settles after an epic grudge match between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, much of the sporting world is still reflecting on what was arguably one of the greatest moments in combat sports history.

Rarely does a fight capture the imagination of peripheral fans and polarise audiences like the Khabib-McGregor saga. It not only solidified its place in MMA folklore, but came to represent a seismic moment in the fight game with reverberations beyond anyone’s imagination. For McGregor’s part, the Irishman set the pre-fight hoopla in full swing at a press conference, unleashing a torrent of abuse towards Khabib’s religion, family and heritage. As for Khabib, well, something epic was brewing. He left all his talking for the cage and the melee which ensued after his emphatic victory became the stuff of legends.

For those who have previously revelled in McGregor’s trademark histrionics, please spare me the righteous indignation over the post-fight fracas. If anything, much of the reaction to Khabib’s fit of rage is symptomatic of western cultural myopia. We seem oblivious to the fact that such an outburst was a natural instinct for someone taught to pride honour over any gimmick of hyping a fight to boost its box office ratings.

A prime example of such corporate kowtowing is the UFC’s cash cow himself, McGregor, who has repeatedly exploited racial tropes for promotional purposes without the slightest remonstration from his employers. In fact, the UFC appears to have green-lighted his indiscretions, responding to his catalogue of misdemeanours with the occasional wrist-slapping. Here is a man who hurled a metal dolly at a bus filled with rival fighters (including Khabib), forcing a bloody cut on the head of Michael Chisea and once taunted Brazilian opponent Jose Aldo in his hometown saying “…if this was a different time, I would invade his favela on horseback, and would kill anyone who wasn't fit to work…”

Despite the abuse hurled at Khabib, he remained a consummate professional leading up to the bout, refusing to be caught up in the shenanigans and responding to McGregor’s provocations with the ice-cool demeanour he exudes in abundance.

Yes, he apologised to the Nevada State Commission for his unsportsmanlike like conduct but was equally commendable in accounting the media’s culpability in perpetuating a culture of disrespect amongst fighters and in his condemnation of fighters who spare no sacred cow as part of a fight’s promotion, reiterating a desire to clean up the sport and restore etiquette between athletes which was once the hallmark of the pugilist form.

Fair play to Khabib for calling out the elephant in the room. Instead of punishing him with a suspension, we should be celebrating Khabib as a civilising force in a sport which too often descends into intemperate slanging matches, a far cry from what combat sports originally represented. Tracing the history of martial arts to its origins, we find that a knightly virtue gave the art its esteem, where competitors placed such a high premium on mutual respect that affronting another’s dignity was a cardinal sin.

Those who have followed Khabib’s career can testify to just how much he imbibes these lofty principles, embedded in his stoic Avar upbringing along the North Caucasus Mountains, where humility is lauded and responding to the basest of insults is the pinnacle of manliness, as per the timeless wisdom of a warrior culture. There was something to admire in both his composure and fury as it proved Khabib is committed to a code of chivalry in an industry which has developed a sordid reputation for placing profits over principle.

For those enthralled by the bluster of entertainers, Khabib’s chivalric persona may come across insipid when compared to his flamboyant counterparts, but this unpretentious quality remains true to the essence of his craft, where fight masters of old rarely harboured an inflated sense of self. McGregor’s provocations are a testament to the pandemonium that can ensue when razzmatazz knows no bounds.  In today’s conflicted and polarised racial environment, we must ensure such showmanship never rears its ugly head again.

But Khabib’s appeal cannot be reduced to simply being a nice guy intent on edifying his ill-mannered peers. In a recent instagram post directed at the UFC, the undisputed lightweight champion reminded us why he has ennobled himself in the fight business, through a gesture of defiance akin to trailblazers like Colin Kaepernick who confronted the perceived racial inequalities sustained by a power structure which Khabib currently finds himself resisting. After exposing the UFC’s double standards for failing to specify sanctions against McGregor, he threatened to quit the organisation if the Nevada State Athletic Commission to decide to fire his teammate Zubaira Tukhugov-one of the men accused of attacking McGregor in the post-fight brawl-arguing that McGregor should be reprimanded for throwing the first punch.

If daring to speak truth to power didn’t convince us of Khabib’s seriousness, the champion went on to claim that he would forfeit his $2m earnings since defending his faith and family was dearer to him than any material benefit which he would sacrifice in a heartbeat. Dana White realised this was no bluff and was forced to respond to Khabib’s ultimatum by allaying fears of the champion’s departure and softening his stance towards Zubaira.  By taking a principled stand against the jingoism and religion-baiting which the UFC President allowed to fester at his expense, Khabib, like Kaepernick, has come to symbolize something bigger than his sport by daring to challenge the juggernaut of white privilege in the UFC.

For Khabib, the recent decision by the athletic commission to withhold half of his purse is a price worth paying. Suffering in silence would be tantamount to cultural betrayal because he deems honour an inviolable and sacred ideal. While honour is a universal principle, its standards in the west have eroded to the point many deem it too tribal and antiquated a concept to cherish, despite it being a value which the founding fathers swore upon. Islam and family are Dagestani red lines in which McGregor saw only a pecuniary interest and crossed at his peril. So much so that at the end of the third round, the former lightweight champion could be heard muttering to Khabib, ‘It’s only business’, in what sounded like a pathetic plea for mercy.

What was business for Conor, was a virtue worth dying for in Khabib’s moral compass. For those drowning in the hubris of assuming there ought to be no reprisals for encroaching the cultural sensitivities of others, let the post-fight scuffle prompt us to interrogate our cultural bias. The Twitter-sphere demonstrated our varying degrees of sensitivity and perception regarding Khabib’s actions, exploding with outrage but also becoming a venting ground for voices of conscience, expressing sympathy with the undefeated champion and solidarity with marginalised communities slighted for espousing their faith and protecting their integrity.

For every critic Khabib earned after vaulting the octagon, there was a victim of bullying, xenophobia and microaggression beaming with the delight of avenged pride, leaping with him. For me, this was the moment when virtue was rewarded, vice was punished and poetic justice was served. Failing to recognise his outburst as arising from a dignified state of being is to some extent an indictment of our descent to a lower morality.

Enjoy the Silence

Written by Imran Muneer
Saudi Arabia is waging an illegal war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands and left large parts of the country a wasteland. They have been brutally repressing any form of dissent for decades. Last year they kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon. Let that sink in for a minute. They kidnapped the Prime Minister of a sovereign country! Recently, they arrested several prominent Imams and scholars for pure sport. Private enterprises within the Kingdom are collapsing due to the enactment of new government policies. And now we have the incident of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen that worked for the Washington Post that went to a Saudi Embassy in Turkey for legal documentation and left carved up in small body bags.
 
We need to acknowledge and respect the few brave individuals from our community like Dawud Walid and Dr. Shadee Elmasry who have been vocal about the Jamal Khashoggi incident but have we asked ourselves why several other respected Muslim community figures across the western world are silent over the scandal?
 
As with many things in life, you simply need to follow the money. The sad reality is that many Muslim institutions in the west have become increasingly dependent on Saudi and Gulf resources over decades. Visas for Hajj/Umrah travel enterprises, funding for educational institutes, mosque projects, etc. Many of our institutions and de facto many community leaders have become dependent on foreign governments - specially the Saudis and the UAE.
 
Despite several allies in the media setting sail and bringing to light the wholesale disregard for human life by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations committed over decades. Yet, all we hear is silence. Phrases like "speak truth to power" are now simply vehicles to deliver your message only at times it's most convenient. If you manage to confront them about their indifference, you're likely to hear Islamic terminologies "hikmah" (wisdom) or maslaha (public interest) bandied about.  Jamal Khashoggi was perhaps one of the mildest critics of Saudi Royals.  He was not an Islamist nor did he take part in any kind of dialogue that would bring nervousness towards anyone that spoke out against his murder.  Make no mistake about it - this is cruel negligence.
 
Let's at least be honest with each other and stop the charade. Give us some sense of clarity that this is all code for "not my problem" or "I'm not ready to upset my Saudi contacts". Maybe then we can start the conversation of how we can at least mitigate our dependence on foreign powers. Crown Prince MBS knows full well, the world isn't willing to sacrifice an inch for truth and justice. Let us all know it and be witness to it. Let us all at least enjoy the silence in honesty as opposed to hypocrisy.
Imran Muneer (SIM)
The Mad Mamluks
Twitter: @ImranMuneer_
Facebook: facebook.com/simuneer

Imam Siraj Wahhaj, My Friend, My Hero.

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.

McAllen TX.

Winnipeg Canada.

Des Moines Iowa.

Chicago, IL.

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.

Shaming Of The Natural Male

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."

 

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.  

 

Original Article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mostlymuslim/2017/05/muslim-men-obsessed-white-converts/#xZEfWy4dyoI6dWJL.01

Murtaza Siddiqui

October 11, 2017

The views and opinions of contributors do not necessarily equate as endorsements by The Mad Mamluks. 

Break the Echo Chamber

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.

 

 

 

Truth: Between Conviction & Delusion

written by: Mohamed Ghilan (Guest Contributor from MohamedGhilan.com)

This article appeared originally in Al Madina Institute’s Blog and was expressly authorized by the author for publication on The Mad Mamluks.

In his autobiography Deliverance from Error (Al-Munqidh Min Adh-Dhalal), Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazālī explains how he dealt with his skepticism on the path to attaining certainty regarding what beliefs he adopted. He mastered the tenets of the major intellectual movements of his time and authored books in each, garnering the praise of figures within these movements for how Imam Al-Ghazālī not only understood the core issues they were dealing with, but that he had a better grasp on them than their own scholars. Nevertheless, the intellectual activity proved to be insufficient, as it never settled his restless soul. The significance of Imam Al-Ghazālī does not lie so much in his insights about the specific deficiencies of arguments within each intellectual movement and sect during his time. Rather, it is in his realization that a discourse claiming to deal with knowledge but that cannot in turn be realized in tangible action that transforms one’s being is in reality a façade – a mirage of enlightenment.

The Arabic terms for knowledge, ‘ilm, and action, ‘amal, differ only in the order of letters. Changing the letter order once more results in the word lama’, which means brilliance. True enlightenment, which is really about having the capacity for insight, i.e., being able to see beyond what is apparent and presented to the sight, is a result of having a purified heart. Indeed, although the Beloved PBUH had his heart physically washed, the ingredients that made up the water used in that purification process have been passed down over the past generations. For us, it is a matter of consciously mixing them and doing the washing ourselves.

A purified heart is necessarily one that is connected with God. The possessor of such a heart reflexively interprets the events of their lives as reflections of Divine Attributes in light of the Big Picture. God’s mercy is not something to be judged based on a limited interaction with this world, for our presence in the world is nothing but a brief stop on the path to the Final Abode. Attachment to this temporal realm is an attachment to an illusion of the power of the self. It is the idea that I am the possessor ofmy destiny, and that my plans will get me to my goals. The delusion here lies in the fact that there is no I or me for there to be amy. That is not to say that one should stop contemplating the future and plan accordingly. But it is to point out that plans have a funny way of becoming an idol to be worshiped, albeit subconsciously, besides God. A man knocked on the Beloved PBUH’s door and when asked to identify himself he replied, “It’s me” as if the Beloved PBUH should recognize who it was from his voice, to which the Beloved PBUH replied with dislike, “It’s me! It’s me!

The Beloved PBUH taught a man who asked about whether he should tie his camel or just have reliance on God that he should “tie it and rely on God.” The teaching here is that it is upon one to strive, but it is not upon one to arrive. In other words, you must carry out the means, but do not get attached to them or to their outcomes. Rather, your possession of the camel has nothing to do with your own doing in the real sense of what that would actually entail. You have no power to sustain your own contingent and temporal existence, let alone possess any power of your own to bring another’s existence to be subjugated to yours.

Among the invocations recited during the morning and evening litanies practiced and transmitted from the Beloved PBUH is one stating, “O God, I seek from you a surprise that is good, and I seek refuge with you from a surprise that is bad.” Plans are our means to create an orderly life to minimize anxiety about the unknown. Plans give us a false sense of certainty about how life will unfold. It is a feeling of being awake when in reality we have gone to sleep. This is evident in the way many of us react when things do not go according to plan. Like the one who gets suddenly awoken in the middle of the night, we become upset and lash out due to having our imagined state of comfort disrupted, even if the person we get upset with has nothing to do with the disruption aside from being the means through which we experience it.

Our perception of the quality of surprises being “good” or “bad” is limited to our experience of the world. We heedlessly wonder about how we could reconcile God’s love and mercy with circumstances that we feel are “bad”, rather than wonder about our own perception’s validity in relation to the Big Picture. Whether what we go through life happens to be good or bad is a judgment that we cannot make until we actually get through life. Aristotle viewed that happiness can only be ascertained after one reaches the conclusion of their life and assesses the sum total. The Quran states that real life where such a judgment about happiness can be made is in the Final Abode. Our existence in this world is merely a preparation.

No calamity befalls on the Earth nor in your own selves except that it was written before it was brought into existence; surely, that is easy for God. This is so that you may not grieve for what has escaped you, nor be exultant at what He has given you.” Quran

The Beloved PBUH gave a counsel to his young cousin Ibn Abbas RA in which he told him that nothing meant for him can be prevented from reaching him even if everyone in the universe were to gather their efforts to stop it, and nothing can afflict him with harm that was not meant to afflict him even if everyone in the universe were to conspire for it to make it happen. Having certainty in the Divine Decree is a difficult thing, if not impossible, to attain if this Prophetic counsel was restricted to the intellectual realm. The achievement of this certainty can only be attained, as Imam Al-Ghazālī realized, through the path of action. “And worship your Lord until certainty reaches you.” Quran

The certainty mentioned in the verse is traditionally interpreted to mean death. However, another layer of meaning can be extracted based on the verse that says, “I have not created the Jinn and Mankind except for that they worship Me.” According to Ibn Abbas RA, what is meant here is that the purpose of creation that was to be realized through worship is to know God. In other words, the verse mentions the means to arrive at the objective. To know God is to know the Truth, and to know the Truth is to have certainty. But none of this can be realized unless one begins with acknowledging that this can only come on God’s terms, not on ours, for that “He does not get questioned about what He does. Rather, it is they who get questioned.” Quran

Knowledge of God does not come through rational contemplation. One cannot claim to know what falling in love feels like simply because they have measured oxytocin and dopamine levels and looked at functional MRI brain scans of lovers as they thought of each other. The non-rational experience of love is the only way to know what love is like. Only those in love can comprehend what Jane Austen meant by saying, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” Or better yet, only those who are enamored in love can understand what Qays ibn Al-Mulawwah meant when he said,

I kiss the dirt that your foot walks upon O Loa’yla

If it were not for you I would not be called the Afflicted One

My kissing of the dirt is not out of love for the ground

It is out of love for the one who stepped upon that dirt

I went insane because of her and have become

A lover who enjoys through her the experience of pain

Whoever tastes, they shall know, and whoever knows, they shall indulge. One of the past Muslim sages said, “The ignorant of God is one who wakes up wondering what they will do that day. The knower of God is one who wakes up wondering what God will do with them.” This statement is a reflection upon a Hadith related by the Beloved PBUH in which God says in part of it, “When I love I will be the ears with which they hear, the eyes with which they see, the hand with which they strike, and the leg with which they walk.” When one sees everything and every event as a sign meant to direct them to God, nothing will seem out of place.

Much of the spiritual crisis and doubts many experience can be attributed to the lack of personal investment and engagement in the actions prescribed by the Lawgiver. We have turned our rational powers from means to get to God into ends that everything, including God, must be subjected to. We live in a time when everything in Islam that deals with action is being explained away in a fashion that facilitates inaction. Nuance is being introduced increasingly into every aspect of Islam as it is being deconstructed to fit whatever happens to be the popular cultural movement. Instead of belief in God, we believe in ourselves, and we project a model of religion and God based on our own notions of what constitutes love, mercy, bigotry, and tolerance. There is a metaphysical effect to observing the Sacred Law that is undermined by its abandonment. Prayer is not a set of stretching exercises, the Hijab is not about men, and fasting is not about losing weight. Before one asks, “Where is God?” they must first cease from participating in this circumambulation around the ego in a collective act of self-worship. Only then will the world no longer be a veil between us the Unseen.

Mohamed Ghilan

 

Author Bio:

Mohamed Ghilan is a Canadian Muslim originally born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to parents from Sudanese and Yemeni backgrounds. He attended high school after immigrating to Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia. Eventually, Mohamed moved to Victoria where he obtained a B.Sc. with a major in microbiology (honours) and a minor in business administration.

In 2007 Mohamed began his full time studies in the Islamic Tradition after having made connections with several Muslim scholars. He has been consistently travelling over the past years to spend intensive extended periods studying various aspects of the Islamic sciences relating to Theology and Creed, Jurisprudence, Hadith, Foundational Principles (Usool), Arabic, Poetry, spiritual purification, and Qur’anic sciences.

Mohamed has previously given lectures on the biography of the Prophet Muhammed peace be upon him, Fundamentalism in Islam, Islam and science, the message of Islam, Jesus in the Qur’an, in addition to others. He has also taught an introductory course on Islamic Jurisprudence according to the Maliki School as well as an introductory course on Islamic Theology (‘Aqeedah).

In May 2015, Mohamed earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Victoria, where he studied synaptic plasticity in Huntington’s disease, as well as the effects and molecular mechanisms of stress on the brain in Fragile X syndrome. He hopes his research can eventually be used to develop new therapies can be used to assist individual with movement disorders or intellectual disabilities.

This article appeared originally in Al Madina Institute’s Blog and was expressly authorized by the author for publication on The Mad Mamluks.

The views and opinions of guest contributors do not necessarily equate as endorsements by The Mad Mamluks. 

The Value of Destruction to Modern Islamic Scholarship

written by: Daniel Haqiqatjou (Guest Contributor from MuslimSkeptic.com)

My dad has always been a very handy person and loves to take on home projects mashaAllah. When I was young, he would try to get me to help him and I never really enjoyed it but I still ended up learning a lot.

One of the things he taught me early on is that when you start a project, you have to make sure you are working on a clean, solid site. For example, if you want to re-paint the side of your house, you first have to clean off any old paint, take off any rotting wood, etc. Only after all that prep work is done can you actually start painting. You can always just forget the prep work and put new paint on top of the old stuff, but within a short period of time, the new paint will start to crack and peel and things will be even worse than before.

The same principle applies to pouring concrete or installing a new deck. The first step is crucial: disassemble, deconstruct, and, if needed, destroy the old structure and remove the debris and once the site is clear and level, then you can rebuild something that is solid and will last. It would be counterproductive and quite silly to try to build something on the shaky remains of the previous structure because the final product, no matter how well-built it otherwise is, will likely be just as shaky and prone to collapse and dilapidation as the original. Also if you are trying to build on the remains of the original structure, you will have to make adjustments and compensations to accommodate what you are building on. Rather than build something according to your own preferences and needs, you now have to build something which suits and takes into account what you are building on top of.

All this is just a metaphor for a situation our contemporary ulama have to deal with in the course of their scholarly work in light of modern issues. In this metaphor, the old paint or the old dilapidated structure is modernism and its concomitant -isms: liberalism, scientism, feminism, secularism, etc. This is the stuff that needs to be dismantled and thoroughly cleaned out because if a scholar builds on this, even if what he builds is of the highest quality and the most sound erudition, the end result is still going to be lopsided, shaky, and liable to collapse. But if the rot is scraped off and discarded, leaving a pristine, level work site, that is when the alim can build a true and lasting masterpiece bi idhnillah.

This is why we see so much tawfiq from our scholarly predecessors. They were building on solid ground. They were building on top of the solid scholarship of those before them, all of which was built on the unshakable foundation of revelation and the Prophet's sunna ﷺ. And that is how they were able to create this unmatched monument of intellectual and spiritual achievement that is the Islamic sacred sciences.

But at the dawn of the modern period, as the Muslims lost political power and European modernist philosophy increasingly became the dominant mode of thought around the world and in Muslim societies as well, that's when some of the discourse and some of the scholarship became reactive. All of a sudden, scholars are having to respond to these -isms and/or write their opinions in light of them, whether due to social pressure or political pressure or even outright coercion by colonizers and other agents of Western hegemony. And of course this -- knowingly or unknowingly -- affected the content of that scholarship. In effect, some of that scholarship ended up being built on rot.

We need to clean out the rot. We need to deconstruct and dismantle it and discard the rubbish. Then we can resume building with confidence and on our own terms, once again showing the world that nothing can match the magnificence and awe-inspiring splendor of this deen.

Daniel Haqiqatjou

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, Texas. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou is also a student of the traditional Islamic sciences. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity.
The views and opinions of guest contributors do not necessarily equate as endorsements by The Mad Mamluks. 

Solomon’s Horses: What are the legal and moral implications for creating Strong AI in Sharia?

written by: Joe Bradford (Guest Contributor from JoeBradford.net)

A few days ago, Yonatan Zunger released “Artificial Intelligence, Talmud, and Sharia.” After reading this very interesting piece, I decided I’d attempt to add to the conversation specifically in the area of Sharia/Islamic thought.

Before we talk about the problem of creating Strong AI, let’s talk about how Islamic law categorizes rulings. While Yonatan  presents this as an issue of encouragement vs. prohibition, Islamic Law offers a few other choices. Laws falls under one of five categories: Obligatory, Encouraged, Unrestricted, Discouraged, and Forbidden. Creating strong AI may fall under any of these five.

Yonatan  is correct that statues (tamāthīl) appears in the Quran two times. One during the story of Abraham with his people, the other in during the building of Solomon’s temple. An interesting caveat to the story of Abraham is paring the term statues with the terms idols (aṣnām). “What are these statues (tamāthīl) to which you pay devotion?” and after their answer he replies “By God I will plot against these idols (aṣnām) of yours after you turn and leave.”

The question is then: Why did Abraham swear to plot against these idols? The answer is found in the function they fulfilled for his people “We found our forefathers worshiping them” (21:53) In other verses Abraham questions them saying “He asked: So you worship other than God that which can neither benefit you or harm you? Uff to you and what you worship other than God; Have you no intellect?! They reacted: Burn him! Give victory to your gods! If you will do anything!” (21:66)

Note that these verses highlight the folly of idolatry: the inability of corporeal, created matter to benefit or harm, making them unworthy of worship being directed to them. In another verse (26:97) polytheists lament their having taken idols on the Day of Judgment saying “By God we swear, we were in clear misguidance, when we equated you to the Lord of the Worlds.” In 39:3 God states “Should not sincere faith be for God? Those who take less than him as protectors say: we only worship them to approximate us in closeness to him…” In the story of Moses, his people are said to have passed by a group of idolaters and said “Give us a god like they have gods. Moses responded: You are an ignorant people; those people’s situation is in pieces and their actions are invalid.” (7:138-139)

And since I feel so much more can be said about this, I’ll sum up what I understand here: that the taking of objects as equals to God or as intermediaries to him, is forbidden. These verses add another layer to the discussion, namely allowing these man-made objects to occupy a place in the human psyche above man, either as an intermediary to or as an equal to God.

Now let’s juxtapose this to the verses mentioning Solomon, as well as a pertinent hadith to Solomon’s court. Bukhari records a hadith in which a toy is found with Aishah. The Prophet asks her “What is this?” She replies: “This is a horse.” He “And what are these?” pointing to two straps of leather hanging from its sides. She replies “These are its wings.” He says “A horse with wings?!” She replies: “Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings?” So the Prophet laughed so hard you could see his molars.

The point here being, as elucidated by most exegetes of Bukhari, is that 1) toys are not the same as idols/statues and that 2) the power of imagination can at times take shape in the real world, representing things that but for the power of imagination would never have existed.

Perhaps what this tells us is that if and when objects of human creation, while similar to objects of God’s creation, if and when they fulfill as cognitive function, educational or recreational, they are wholly different than those that fulfill emotional functions, spiritual or devotional, which seek to supplant, parallel, or challenge the divine creative process. This speaks directly to the derogative use of the phrase “challenging God” in several hadith directed to those that create statues or images of God’s creation. If all such creations were included in this prohibition, then even those that were products of the human imagination (like “Solomon’s horses”) would be as well.

This would take care of the problem presented by Yonatan  when he referred to the creation of Golems in Jewish thought. So while one does not and should never worship anything he has the ability to create himself, he must also treat with care those things that, while products of the human imagination, are symbols or tools for the recreation or education of man.

So does this mean that Islamic thought would permit the creation of a Strong AI? I think the better question is: Can man create something that is equal to human intelligence? Is true AI even possible? Perhaps the story of Adam alludes to this, when it refers to God “teaching Adam the names of everything…” essentially imparting to him the ability to intelligently discern his surroundings in a manner more optimal than all other creation.

So while Angels are described as not “disobeying God in what they were ordered and doing what they are commanded” and when challenged to apprise the nature of things presented to them respond to God saying: “Glory to You, we have no knowledge but what You have taught us”. Adam on the other hand (and thus man) is described as having “informed them of all their names” with God then proclaiming that only he knows the hidden in heavens and earth, and what “you present openly and that which you conceal.” (2:30-33)

Walking on thin ice here, I’ll say perhaps the difference between these two intelligent beings is – ala Searle – the difference between being able to syntactically process information versus the ability to semantically process it.

So would Islamic thought allow for the creation of a Strong AI? I don’t believe that it would allow the possibility of a true AI to exist, given that the power of creation is of God’s dominion alone. To claim ascendancy to human intellect I believe would be violation of Islamic beliefs (kufr). Worse even would be to claim ascendancy to divine intellect and power (shirk).

But if an AI were created, the assumption here would be that this AI would never truly possess an intellectual capability that is functionally equal to a human’s, but may serve a purpose that is recreational or educational in the service of mankind. Being a part of creation, it would be at the service of mankind (2:29) and would be due the dignity of stewardship (2:30).

So back to where we started: how would these five categories of law apply here? The building of an AI would be unrestricted, yet given its purpose would transition to the other rulings mentioned. The Islamic legal principle being that “Means take the ruling of their objective.” So what is the objective of attempting a Strong AI? If to build systems that can better serve the safety and health of humanity as a whole, this may be obligatory or at least highly encouraged. If to challenge God’s power and promote disbelief, subjugate others, or harm them individuals or the public, this would be prohibited. But for any of these things, building an AI would seem to remain unrestricted, with the caveat that Islamic thought would challenge the impossibility of a true AI ever existing.

Whether or not that AI would it be a person? Well that’s another lengthy discussion.

Joe Bradford

Joe Bradford is an American scholar of Islam, Author, instructor, entrepreneur, and ethical investments advisor.  He regularly lectures on topics such as Islamic law, legal theory, financial ethics, and thought.

www.joebradford.net

@JoeBradfordNet

This article was originally published on JoeBradford.net and was expressly authorized by the author for publication on The Mad Mamluks.

The views and opinions of guest contributors do not necessarily equate as endorsements by The Mad Mamluks. 

The Muslim Narrative

Summer Zehra | The Mad Mamluks

Since 9/11, Muslim Americans have gone through various stages that have been shaped by a largely reactionary approach to the mainstream narrative. Muslims adamantly proclaimed that all Muslims are not terrorists, followed by most Muslims love peace, then a flurry of reminders of Muslim accomplishments in the past (Al-Jabra and coffee!) . After this, Muslims have been constantly trying to bring modern accomplishments into the spotlight.  As if that wasn’t enough to prove that we are human beings with various strengths and capabilities, Muslims are now at the next stage:

Look, Muslims can integrate! We can run, jump, cook, write, be politicians, musicians, activists, designers and appear on magazine covers. It is crucial that there are genuine Muslim narratives being presented in the mainstream, but each of these things are often received with a condescending tone of awe and amazement. It’s anxiety-inducing, not only because there is the implied and unfair burden of representing an entire faith group of 1.3 billion people with your every action, but now it must also prove how American you are? Like Clinton’s remarks that Muslims are “on the frontline of fighting terrorism” or like Trump’s stance that all Muslims should be banned. Is there no middle ground, where we’re just people?

Why is there all this undue pressure to prove that Muslims are diverse? The practice of Islam as a religion varies from country to country, neighborhood to neighborhood and even from person to person. We know and readily accept that Christianity and Judaism have a spectrum. We’ve seen and lived with the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean a Nun has to put out a designer line at NYFW for us to value her or realize she is a complex person. Nor does an Orthodox Jewish woman need to promote her views on illicit magazines for us to accept different worldviews. Similarly, Muslims are all along a spectrum of faith and action.  In fact, the same Muslim person may hop around the spectrum throughout their lives, as their life experiences, worldviews change and they evolve.

The narrative and voices will continue to evolve to highlight what is important and relevant. But what is more critical than integrating with a particular country’s culture to seek acceptance in that country, is Muslims around the world just needing to be recognized as diverse, beautiful, flawed and mainly, just human.

 

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