Marc Manley — Imam At Large

Words, Thoughts, & Insights For The Rest of Us - Religious Director of ICIE

Facing A Post-Morality World – A Khutbah at IOK

“The shift to secularity … consists among other things, of a move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed, unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one opinion among others, and frequently not the easiest to choose.” — Charles Taylor

The pursuit of knowledge is only the beginning of negotiating our future, not the destination. It is not enough to simply repeat and memorize the Wisdom of Islam’s past but rather it is to put ourselves directly in conversation with it. If we can do this, then we move from a reenactment of Islam to having the courage to plant seeds even in the face of overwhelming opposition. We must have courage and hope!, for these are two things the world are in short supply of:

إن قامت الساعة وفي يد أحدكم فسيلة, فإن استطاع أن تقوم حتى يغرسها فليغرسها

“If The Hour should come upon you while one of you is holding a sampling, then plant it, if one can do so.” — Prophet Muhammad

We need to see that we have been brought to America to fulfill a role, make no doubt about it. It is a theological injustice think we placed ourselves here merely to make money or that even we’re here because of slavery. We are here by God’s will and therefore we must fulfill that sacred role i society: speaking the truth.

We must speak the truth, about Eric Garner, about Treyvon Martin, about Tamir Rice, about Amadou Diallo, about injustice period, in the way that Allah brought Moses to Pharaoh:

هل أتاك حديث موسى إذ ناداه ربه بالواد المقدس طوى فقل هل لك إلى أن تزكى – وأهديك إلى ربك فتخشى

“Has the story of Moses reached you? When his Lord called out to him in the holy valley of Tuwa? Go to Pharaoh — he has overstepped the limits — and say, ‘Do you resolve to purify yourself? I will guide you to your Lord so that you may fear Him’.”

When Moses spoke to Pharaoh, this took a tremendous amount of courage. Additionally, Moses not only spoke “the truth” to Pharaoh but also offered to guide him along the way. He was hand-in-hand, as have all Prophets and Messengers have been hand-in-hand with their peoples.

Lastly, in the face of these overwhelming odds and travesties, we must let people know their Lord cares for them. That these injustices are not simply random and that ultimately, good will come, if we would but lend an ear to Divine Guidance.

إن قامت الساعة وفي يد أحدكم فسيلة, فإن استطاع أن تقوم حتى يغرسها فليغرسها

“If The Hour should come upon you while one of you is holding a sampling, then plant it, if one can do so.” — Prophet Muhammad

The Apathy of a Religious Generation?

z-and-me2In a recent post on Facebook, I came across an engaging “rant” (I use rant here not as as criticism, but as praise) from a good acquaintance of mine. His words rang true to me and yet, while I felt his frustration, understandably so, I also felt that this story is somewhat more complicated than simply labeling “them”, Muslim religious leadership, as not caring. Don’t get me wrong, as a religious leader, I find our current apathy and predicament equally vexing and frustrating. But before we can proceed, I feel we first must ask ourselves to whom are we addressing here. Are we talking about immigrant imams or indigenous? For immigrant imams (or imams of immigrants), whether we like it or not, they have lived an alternative history from us. Their focus was never on America or “us”. It would be inefficient and perhaps even absurd to expect them to have the same level of empathy towards Americans in general and towards blacks in specific. And for the record, Muslim immigrants are not unique in this. What tends to offend us (i.e., blackamerican or whiteamerican Muslims) is that we expect them to have the same emotional religious notions as we do. We see the injustice inflicted by officer Darren Wilson as a universal injustice, in the same manner some Muslims see the Palestinian cause as equally universal. And while they both may indeed have rightful claims to universal injustice, the propagators of this cry for justice have lived very different realities. One aspect of these divergent histories is that many immigrant Muslims (and again, immigrants in general) still labor under the weight of unpacked baggage. What’s missing here, in my opinion, is not the indictment of their apathy, but the indictment of ourselves, indigenous Muslims, who have embraced the faith, and plied little to no pressure to our fellow brothers and sisters to awaken out of their slumber. We placed, by and large, no real demands on them to address our needs. In fact, and here’s where things may get ugly and offend some of “us”, is that many of “us” were complicit in our own indoctrination in their religious world views. We equally participated in this form of escapism, vis-a-vie Islam. We (those who have awakened) must come to terms that as a result of this complicity, any change that may come, will not come easily, or — God knows best — soon.

So for me, the question is which religious rulers?

If we come to agreement on our above conclusion, the problem then cannot simply be chocked up to “(poor) leadership” alone. The rank and file Muslim also shares a healthy dollop of blame. Far too many of “us” have contented ourselves to reduce religious leadership and spiritual guidance and its current manifestation to a kind of “performance art1. This has only exacerbated the “Sage on Stage” platform we have with us today. Believe me when I say that many of us are dying to do culturally-relevant religious teaching. However, when those of us in positions of religious leadership attempt to do relevant material, we are often branded as “modernist“, not by other religious leaders, but by the typical Ahmad and Mariam. When we attempt to elevate the discourse beyond regurgitation, we’re castigated as non-traditionalists.

So let us all bow our heads in shame and implore our Lord for guidance and forgiveness, for we are all culpable. And then think anew, on how one can best serve that change that so desperately needs to happen.  I make no claims to prognostication, but I do not feel that success will come in abandonment, no matter how tempting it may be. Instead, I believe we must work with the system, either to change it via our voice, our presence, our pocketbook, or even ourselves, by stepping into roles of religious leadership itself.

And Allah knows best.

How shameful is it that Kobe Bryant, Josh Groban, LeBron James, Katy Perry, Cher, Pharrell Williams, and others have more to say about Ferguson and the Grand Jury decision than our own religious scholars! This is part of the reason why I have largely abandoned these individuals. I know enough of the rules. I don’t need to kiss your hand, spin around or bob back and forth singing words I can’t even understand. How are you going to remain RELEVANT in people’s lives if you can’t even muster a 160 character statement about why my humanity matters? I don’t want to hear your 1,000th lecture about how glorious we were 14 centuries ago. Shout from the rafters about how glorious I AM, WE ARE, WE SHOULD BE. A basketball player and a Vegas singer have more to say about this than someone who takes spiritual pride in having slept on sand and drinking dirty water from Goat guts? This is why your houses are empty of the young. LeBron shows he cares more about them than you! – Dasham Brooks

1. Dr. Muneer Fareed on “spirituality”: “(Modern spiritual practices have prompted) a slow, yet irreversible move away from a spirituality that (is) theocentric towards one that is increasingly homocentric.” ~ “Aesthetic spirituality differs from religious spirituality in two significant ways: it emphasizes beauty rather than truth, and more importantly, replaces traditional forms of devotion with a philosophy that plays out in the public forum not as worship, but as art.” You can read the rest of Dr. Fareed’s article, Spirituality Without God, here.

Structure Your Time – al-Ghazzali on the Periods of Worship


A helpful and succinct video by Raindrop Academy that illustrates al-Ghazzali’s advice on how to structure one’s time.

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

“If My slaves ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided.” [Qur’an, 2: 186]

Life – It’s All About the Spirals

lenny-meyer Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (π), the 1998 mathematical thriller, if there is such a genre, is one of my favorite movies. While I haven’t cared as much for most of Aronofsky’s other offerings, Pi, perhaps due to its gritty black and white capture or just the pure creativity of the concept, still captures my imagination every time I watch it.

Recently, I came across a couple of YouTube videos produced by a DJ and animator that made me think of the spirals, as mentioned in . I also made me think of Allah’s verse:

إِذَا الشَّمْسُ كُوِّرَتْ

“By the Sun when it is wound up!” [Qur’an, 81: 1]


Hat tip to brother Amin.

A Muslim Reads the Hagakure – Conceit

hagakure-4 “People think they can decipher esoteric matters if only they can think hard enough about them. But in truth, their thoughts are nothing other than capricious and come to no fruition due to the fact that their reflection is nothing more than conceit, at its core. To this, God says:”

وَإِذَا قِيلَ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَالسَّاعَةُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا قُلْتُمْ مَا نَدْرِي مَا السَّاعَةُ إِنْ نَظُنُّ إِلَّا ظَنًّا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُسْتَيْقِنِينَ

“When it is said, ‘God’s promise is true as is The Hour, of which there is no doubt,’ you said, ‘We have no idea what the Hour is. We have only been speculating. We have no idea what to be certain about’.” [Qur’an, 45: 32]

The end is important in all things.


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