There are few topics more sensitive than sexual ethics in the Muslim community. This can undoubtedly be explained, admittedly in part, due to the secularization of the Muslim mind, particularly in the West. The result of this secularization process cannot be better seen in the way Muslims, especially younger Muslims, simultaneously perceive that there is a god whilst at the same time denying that same god any authority over their lives. One particular manifestation of this is what I now dub the “low hanging fruit” syndrome.
In discussing the topic of postmodernism today with a colleague we arrived at a conclusion that the main opposition to polygyny in today’s postmodern world—including from Muslims—is rooted in the notion that (a) polygyny is a right that men exclusively enjoy and (b) that men may enjoy that right unabashedly (that is, having legitimate sexual relationships with another woman).
The reason we touched on polygyny, a marital practice very few Muslims enjoin, is because of its “controversial” status in the minds of those who claim Islam to be a misogynistic religion. A claim now held by many Muslims who’ve been infected with postmodern sensibilities and methods of interpretation.
During the 2018 Blackamerican Muslim Conference there were a few instances when modernity, liberalsim, and progressivism—amongst other ideals—were evoked and discussed. Often these philosophies are discussed in relation to the so-called immigrant Muslim community and how it affects them. But these philosophies and value systems impact the Blackamerican Muslim community as well. As I mentioned in my last post, my hope is to delve a little deeper into these topics so as to raise our literacy on the forces acting upon us. I found Steven Seidman’s phrase, “problems of meaning” aptly titled and insightful. In short, Seidman defines the “problems of meaning” as,
“a pervasive uncertainty regarding ultimate beliefs and values, confusing images of self, society and nature, and the ceaseless conflict over the ends, rules, and norms in terms of which personal and collective life is organized and legitimated.”
The most dangerous knife in the kitchen is the dull knife. It’s unreliable and when you least expect it, it cuts you. When you most need it, it slips.I have noticed a growing tendency amongst our communtiy that we are no longer people of extended thought — knowledge you might say — but instead have become people of narrative. I do not say this as a snide remark but I say this with also indicting myself. Narrative is important but without foundational knowledge, we’ll have nothing other than shifting sand to plant the flag of our narrative in.
Everyone’s busy. That’s what I hear. That’s the excuse I’m given. But I also hear, “Shaykh, I want to learn Arabic!” (without showing up to the Arabic class) ; “Imam, how did you learn your Arabic?” (I spent many many long hours sacrificing play time to do thousands upon thousands of drills, etc.). The list goes on and on. And instead of providing opportunities for learning, I believe the last generation of institutions and their scholars/imams/etc., have largely indulged the phenomenon I call Islamotainment. Our gatherings, if we have them at all, tend to range from “chop-it-up” sessions to superficial demonstrations of knowledge that are more about their “wow” factor versus anything transformative. So what can we do?
In a recent tweet by Qasim Rashid, representative of the Ahmadi heretical community, Rashid claims that by one proclaiming an individual or group as outside of Islam — particularly on creedal grounds — is synonymous with a call for the headsman’s ax. This process — known as takfīr, while being a sensitive one, is also not unknown throughout Muslim history up to the present day.
Mr. Rashid has taken the bait of one of modernity’s most enduring myths: that religion is inherently violent because religion is inherently divisive. According to Rashid’s logic, which is also seconded by virtually every representative from the Ahmadi heretical group, Ahmadis have been persecuted because they are different. In other words, because of difference. But this theory does not hold water if we examine it in light of the Nation of Islam, another heretical group, and orthodox American Muslims. Indeed, many American orthodox Muslims, while holding those in the NOI to be heretics, maintain friendly even familial relationships with them. There has been no call to violence from orthodox American Muslims against Minister Farrakhan or followers of the NOI’s teachings. Clearly Mr. Rashid’s logic is bankrupt and reveals itself bare for what it is: political jockeying.
I have participated in a number of interviews and interfaith events with Ahmadis and in every single instance they use the stage to try and score political points. They employ post-Enlightenment and liberal philosophies, to which they impugn difference as they source of all violence, to force or coerce orthodox Muslims into accepting their heresies as legitimate by employing the state: Ahmadis attempt to position themselves as “the good Muslims” while all other orthodox Muslims as either terrorists or misguided by their “corrupt” clerics who supposedly use religion to stir up hate against them.
Dr. Jonathan Brown, of Georgetown University, makes a claim for us to reconsider Ahmadi beliefs as they are articulated today, versus what was said by its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Brown stated,
“…the Ahmadi tradition needs to be taken for what its representatives say TODAY, not what Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote or said a century ago. Every tradition has the right to redefine itself, so scriptural gotcha games are not useful. To clarify, what I mean is: for example, if Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said ‘Anyone who denies my prophecy is not a Muslim,’ but Ahmadis today say this is not what we believe, then their words should be definitive.”
I agreed with Dr. Brown to the extent that those beliefs are made definitive, to which they have not been. Akin to the NOI, many of its leaders, such as Minister Farrakhan and Dr. Wesley Muhammad, continue to play a game of cat and mouse, seeming at times to articulate the orthodox creed, and others times the same old kufr (disbelief). So my counter argument to Mr. Rashid and Dr Brown is thus:
Takfir = terrorism? This is political jockeying. They can’t ever grieve with the victims of tragedies without trying to take center stage. As an Imam I can say that as by the words of M. G. Ahmad, I don’t consider Ahmadis Muslim (takfir) and I’m not calling for violence. Drawing theological boundaries is not a call for the headsman. They have to stop playing these stupid little reindeer games. If Ahmadis want to be considered Muslim then Ahmadi clerical leaders need to unconditionally articulate the orthodox creed but refuse to, often being purposely unclear as to where they stand. Want to be considered Muslim? Step one in that direction would be to stop calling yourselves/identifying yourselves with the man (M. G. Ahmad) who was clearly a kafir!
There is no arguing that Ahmadis have faced reprehensible oppression and violence in certain Muslim countries but the sources of that violence lies with those cultures as well as in the modern state itself, which the latter has an incredibly bloody track record of violence based on difference. Mr. Rashid and his community have a lot of work to do if they wish to gain legitimacy in the orthodox Muslim community versus attempting to use the state as a bludgeoning tool to gain admittance.