Can’t Have A Community If You Don’t Show Up

Alienation? Detachment? Loneliness? Sound familiar? This, and more, is what I so often hear from Muslims when I run into them (everywhere else but the center). But why are so many of us feeling like we’ve lost our sense of community? Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the way in which we often diagnose the issue to begin with.

This afternoon I happened to run into a sister at a local coffee shop with whom I’m fairly well acqainted. Upon seeing me, she lamented about feeling detached from Islam, from Allah, from community. We spoke on the importance of having a community as it relates to the well-being of one’s Deen or religious/spiritual practice. She related that so many of the masajid that she attends either (a) are unwelcoming, (b) speak in a language (this case, the khutbah being all in Arabic) she doesn’t understand or (c) in a vernacular she finds irrelevant. While I sympathized at how all of those could be frustrating I also comically pointed out that (a) I was that Imam who quit his job over some of these very issues (racism, irrelevancy, etc.) but had also, along with a group of like-minded and forward-thinking Muslims, built a place that seeks to provide the very things she claimed to long for: a welcoming environment that offered religious tutelage in an environment that (we hope!) is welcoming and relevant. My point being, we’re never going to overcome these challenges if we don’t even show up. And what’s amazing is that if we just begin with showing up, many of those maladies (loneliness, alienation, etc.) seem to slowly go away; maybe not overnight, but they do abate. Fundamentally, we must switch from an entitlement world-view (or community-view) in which we feel everything ought to be all set up and ready to go before we walk in the door. We have to show up first, and work cooperatively to make things how we (and others) would like them to be. So when I asked her why she didn’t show up she just smiled and said, “I’ll have to change that.” It all begins by just showing up.

That’s what we’re working to bring to you at Middle Ground. May Allah give us Islam, guidance, and mercy. Amin.

Can A Humanist Sustainability Work?

Edward Humes Garbology is a fascinating read. In it, he points to numerous challenges plaguing modern man, namely the issue of waste and how it not only degrades the natural environment but actually cases harm to humans. I know many secular humanists who hold to the notion that, to quote Matt Damon’s botanist, Mark Watney, “I’m gonna have to have to science the shit out of this”.

But what’s most striking is that it’s science, or perhaps more accurately, scientism, that got us into this issue in the first place. I make the designation of scientism, in that it is precisely that humanist strain of science which has sought to divorce itself from religious and spiritual ethics. Humanism, according to dictionary definition is “a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual”. It is specifically this “autonomous self”, detached from the natural world — through its “rational” mechanics — which gives license to itself to treat the world as mere objects, having no sign or significance beyond their molecules and atoms.

So how, precisely, are we going to science the feces out of our conundrum when the malady points to a much deeper diagnosis: schizophrenic god-complex. Schizophrenia in that modern man is caught between expelling God and attempting to be God himself. Thus far, the “science-ing the shit out of this” theory doesn’t seem to hold water.

American Muslims and the Need To Be on the Right Side of Society

Daniel Haqiqatjou, of the Yaqeen Institute, brings to light an important topic challenging American Muslims: the pressure many feel to be on the “right side” of a whole cadre of subjects ranging from Darwinism and eurocentric science to homosexuality. Paraphrasing Marwa Elshakry1 from her Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950, Haqiqatjou says,

accepting Darwinism was due less to a careful intellectual assessment of the theory and more to Muslim intellectuals, politicians, and elites simply signaling their social and political alignment with modernization, secularization, and Europeanization. Likewise, the rejection of Darwinism by traditional Muslim scholars and their students was at times a marker of their general opposition to colonialism and its cultural and religious impact on Muslim society

What’s important to note here is that while Haqiqatjou’s article speaks to the question of will American Muslims adopt Darwinism wholesale or not, the phenomenon he outlines is even more critically important. The bigger question is not the embracing Darwinism “inevitable”, but more urgently, is the abandoning of an independent skepticism — regarding all that is western and its implied bias that that which is western is inately better — inevitable? Will Muslims, due to pressure from their society as well as a collapse of a relevantless leadership in the face of these challenges, relinquish the ability to think on their own? If this happens, the question not only becomes “how will Muslims thrive in the West”, but also how can they contrinute to it as Muslims, with any sort of Muslim genius, if intellectually Muslims cast themselves into the dustbin of bygone ideas?

You can read Haqiqatjou’s article here.

Notes

1. Elshakry, Marwa. Reading Darwin in Arabic: 1860-1950. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

#MiddleGroundPodcast – Isra & Mi’raj: A New Hope


[Direct download]

a’ra’ja/ya’ruju and a’ri/ja/ya’raju: one means to ascend, the other to limp or hobble along.

Mi’raj was an uplifting (lit.) event at a time when the Prophet would experience great emotional loss and hardship:

  1. the death of his uncle Abu Talib (who shielded his nephew from the Makkans who sought to harm him) and
  2. his wife of nearly a quarter century, Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her.

Think about all of the things that the Prophet saw on Mi’raj: Jibril, the Prophets, etc. All these miraculous things before his very eyes and yet what is it that Allah orders His prophet to do upon returning from Mi’raj? Leave Makkah. Leave his home. But not just leave his ancestral home for nothing: build a new home. Build the City of the Prophet: Madinah al-Nabi.

The Prophet, after having seen things, experienced things which leave no doubt in the mind and the heart, set out to make a new home with others. Mi’raj imbued the Prophet with an even stronger conviction in the belief in Allah. That conviction and belief mandated he bring others together: conviction in God brought about unity, not division.

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقاتِهِ وَلا تَموتُنَّ إِلّا وَأَنتُم مُسلِمونَ

وَاعتَصِموا بِحَبلِ اللَّهِ جَميعًا وَلا تَفَرَّقوا ۚ وَاذكُروا نِعمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيكُم إِذ كُنتُم أَعداءً فَأَلَّفَ بَينَ قُلوبِكُم فَأَصبَحتُم بِنِعمَتِهِ إِخوانًا وَكُنتُم عَلىٰ شَفا حُفرَةٍ مِنَ النّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِنها ۗ كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُم آياتِهِ لَعَلَّكُم تَهتَدونَ

وَلتَكُن مِنكُم أُمَّةٌ يَدعونَ إِلَى الخَيرِ وَيَأمُرونَ بِالمَعروفِ وَيَنهَونَ عَنِ المُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ المُفلِحونَ

Hope

Just when things seemed bleak, Allah made a way out for the Prophet. But it wasn’t all milk and honey. He lost his wife, his uncle. But because he was hopeful, he gave so many others hope and brought so much good to the world.

For other khutbahs and podcasts, see the Middle Ground Podcast.