Between Political Theories and Truth-Claims: American Muslims and Liberalism

On Saturday mornings at Middle Ground I teach a class entitled, The Dr. Sherman Jackson Reader, in which we explore his various articles, books, and essays. Currently we are reading his piece, The Impact of Liberalism, Secularism & Atheism On The American Mosque. In it, Dr. Jackson reminds us of a point that is not only worth considering but also provides some strategy in how Muslims might address the challenge of liberalism as well as to how we might address our own community members who have been enchanted with its claims.

Undoubtedly liberalism (in distinction to liberal thought) is one of the biggest challenges facing (American) Muslims today. Many Muslim leaders, thinkers, and intellectuals have taken to deconstructing its theories, some better than others. And while this is all fine to do I find one overarching aspect missing to these critiques, namely the setting up of liberalism and Islam as equals or peers. I do not mean equals or peers in a hierarchical sense: That Islam is better than liberalism or vice versa. No, what I mean here is the false-equating that essentially we’re talking about two things in a manner which implies they are of the same species. As Dr. Jackson points out, liberalism,

“…aspires to [be] a political theory, not an overall philosophy of life. In other words, its primary aim is to regulate relations between individuals and the state and between individuals and each other in the political sphere. In theory, therefore, liberal commitments need not govern life outside the political realm.”

This point is very important as we contrast it, liberalism, to Islam (and to any religious tradition for that matter) which, at its core, is a truth-claim. These two things are very different animals and their differences must be accentuated, not dulled, if there is to be not only any meaningful critique of liberalism by American Muslims, but also any reconciliation between Islam and liberal thought.

Liberalism, by process of dissemination, often takes on the psuedo-form of a truth-claim, undoubtedly the source of what mucks up the waters of our understanding. As Dr. Jackson says again,

“…even if political liberalism does not set out to be an overall philosophy of life, it turns out to be virtually indistinguishable from such in terms of its actual effect, not only in the political sphere but everywhere.”

It is this masquerading of political philosophy as a truth-claim that is one half of the issue. We receive notions of a “liberal life” through various American institutions such as schools, universities, and even government agencies, as well as popular culture. But if liberalism is guilty of masquerading as a truth-claim, many Muslims are equally guilty of masquerading Islam as only a political ideology, the other half of our issue. As we shall see, it’s not that Islam cannot have political assertions, as it were, but that any such assertions are secondary to its truth-claims. Simply put, Islam may have something to say about political/secular/mundane things, and it may not.  The result of this conflation leaves American Muslims, more often than not, talking past liberalism as much as they are attempting to speak to it. In doing so, American Muslims unwittingly give a misplaced credibility to the notion of liberalism as a truth-claim by treating it as such, versus addressing it for what it is: a means of negotiating the individual with either other individuals, or the State.

The reason for this conflation, in my opinion, is likely due to the fact that many American Muslims themselves (leaders included) have been coopted by, or, bought into, liberalism, as manifested by younger Muslims who “see little value in anything beyond the ability to pursue personal interest”, according to Dr. Jackson. In many ways this is a re-articulation of the “unmosqued” generation-X Muslims who often feel estranged in Muslim spaces that do not cater to their every whim.

What is muddling up the contention between these two (political philosophy versus truth-claim) is as much the fault of liberals as it is Muslims (these two camps are not mutually exclusive). To address the Muslim perspective, all too often modern Muslims, influenced by liberalism and secularism, attempt to take Islam into arenas it is not meant to go. For example, let us have liberalism ask the questions, “What is a good life?”, “Where do we come from?” as well as, “What’s for dinner?” As a political philosophy, whose main goal and objective is to negotiate the individual against other individuals/the State, liberalism would have nothing to say to any of these three questions in as much as it remains truthful to being a political philosophy.

Let us ply the same questions to Muslim scripture and tradition. If we ask, as Muslims, “What is a good life?”, or “Where do we come from”, there are numerous Qur’anic verses and Prophetic narrations (hadith) that can adequately address these inquiries, at least from a Muslim point of view. However, when it comes to “What’s for dinner?”, the same truthful commitment (liberalism above) has to be equally applied now to Islam, if Islam is to remain a truth-claim: Muslims must concede that neither the Qur’an nor the life of the Prophet can adequately tell us “What’s for dinner”.

The contrast here is important: liberalism, a philosophical commitment which privileges the self as the “ultimate decider” of authority, would be unable to render an answer as to what to put on your dinner plate. In essence, its response would simply be, “what ever you like”. Islam, as a truth-claim, while being able to tell us what we cannot eat, or what is impermissible to drink, is not the same as telling us to choose a Whooper over a Big Mac, let alone whether we ought to even eat a cheeseburger in the first place. My point being, all too often we drag things into areas that they have no means to speak authoritatively on. The result in this case is to reduce Islam to a secular or political ideology, incapable of speaking to the question at hand. In the case of liberalism, when we move it beyond the pale of negotiating our realities, we make it a false truth-claim. And as for Islam, we reduce it to a false secular/political ideology. The danger here with Islam (and religion in general), is that if I can coerce or force Islamic sources to articulate that a Whooper is “what’s for dinner”, then my eating a Big Mac is not simply me exercising my right to choose one over the other, but is in fact a move against the Will of God.

So where does this leave American Muslims in their stance towards liberalism? The first is to advocate that liberalism be treated as a thought process versus a truth-claim. In fact, many of liberalism’s claims (autonomy/self-law vs. heteronomy/external-law) can be demonstrated to not be truthful to itself! As a crude example, when one stops at an intersection, obeying tacit commands from a traffic signal displaying “red”, we stop. This is most certainly an external authority that inhibits our freedom (of movement), yet liberals express no qualm over stopping at a red light or decrying their individual rights of self-determination/movement have been infringed upon. While some liberals would claim this is nothing other than what John Rawls argued in what he called “public reason”, when it comes to something a bit more sophisticated than traffic rules, Rawlsian liberalism* often privileges the rich over the poor, the powerful over the powerless. What it does show is that (American) Muslims need not be entirely opposed to liberal thought: as yet to date I am unaware of any Muslims filing complaints about traffic lights impinging on their religious or secular freedoms. In fact, this turns on its head the common misnomer that “Muslims are not compatible with the West”, “democracy”, or other such nonsense. What American Muslims can do is demonstrate the fallacy of the ‘ism in liberalism: (American) Muslims can commit to the common good, as (truth-claiming) Muslims, while still calling into the question the scope to which liberal thought is applied, especially in instances when it does not render a common good.

In the end, this moves American Muslims to a much better social position by which they can engage their fellow Americans, even those who do not share their truth-claims to La ilaha ill’Allah, “There is no god except God”. It also preserves Islam (and religion in general in America) as a truth-claim, saving their religion from being misused, misapplied, and mishandled, and instead, used and applied towards answering the most enduring and meaningful questions.

* Rawls feared that people might not be able to find enough common ground to resolve their differences. If A is able to invoke his ideology against B, B will fear that he cannot get a fair hearing and walk away from negotiations, leaving the conflict outstanding, perhaps to the tune of violence. As a solution, Rawls proposed that all parties be made to argue their positions on the basis of what he called “public reason,” and that only arguments based on public reason be accepted. Public reason is not indebted to or based on any of the competing parties’ concrete ideological commitments; rather, it draws upon what they all share in common. For example, Muslims, Jews and atheists might disagree over the authority of the Qur’ān, but they can all agree to ban crack-cocaine, based on the mutually shared value of health-preservation. See the rest in Dr. Jackson’s article.

Extras

Religion As Part of a Good Life. A khutbah delivered on January 20th, 2017.

Generation X-Box. An episode from the Middle Ground Podcast.

Another Example of Why Islamophobia Is White Supremacy

“The Good News for the soul may appear as so much Bad News for the intellect; free-thinking is the last thing to be expected in reading a religious document.”Charles Grey Shaw

I have always found those who espouse “free-thinking” as nothing other than intellectual smugness and prejudice against those of faith. Critical to that smugness has been an assumption that faith — implicating the faithful — is expressed and lived under a regime of compulsion. In as much as this animosity is directed towards religion in general — a child of the Enlightenment — it is assumed to apply doubly so towards Islam, the quintessential pre-Enlightenment religion.

In the article, Lindsay Lohan May Have Made Her Worst Life Choice Yet, dated January 18th, 20171 and published on the website The Hill, Robert Spencer, noted Muslim bigot and pseudo-intellectual, has taken to trolling those who choose (or those who appear to choose) to become Muslim. Lohan, who has led a life full of tabloid sensationalism, publicly expressed empathy towards Muslims (though her conversion is as of yet, unconfirmed) which in turn irked Spencer. In the view of Islamophobes,  why would a white western woman want to give up her freedom? Doesn’t a modern, secular, post-Christendom West have all Logan, and any white women for that matter, could need? It would seem these attributes, Lohan’s femininity and whiteness, were what exercised so much outrage in Spender and continues to enrage the Islamophobe cottage industry. And it is for these two qualities that Islamophobia reveals itself to be nothing other than a modern articulation of white supremacy.

The intersection of whiteness and femininity are nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as America herself. Many Southern defenders of slavery were not only committed to theological interpretations of Christian scripture to justify slavery but many also fought against its abolition on the grounds of preserving white womanhood. White supremacists treated any attack on white womanhood to be an equally committed attack on the South as a whole (and vice versa). As W. J. Cash wrote in his The Mind of the South,

“…the central status that Southern woman had long ago taken up in Southern emotion — her identification with the very notion of the South itself. For, with this in view, it is obvious that the assault on the South would be felt as, in some true sense, an assault on her also, and that the South would inevitably translate its whole battle into terms of her defense.”2

Indeed, if we fast forward nearly seventy-five years, we find this ideology just as enduring as it was nearly a century ago. Dylann Roof, the murderer of nine black Christian parishioners, justified his massacre in part (as related to the whole of America!) to the preservation of white women, saying,

“I have to do it,” he reportedly said as he reloaded his gun five different times. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.”3

The so-called Islamophobe industry is inseparable from white supremacy as we see above and it will only be dealt with accordingly and efficiently when it is called as such. Additionally, Spencer’s words reveal that he is not only committed to white supremacist ideology, but also to Orientalist ideology. Spencer is only able to see Muslims, those who empathize with them as well as those who might aspire to be Muslim, as irrevocably Other than him, and the West. As Walter G. Andrews comments in his review of Thierry Hentsch’s Imagining the Middle East,

“Westerners—have created our selves, our Western selves, by creating an Orient in relation to which we are the West.”4

Spencer has fallen into the all-too-familiar trap of the “clash of civilizations” trope. His objection to Lohan’s (speculated) embracing of Islam is not rooted in, for example, theological disagreements (these would be perfectly acceptable), but in a rejection that is committed to Islam being the total opposite of western civilization. In other words, if Lohan has become a Muslim, she has ceased to be a westerner. Spencer objects to her choice of finding other truths outside the truths as expressed in the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition (her words, as he quotes them, are, “to find another true meaning”). It would seem that Spencer is denying that Islam and, vis-a-vie Muslims, can neither hold nor express any truth-claims; that is the sole purview of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Would he also then deny truth-claims to the Chinese, the Japanese, or any other non-JC tradition? If his objection is rooted in so-called acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims, then not only would he be obliged to discount the Chinese and the Japanese in their truth-claims, but Spencer would also have to forfeit the Judeo-Christian tradition itself in its truth-claims as their have been uncountable acts of violence perpetrated against others (Native Americans, Asians, African-Americans, etc.). This brings us back full-circle to his support of white supremacy as a value system: whites/westerners, and only whites/westerners can commit acts of violence and still retain their humanity, worthiness and claims to truth and beauty.

What is also worthy of note is the difference between how the Islamophobe community has treated Lohan’s (speculated) conversion with that of pop-star, Janet Jackson’s. Pamela Geller, a fellow peer of Spencer’s in anti-Muslim circles, berates the new Muslim as a “has-been rock star” who has been “bought” by the Islamic world5. Geller’s words are ripe with many white supremacist and racist overtones. While Spencer berates Lohan for being duped, Geller’s racist assumptions, rather, assert that Jackson, who is African-American, is owned, not simply by her husband, but by the entire Muslim world. Why is Jackson understood here to have been “bought” where Lohan is not? The allusion to blacks as slaves cannot be missed in Geller’s rant, whereas Lohan is simply described as having lost “her moral compass … long ago”. Jackson, according to Geller, is simply fulfilling her slave-heritage whereas Lohan is guilelessly misinformed.

Spencer also commits one of the most common offenses of his ilk, which is that of intellectual sloppiness peddled as academic authority. Spencer has chosen to ignore the scholarship which challenges his claims on Qur’anic interpretation; Muslim as well as non-Muslim scholarship. Spencer reveals his ignorance of traditional Muslim scholarship as well as his arrogance in disregarding it when speaking to a number of verses in the Qur’an. One example, is his claim to the Qur’an sanctioning “wife-beating”6 as found in Chapter 4, verse 34. The command in question is, in the Arabic transliteration, “wa darabahunna”. Spencer chooses to ignore centuries of scholarship that adamantly declares that the verse is not a sanction for a man to beat his wife. And most strikingly of all, there cannot be found any evidence to support the Prophet beating any of his own wives, even though several were known to have spirited and defiant attitudes. Not only can such an account not be found in the defenders of the Prophet but also none can be found in the statements of his enemies, who spared no quarter or opportunity to badger or delegitimize the Prophet. What is more at work here again, is the same white supremacist and Orientalist ideologies at work which impugn non-whites and Muslims as inherently violent and sexually rapacious.

That Lindsay Logan finds value where Spencer finds devaluation only speaks to the reality that Islam itself confirms: not everyone is going to find truth in the Qur’an. That some white western women may come to see value in Islam undoubtedly rings the bells of alarm in white supremacist and Islamophobic camps. Claiming that, “Lindsay Lohan likely doesn’t know that any of this is in Islamic teaching” is nothing other than prejudice and absurdity masquerading in academic robes. It will take more than cherry picking a few Prophetic narrations out of context — out of historical understandings, to pass muster as legitimate scholarship. But Spencer’s words should rally Muslims to the call of addressing yet another incident of “credibility gap”, as coined by Dr. Sherman Jackson. For in the absence of our community striving to push for academic standards (which is not the same as everyone liking Islam or agreeing with Muslim truth-claims) we will continue to be impotent in the struggle for making our voices, and most importantly our intentions, not only heard, but understood.

References

  1. Spencer’s op-ed for The Hill, “Lindsay Lohan May Have Made Her Worst Life Choice Yet” has been taken down supposedly due to protests over its contents. You may look at the text of the original article here.
  2. Cash, W. J. The Mind of the South. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1941.
  3. ‘You Rape Our Women and Are Taking Over Our Country.’ The Telegraph, June 18th, 2015.
  4. Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Vol. 27, No. 2 (December 1993), pp. 272-273.
  5. Janet Jackson: From Bare Breasted to Burka. By Pamela Geller. October 24th, 2016
  6. Spencer. Original article here.

Deviant Attributes and Behaviors – Do Muslims Blame The Poor Or Uplift Them?

To say that our thoughts are not entirely our own, as American Muslims, would be something of an understatement. There are tremendous forces being applied to our community: some political; others societal. Others yet, philosophical. And within all three of these are the proverbial carrots I’ve mentioned before, dangling in front of our eager faces. Of those carrots I want to speak on here is our attitude towards the poor, how it’s been influenced by aspirational whiteness and American mythology, and how we’ve adopted attitudes towards aspects of our own community, and the American poor in general, that is distasteful as well as undermining, both in terms of our perception in America and most importantly, in the sight of God.

Most American Muslims would fall within the designation of, as Amitai Etzioni puts it, “illiberal moderates”1, though given Etzioni penned this thoughts in 2007, I wonder how thoroughly the label “illiberal” would apply versus a more direct, “liberal”. Ruminations aside, my point is to say that a majority of American Muslims would in essence consider themselves moral conservatives. However, given the fact that ever increasing numbers of American Muslims are educated and reared in a liberal society, steeped in racism as well as American mythologies about the salvific nature of “hard work”, it is easy to see how those of a morally conservative stripe can still espouse assumptions about the poor, especially poor Blackamericans.

That immigrant Muslims were and continue to be baited by white aspirationalism is nothing unique to immigrants. Almost every racial and ethnic group that migrated to the States has had the same incentive to buy into whiteness. In fact, this goes a long way to explaining the attitude many American Muslims have towards the poor. Buying into whiteness has always been a package deal, requiring one to also adopt their attitudes towards the less fortunate, an attitude that vilifies them more often than it seeks to empathize and uplift the poor. And this tendency to impugn the poor is found in liberal as well as conservative political rhetoric in America. Whereas traditional conservative rhetoric would seek to ensconce black inferiority in genetics, liberals would often focus on the so-called cultural inferiority of blacks in America, nothing other than a veiled attempt to re-articulate “theories about racial differences in culture, values, and even intelligence”2. I conflate black and poor here because this is also part and parcel of whiteness and its conclusions about black folks in America, conclusions many immigrant Muslims willingly accept: blackness and poverty are one and the same; to be black automatically connotes poverty.

I would like to take a moment to highlight the flaws in these conflations and assumptions regarding race (blackness in particular) and poverty. First is to look at the source of poverty and disadvantage in the black community3. As Thomas Sugrue writes in his groundbreaking 1996 work, The Origins of the Urban Crisis,

“whites, through the combined advantages of race and residence, were able to hoard political and economic resources—jobs, public services, education, and other goods—to their own advantage at the expense of the urban [predominantly black] poor.”4

This glaring fact of a “forgotten history of actions” turns on its head the guilt and responsibility whiteness assumes black folks had in their own condition, asserting that poor blacks are the sole responsible party regarding their social condition. Immigrant Muslims, vis-a-vie aspirational whiteness, bought into this hook, line, and sinker. Ignored is the responsibility that “policymakers, large corporations, small businesses (particularly realtors), and ordinary citizens” had in the making of an urban black poor. While whites may be the original creators of this myth, immigrant Muslims have largely “reinforced racial and class inequalities” by towing the party line of whiteness and its attitudes towards Blackamericans. Ironically, American immigrant Muslims, and their descendants, are now having their narrative reshaped by similar external forces.

To help contextualize this phenomenon, so it is not to be misconstrued or mistaken for anti-immigrant Muslim bashing, I will point out some factors that led to this misstep. First that comes to mind is the American educational system itself. Given that many American Muslims, the children of immigrants, were educated in American public schools, this goes a long way as to why an alternative narrative was never presented to non-black American Muslims. The American public educational system has a long track record of having been complicit in forwarding a variety of myths that circumscribe the black experience in America. Far from being historically accurate, the public education system, as often a PR wing of American white supremacist society as not, has either ignored the plight of Blackamericans and how they have been the targets of American public and political policies that have led to the breakdown of the black family (a favorite talking point of liberals and conservatives alike), or have downplayed the impact of those policies on black American life in contrast to an ever more hopeful—and abstract—progressive rhetoric which seeks to pave over the injustices inflicted on the poor and black America, as inconvenient tragedies. Instead, the public education system often accentuates—in a deafening tone—American public policies that supposedly alleviated and overturned the centuries oppression directed towards blacks, like emancipation or the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1964. No mention is made of how whites, through mostly legal means, systematically privileged themselves of  innumerable resources such as jobs, public services, education, to say nothing of the redlining practices that barred countless Blackamericans from homeownership, as one example, one of the principal pathways to wealth-building.

If the American public education system was inept, if not downright dishonest, then the private system of Islamic schools have been doubly worse. In fact, many so-called Islamic schools failed to not only provide adequate representational education reflecting American realities, they were inept at education overall. In addition to a subpar education, most American Islamic schools tended to be heavily immigrant in terms of their population. Given the aforementioned aspirational whiteness rife amongst American immigrant Muslim communities, it is no surprise that the children of these immigrant Muslims would not learn a counter narrative to the ones given them at customs.

It is clear to see the reason by which immigrant American Muslims bought into an attitude and view of blacks-as-poor as well as to the American poor period. However I am not satisfied to let our community off the hook. There has to also be something terribly decadent in this world view as well, for it is incontestable that the American Muslim community is generous. The question is: Who is the worthy recipient of American Muslim generosity? Why is it that American Muslims have been so willing to send money abroad and not to their neighbors. I know many will argue that this shift is changing and there may be some evidence of this, particularly in the younger generation. I sincerely hope this to be the case. However, my point in writing this is to also illustrate how the broad American Muslim communities conceptualization of poverty, who’s worthy and who’s not, also speaks volumes to the division between the so-called immigrant community and the Blackamerican Muslim community. I believe a significant portion of this contention is rooted in racist assumptions that American immigrant Muslims have bought into about the conflation of blackness and poverty as well as perspectives American liberals and conservatives have on poverty in general.

That many American immigrant Muslims bought into the inferiority of blacks (remember, for sake of argument here, blacks and the poor being synonymous) has been personally and communally confirmed through my engagement as a Blackamerican Muslim, as well as many other Blackamerican Muslims, in our community. Many believe these assertions (in large enforced, if not given to them, by whites) are justified, the proof before their very eyes when they gaze upon black (urban) America. In fact, this was a major contributing factor to me writing the essay in response to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s comments at the Reviving The Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto, December 2016. In his comments, Shaykh Hamza made reference to “black-on-black crime” as well as to the “breakdown of the black family” while making no reference to the external forces which have worked night and day for centuries to actualize this violence and breakdown. I make reference again to Shaykh Hamza because he represents to a large number of American immigrant Muslims, the paragon of piety and acumen. And yet, despite his personal and professional accomplishments, it revealed, as I said, “that religion is not an unconscious or automatic inoculation against the vicissitudes of racism”. In fact I would contend that Shaykh Hamza himself has been a victim of the American public education system and liberalism, one in which he was educated, the other he was reared in according to his own statements. The latter akin to what Sugrue calls “the strange career of New Deal liberalism that simultaneously empowered African Americans while perpetuating race-based inequalities in American life”5.

Another contributing factor to American immigrant Muslims buying into white-inspired notions of black inferiority is the promise of the American economy, more specifically to the faith that if they worked hard, as have so many other immigrants had done so (or so goes the myth) that their hard work would be rewarded, economically speaking. And to a large degree—the extent to which American immigrant Muslims were allowed to assimilate into whiteness—this proved to be true and thus confirming their “faith”, making it even more difficult for many American immigrant Muslims to, “see that racialized inequality [in America] is, at core, a political problem”6 and not one of inherent racial or cultural deficiencies.

It is from here, a faith in the promise of America through hard work and the social benefits available to American immigrant Muslims vis-a-vie whiteness that an attitude was adopted, an attitude contradictory to the view as articulated in the Qur’an. This new view in America tended to view the poor in general, and blacks in particular, through a lens of condemnation. A view and a belief deeply rooted in the white American psyche which articulated “that unemployment and poverty are the fault of poor people and their deviant attitudes and behaviors, not the consequence of macroeconomic changes that have gutted urban labor markets”7. It is because of this adopting of the one of the greatest of all white (conservative as well as liberal) mythologies in America (hard work) I believe American immigrant Muslims tend to donate to foreign causes. Many will counter that this is due to the nostalgia many American immigrant Muslims harbor for homelands, though in the face of recent tragic events in America, events which implicate American immigrant Muslims (certainly more than it does Blackamerican Muslims) specifically, the speed in which American immigrant Muslims were able to raise funds for the victims of San Bernardino, for instance, was astounding. Yet other urban organizations which also seek to fundraise for various charitable causes, causes that obviously would benefit poor black and brown populations (some of which are Muslim!), the same expediency and generosity is lacking. The obvious difference being that American Muslims are, one, not implicated in their poverty, and two, the above mentioned prejudices towards black, brown, and poor populations are in full effect.

I would like to revisit Sugrue’s assertion that Americans, rooted in the mythology of whiteness and hard work, fault the poor as their own worst enemies. For in this regard American immigrant Muslims are not alone. I have also witnessed many Blackamerican Muslims look upon their fellow black non-Muslims as “deviant”. It is here that I feel Muslims have also shown themselves to be susceptible to another American virus: pride. It is ironic that many Blackamerican Muslims will consider themselves superior to non-Muslim blacks while living in the same squalor. I am aware of certain arguments related to communal belonging and salvation in the Here-After but I cannot turn a blind eye to this indifferent attitude our community takes towards the poor, doubly so Blackamericans, who, as Dr. Sherman Jackson has attested, has been American Muslims’ “Banu Hashim”. Neither is it, in my opinion, religiously sustainable to harbor such condescending attitudes towards the poor given the Qur’an explicitly states that the poor have a right to a portion of our wealth,

“Truly, human beings are insatiable from the moment they’re created, for they’re worried when misfortune comes, yet greedy when times are good. However, it’s not the same with those who are inclined to prayer, who are diligent in their devotions and who know that there’s a claim on their wealth from the poor who ask and from the poor who are held back from asking.” Qur’an 70: 19-25

Similarly, the Prophetic traditions are filled with innumerable exhortations towards caring for the poor. This is but one example,

أَنَّهُ كَانَ يَقُولُ شَرُّ الطَّعَامِ طَعَامُ الْوَلِيمَةِ يُدْعَى لَهَا الأَغْنِيَاءُ، وَيُتْرَكُ الْفُقَرَاءُ، وَمَنْ تَرَكَ الدَّعْوَةَ فَقَدْ عَصَى اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏

Abu Hurayrah relates that the Prophet said, “The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation to a banquet disobeys Allah and His Messenger .” Sahih al-Bukhari, 5177

Returning to the point above, it is critical for American immigrant Muslims and their descendants as well as Blackamerican Muslims to know that issues related to the poor in America, to urban black American, cannot be explained away simply as the result of pathological behaviors, especially not because of the lack of work ethic, or other such irresponsible and racist jargon, without addressing the elephant in the room which is white supremacy, anti-black racism and the structural, political, and public policies that have led to the breakup of black families, economic disenfranchisement, as well as other forces external to black America and the greater American poor. But this change of attitude in our community will only have a chance of manifesting if American Muslim leadership becomes educated and trained on the realities that exist in America: its history, its policies, etc. And as can already be validated, such an educational endeavor will not merely be an act of piety or kindness, but will also provide the education, knowledge, training and means for all American Muslims to understand what is being enacted upon them, especially American immigrant Muslims, from a political and public policy point of view.

American Muslims must stand with the poor. Not because it makes good PR, not because it makes us feel good about ourselves or helps to pacify our guilt, but ultimately because it pleases God. It is the right thing to do. We must not abandon the poor in this country to a system and rhetoric that would have them believe that the cause and solution to all of their problems and woes start, and end, with them.

1: Etzioni, Amitai. Security First: For a Muscular, Moral Foreign Policy, 2007.

2: Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U Press, 1996. Pg., xxxvii. Read the intro here.

3: Poverty is not solely a black issue though the African-American community has doubtless been hard hit as well shall see through public policy.

4: Origins, xxxvi.

5: Origins, xxxvii.

6: Origins, xxxvi.

7: Origins, xxxvi.

Coolies – How British Reinvented Slavery

The slave trade was officially abolished throughout the British Empire in 1807. This documentary reveals one of Britain’s darkest secrets: a form of slavery that continued well into the 20th century – the story of Indian indentured labour. “Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery” tells the astonishing and controversial story of the systematic recruitment and migration of over a million Indians to all corners of the Empire. It is a chapter in colonial history that implicates figures at the very highest level of the British establishment and has defined the demographic shape of the modern world. Combining archive footage and historical evidence the program includes interviews with Gandhi’s great-grandaughter, Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, about Gandhi’s campaign to end indentured labour and David Dabydeen – author and academic – whose great-grandfather was an indentured laborer in British Guyana.

Between Personal Mistakes & Public Responsibility: A Response to SHY & RISGate

“Shortly after World War II, a French reporter asked expatriate Richard Wright his opinion about the ‘Negro problem’ in the United States. The author replied ‘There isn’t any Negro problem; there is only a white problem’.” From The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and
the “White” Problem in American Studies
by George Lipsitz

Admittedly the title for this essay is a bit stilted but when I was asked to pen a response to not only RISGate but to the numerous responses to it, academic and otherwise,  I struggled to find a succinct way of describing the problem. My struggle was rooted in that the majority of responses were ensconced in character apologies in defense of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (hereafter referred to as SHY). The best I could come up with, without focusing exclusively on the errors of SHY, was to highlight where much of the battle was taking place: That for one to possess a quality inferred that it must be defining, totalizing and static. What I will attempt to do here is to show how a person can indeed possess a quality (be it a positive or a negative one) and have it not be the total sum of that person’s existence and humanity. However, this endeavor can only succeed if we first concede that not all criticism is synonymous with character assassination.

Let us begin straightaway with the charge leveled at SHY of being a racist. In a recent article defending SHY from the charge of racism, we find several different characteristics conjoined into one apology:

“characterizing [SHY] as a bigot, a racist, or white supremacist are grotesque in my view”.

Let us unpack this statement. Are these qualities, a bigot, a racist and a white supremacist, the same? To say that all three are “grotesque” suggests that all three characteristics are essentially synonyms of one another; a charge of one would be equal to a charge of all three—thus he argues that none of the three qualities could be something SHY possesses—and thus any one of these three would be an unjustified accusation. I, however, would argue that they’re not all the same.

To the first term, “bigot”, is defined as a person who “is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.”

To the accusation of white supremacy, let us also examine its definition: “One who believes on an inherent level that whiteness and all of its expressions and accomplishments is not only superior to non-whites but vis-a-vie that superiority, deserves to be vaulted over all non-whites in every aspect even at the cost of brutality”.

And finally to the charge of racism: “a person who comes to pre-rational conclusions as to inherent qualities a group of people may possess because one member of the community appears to possess those qualities”.

So we must cross examine the statements of SHY and see if they bare out any intolerance, etc. In this instance I would be partially persuaded to exonerate the shaykh from the charge of bigotry, though one could argue hints of it are present in his interview, as confirmed in another article which quoted SHY as saying,

“The other day I was attempting to engage one in conversation and he looked at me and responded, [insert: oafish shoulder shrug and incomprehensible gibberish]. And I said ‘What!’ I don’t know what you’re saying, young man! I don’t speak hip hop!”

While beyond the scope of this one article here, a worthwhile read which sheds light on the topics of race, language, and hegemony (of which bigotry is a subfield of her study) and how they collide is Dohra Ahmad’s, Rotten English.

As to the charge of white supremacy, public reason (a institution given more over to emotional conclusions than thoughtful reflection) would hasten to exonerate SHY due to the common—and misplaced—understanding that white supremacy must always be equated with violence and intent. Due to such groups as the KKK, whose overt and repugnant acts of violence against blacks for example, white supremacy has been falsely entrenched only in violence. This is not to say that white supremacy cannot result in acts of violence, as was just cited, but that it needn’t always be so. If we allow ourselves a more nuanced definition of white supremacy—white privilege being a subcategory of it—then we can move beyond the repugnant, coarse, and limiting definition of white supremacy to one which allows us to tease it out of its hiding place. As the scholar of Black Studies, George Lipsitz, writes concerning the legacy of whiteness and racism in America, “whiteness is everywhere in American culture, but it is very hard to see”.

I would further Lipsitz’s argument in that not only is whiteness and white supremacy (its non-violent expressions) difficult to see but is equally difficult to see in others especially when those “others” are people of esteem and sound reputation. As I will make my case, demonstrations of white privilege are separate and distinct from the conscious intentions to commit acts in the name of white privilege.

Turning now to the charge of racism, I believe this claim can be sustained if we are willing to rearrange some of the mental furniture in our heads. I am not unaware of how many will be outraged by this assertion but let me first stake my claims.

All of the three qualities above: bigot, white supremacist, and racist, are qualities a person may possess. And like any quality, good or bad, I believe (as can be substantiated through Islamic scripture at least) no quality is either totally defining or static. To help make this more clear let us look at a positive quality first. If a person possesses courage or gentleness, while such qualities would be perceived as positive, they could under certain situations, be suppressed or countermanded. A brave person could act cowardly, a gentle person could behave harshly. My point being is that even if a person were to have an episode of being cowardly (or racist) it would not come to totally define that person as a coward (or a racist). However, if their cowardly (or racist) actions resulted in property damage, the loss of life—in the case of SHY, giving sanction the unjust legal practices aimed specifically at Blackamericans—such an incident could not be simply dismissed by pushing it off on such things as fatigue or even “human error”. Regardless of the other positive qualities that that person possesses and has demonstrated he or she would have to own up to the damage (property, psychological, or otherwise) or loss of life those actions incurred.

Let us be frank, the charge of racism, in general in the West and in particular in America, is perhaps only slightly less devastating than that of pedophilia. The transatlantic slave trade (TSL) has left an enduring scar on the psychology of the American public and perhaps even the world. Therefore when one invokes racism as a charge it is leveled at the core of a person with all of the collective brutality that the TSL inflicted on Africans, Native Americans and their descendants, amongst others. And while none of this is capable of being denied we must remember an important principle: qualities are neither totally defining nor static, meaning that even if we were to label SHY a racist, its implications would be (a) this is not totally defining of who he is as a man, a Muslim, a spiritual leader, etc., and (b) neither is this quality, were he to possess it, fixed. If we allow ourselves to re-conceive the nature of qualities we possess, good and bad, then not only can we have a more nuanced and honest understanding of who we are, we can also better deal with the consequences of any such actions, particularly negative ones. As I will make my case later in this article, this will apply to good and bad qualities.

So let us return to the charge of racism leveled against SHY and explore as to whether it can be sustained or not.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf means a great deal to many people. This undoubtedly is why there has been such committed resistance to him being labeled a racist. His accomplishments as well as his character have been attested to by many. However, neither a person’s accomplishments nor character are a sufficient means of defense when one has committed significant errors (in public no less). By significant I am referring not only to the substance of SHY’s statements but also to the stage (pun intended) upon which they were uttered. Nor can the proverbial office which he holds, as one of the most recognized and authoritative figures of Islam in the West, be ignored in terms of the amplifying power his station gave his statements. Add to that his privileged position as a white male (that this is not of his own choosing is irrelevant to the topic at hand) brings into stark relief the consequences of his actions and statements.

The very reason why the defense of SHY was so intense against the charge of racism is not because it couldn’t be true but because if SHY were racist its implication is that he must exhibit racist tendencies all the time if the accusation is to hold water. Returning to the totally defining/static rubric, many of us believe a person to be defined by the qualities they possess totally. This explains why, again to reference the article above, the defense of SHY is as thus:

“I cannot speak for others, but in the 18 years that I’ve known and worked with him, I cannot say that I have ever experienced or noticed any gesture which could be classified as racist”.

This defense of SHY is not only due to personal relationships many have with him but because according to lay-understandings of racism it would require SHY to be a racist in all times and in all places; thus the defense of, “I have ever experienced or noticed any gesture which could be classified as racist (as a side note, many others, myself included, have had contradictory interactions with SHY that would question the exclusivity of these person claims). The problem at hand here is the binary that we make of the quality of racism. We make it a one or a zero: it’s either totally all encompassing or not applicable at all. However, when we compare the quality of racism to other qualities (as above in discussing courage or gentleness) we have no problem conceding the fact that qualities other than racism are not totally defining: a person can be brave and cowardly; generous and stingy. Why the cosmic exception for racism? I believe this understanding has more to do with emotional attachment to SHY than anything else.

Another aspect of quality-possession I would like to articulate is that many, if not all, of the qualities we possess are situational or what I would like to term, symptomatic. Many of us have experienced witnessing people we can vouch for in terms of their kindness, generosity, or egalitarian spirit, act in ways which contradict those observations. All jokes aside, ask any married couple if they consider their spouse to be kind, gentle, and generous; without a doubt they can also substantiate instances in which their spouse demonstrated symptomatically, the opposite. Recently at a masjid in Southern California, an older member of the community, who is highly esteemed for his piety, made open reference to my wife, who is phenotypically black, “not looking like the people of Jannah (Paradise)”. My indignation at his statement was immediately met with testaments to his character, his faith, etc. While I have no means of contradicting testimonies of previous acts of kindness and egalitarian spirit, clearly the man possessed or harbored such racist conclusions about black folks in general (and my wife in particular). That he never expressed them publicly before is not a sufficient means of exonerating him (a) from the inanity of his statements and (b) that such qualities were something new to him; clearly he possessed them from before. To return to my definition of symptomatic, something in our interaction combined with the presence of my un-blonde wife produced a symptomatic reaction of racism.

Clearly the problem at hand is this pre-rational tendency for us to essentialize and totalize the qualities people possess and to see them as static and unchanging. This is why the public has been incensed at the charge of racism against SHY. The irony of this can be found in statements SHY made in his interview with Mehdi Hasan, that “ignorance is not essential to the human being”. Why the outrage, from the public and SHY himself, if such qualities are truly not “essential” to people? Returning to the question, if, however, we allow ourselves to see that even someone of SHY’s stature, piety, knowledge, etc., can still be susceptible to societal diseases, racism being just one of many, then we allow for the indignity of his statements to be addressed directly versus sweeping them under the rug. I believe this had much to do with why it took SHY several “tries” at formulating an apology because he himself (as can be attested to in Imam Zaid Shakir’s article) believed that in order for him to be a racist it meant an all-or-nothing-at-all enterprise: either SHY conceived of himself as totally racist or totally not racist. In that he (and the greater public) chose the latter is emblematic in how the structural elements of the Muslim community—in how it aids and abets white privilege—were ignored largely in the bulk of the responses to the incident.

In fact, viewed from another angle, much of the defense of SHY can be seen as further proof of how we look at quality-possession in our community. Through their undying love of SHY many were unable to see or empathize with the outrage in the black community because they believed the good qualities which SHY undoubtedly possesses, are also totalizing and static. That for SHY to be good meant that he was incapable of not acting good at any time. In my opinion this serves neither the public’s nor SHY’s best interests. Shaykh Hamza is a human, as many asserted, and like all humans, SHY errs, as is confirmed in the statement of the Prophet:

كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ خَطَّاءٌ, وَخَيْرُ اَلْخَطَّائِينَ اَلتَّوَّابُونَ

“All of the children of Adam err. And the best of those who err are those frequent in repentance.” Recorded by al-Tirmidhi

If we allow our leaders, spiritual and otherwise, to be human, then perhaps when they trip or stumble, they will only stub their toes, proverbially. I believe much of the outrage and brouhaha was precisely due to unrealistic expectations and projections that the Muslim public foists upon those in leadership positions, SHY doubly so. So when they do err, or fall, it is as if they are plummeting from the Heavens themselves.

Before concluding my thoughts on quality-possession, I would like to couch them in an incident from the Revelatory Period. In a famous exchange between Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Bilal, a manumitted slave of Abyssinian descent, Abu Dharr (who was a close companion of the Prophet) made derogatory racist statements about Bilal’s mother, to which the Prophet responded:

يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ أَعَيَّرْتَهُ بِأُمِّهِ إِنَّكَ امْرُؤٌ فِيكَ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ

“Abu Dharr!, did you insult [Bilal] by slandering his mother [i.e., ‘you son of a black woman!’]? You still have qualities of ignorance (Jahiliyyah) in you!” Recorded by al-Bukhari’s chapter on Faith (Kitab al-Iman)

Amongst the many takeaways here is not simply the Prophet reproaching Abu Dharr for his racist comments (this is significance though in terms of Islam’s authoritative stance against racism) but that he classified them as a quality in Abu Dharr. Abu Dharr’s statements could not be projected onto abstractions or explained away (through fatigue, for instance) but simply had to be owned up to in that the negative quality was something he possessed. This allowed for the Prophet to admonish Abu Dharr in a straight-forward capacity that left no chance of misunderstanding both the significance of his actions as well as to who was to blame. But equally important was that by the Prophet articulating Abu Dharr’s error as a quality, it empowered Abu Dharr to not only repent for his actions but to strive to remove them from him. In other words, according to the Prophet’s statement, racism was not a static or fixed quality but was mutable and capable of being changed. In fact, there are prophetic traditions confirming as much about Abu Dharr:

انْتَهَى إِلَى الرَّبَذَةِ وَقَدْ أُقِيمَتِ الصَّلاَةُ فَإِذَا عَبْدٌ يَؤُمُّهُمْ فَقِيلَ هَذَا أَبُو ذَرٍّ ‏.‏ فَذَهَبَ يَتَأَخَّرُ فَقَالَ أَبُو ذَرٍّ أَوْصَانِي خَلِيلِي صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنْ أَسْمَعَ وَأُطِيعَ وَإِنْ كَانَ عَبْدًا حَبَشِيًّا مُجَدَّعَ الأَطْرَافِ

“[Abu Dharr] arrived at al-Rabadhah when the prayer had already commenced. A slave was leading them in prayer and it was said, ‘This is Abu Dharr,’ so the slave started to relinquish leading the prayer to Abu Dharr but he replied, ‘My close friend (i.e., the Prophet ﷺ) told me to listen and obey, even if the one leading the prayer was an Ethiopian slave with amputated limbs.” Recorded in the Sunan of Ibn Majah

Similarly, the Prophet attests to Abu Dharr’s character:

مَا أَظَلَّتِ الْخَضْرَاءُ وَلاَ أَقَلَّتِ الْغَبْرَاءُ أَصْدَقَ مِنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ

“There is no one more truthful, that the sky has shaded and the earth has carried, than Abu Dharr.” Recorded in al-Tirmidhi

My point to mentioning a few of these testimonies shows that Abu Dharr’s error did not come to define him, least of all in the sight of the Prophet! His racism was a quality inside him; something he possessed, therefore something he was capable of overcoming and changing. It also demonstrates, in the account above when it came time to lead prayer, that Abu Dharr took concrete steps to disinvest himself from structural racist practices by allowing the Abyssinian slave to lead prayer. As I will address below, this is a major step that needs to be taken beyond simply stating, “I’m sorry I offended you.”

Nonetheless, there was reconciliation for what Abu Dharr did; owning up to it unapologetically and without appeals to his good character or previous accomplishments, all the while allowing Abu Dharr to learn, repent and grow from his mistake. If we wish our leaders to be capable of the same it is imperative we examine this prophetic model. It is for this reason I have no difficulty in charging SHY (taken into consideration with my own personal interactions with the shaykh) as a racist because according to Islam, racism, just like other positive and negative qualities, is not an immutable quality nor is it a static (permanent) and totally defining one. I also firmly believe it is the only way for leaders to be held accountable (myself included), for us to grow, and to address the structural elements in our community, and in particular interest to this incident, those which prize and esteem white privilege.

So what can be learned from these events? I firmly believe that when Allah causes a stir in His Ummah there is something to be gained from it. Indeed, given SHY’s status and stature in our community as one of its most esteemed leaders I find it to be no coincidence that he would be the vessel through which we would be taught a profound lesson. That lesson, for me, is the power and seduction of labeling. Racist, liberal, feminist. All of these are labels which have been tossed around like so many grenades lately, inflicting wounds much in the same way their real life counterparts would. This is not to say that there are not valid critiques of liberalism or feminism: I would be hypocritical for not stating that I do in fact have many objections to these philosophies, especially when they are taken to the absurdity of requiring me to express my Islam only through their limiting prisms. But all too often I have seen those who, in the name of “defending the faith”, totalize another person because they espoused or seemed to espouse liberal or feminist tendencies, for example. Rare is the individual whose humanity can be completely summed up because they privilege feminism, for example. And more importantly even if a person does espouse such philosophies it does not mean that he or she must, or always will, harbor them and most importantly, that it necessarily removes them from Islam. We must be cautious as to how closely to fire we hold each others feet on matters that do not explicitly relate to theological matters. To be clear, I am not advocating for a kind of relativism: I have and will continue to argue against, for example, liberalism, in particular, in that I feel it is an attempt to compete with Revelation. However, that a person possesses certain liberal qualities does not automatically mean that they have forfeited their value in the sight of God, or in the case of Muslims, a place in the Ummah of Muhammad.

The American Muslim community is still a young community. It has many things to learn yet, including that religion is not an unconscious or automatic inoculation against the vicissitudes of racism, or for any other socially contractible disease, for that matter. In fact, racism has been able to fester and grow in one of the most religious nations on the face of the earth; a fact that should never escape our notice. Christianity has not only aided and assisted racism in America, but many of its well-intending practitioners remain ignorant and blind of its existence. I say this not in the spirit of polemics but as observable fact. My great concern now is that Muslims, in their quest to find relief in a hostile land, will, in return for loyalty and a place of belongingness, replicate this most vile of American STD’s (socially-transmitted diseases): racism. In fact the Prophet warns of this in this famous narration:

لَتَتَّبِعُنَّ سَنَنَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ شِبْرًا بِشِبْرٍ وَذِرَاعًا بِذِرَاعٍ حَتَّى لَوْ دَخَلُوا فِي جُحْرِ ضَبٍّ لاَتَّبَعْتُمُوهُمْ قُلْنَا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ آلْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى قَالَ فَمَنْ

“You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch, span by span, so much so that if they had entered into a lizard hole, you’d follow right behind them.” The Companions of the Prophet replied, “Allah’s Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians as ‘those before you’?” To which he replied, “Who else?” Recorded in Sahih Muslim

The task of addressing racism will be made doubly hard in that the vast majority of our religious scholars, SHY being no different, do not backgrounds in critical race theory (CRT) or race studies. This is what makes the Medhi Hasan interview all the more absurd: asking a white male, whose background/specialization is in religious and spiritual studies, to address such topics as police brutality, the viability of Muslims (conservatively one-third of whom in America are black!) engaging in BLM, to the quality and state of the American penal/legal/justice system as it relates to blacks!, turning to the ultimate absurdity: “The United States is probably, at least in terms of terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world”. The problem with SHY’s statement here is not only its insensitivity towards the history, the plight, and the struggle of non-whites, particularly blacks, but that it’s also factually wrong as new research in the field of comparative international law indicates. What was it that not only misinformed SHY as to the factual nature of the topic, but that imbued him with a sense of entitlement and qualification to speak to topics he obviously is not qualified to do so? I believe the shaykh arrived at this conclusion not solely of his own making. As I addressed in a previous video, the Muslim community itself, comprised of a majority of non-white and non-black Muslims, esteems, privileges, and aids in this mediocrity of specialization that informs Muslim leaders to feel that they can, and must, speak to all topics, regardless of qualifications. In light of this, we must take to heart that reproductions of racist behavior are not always systematically linked to intent. Even social justice and anti-racist activists can run the risk of reproducing contexts of racial oppression.

Which brings me to what are the steps our community in general, and SHY in particular, can do to combat white supremacy and its subset of white privilege. My first suggestion is that white supremacy, white privilege, and racism, cannot solely be combated through admitting one’s missteps; it must be disinvested from. Returning to what I feel is an opportunity for our community to learn and grow, I see this as a prime opportunity for SHY to call for a conference on race, hosted by his illustrious Zaytuna College. What more powerful message could be sent, to the Muslim community, to Blackamericans, and to America and the world, than one of its most prominent leaders taking concrete steps towards tackling the issue versus disavowing oneself of its existence? If the success of Muslims in America is to be measured, one metric would certainly be on how we do not replicate her ills, lock, stock, and barrel, especially not one of her most enduring sicknesses.

In closing, let us remember that the Qur’an’s message itself rests on the capacity for change. The Prophet is described therein as, “a clear warner”. What good would a warning be if qualities (disbelief, sexual immorality, infanticide, etc.) were immutable? In such a drastic light the Qur’an could rightfully be dismissed as nothing other than, “tales of the Ancients” (Qur’an 68: 15) if the suggestive nature of the Qur’anic message was not one of hope, change, and empowerment through the mutability of negative qualities and attributes.

My advocacy here is admittedly personal. Two years ago I accepted a position as imam in the Muslim community. I realize now more than ever we need a fundamental shift in the way in which leadership is viewed and views itself. When I see someone like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on stage, making such a gross error, part of me sees myself: It is inevitable that I too, will err. What is need now though is a system by which leaders are encouraged to own up to their mistakes: To admit that we have something to learn versus apologizing, not for having done something wrong, but for offending someone. All too often we undermine that process for honest self-accountability when one’s humanity is at stake. Apologizing for offending one particular group is in essence an acknowledgement that one is not sorry for the substance of one’s misdeeds but that one was caught offending them. In other words, “I’m sorry you were offended,” not, “I’m sorry for what I did”.

I pray these words can help spark a new dialog on what it means to err in our community. Alexander Pope, the 18th-century English poet, was on to something: “To err is human”. But Islamic tradition also has a take on being human in that it also means to be responsible (per the hadith, “kullukum ra’in, wa kullukum mas’ul”). May Allah guide us, forgive us and make us amongst those whom He is happy with. Amin.