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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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By The Mad Mamluks — 3 years ago
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 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.Post Views: 241
By The Mad Mamluks — 3 years ago
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 HaqiqatjouDaniel 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.Post Views: 220