Marc Manley — Imam At Large

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

Category: Blog (page 1 of 74)

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.


The Self-Made Myth of the American Muslim

harold-cruseI have spent the last several years writing, lecturing, even khutbah’ing on the topic of Islam in America and the need for a bone fide American Muslim culture. I plan to continue this trend, though I feel now, I may need to clarify some of my stances. I’ve chosen, again, to use a passage from one of America’s brilliant-but-forgotten scholars, Harold Cruse1, to demonstrate what I am hinting at:

“It was never the intention of the editors of Freedomways the various Muslim think tanks and organizations, to do justice to the Harlem American Muslim’s reality historically, politically, culturally or economically. There are too many skeletons hidden in Harlem’s their closets, and none of the knowledgeable writers executives, vice-presidents and presidents dared to probe too deeply. Among the twenty-two numerous writer-specialists acronyms, activists and organizations, seemingly there was not one political, economic or cultural theorist who attempted to plot the course of where the American Muslim community was going in transition. Not one dared to be so bold as to debate the imperatives of two positions: Should Harlem the American Muslim community be broken up in favor of American individualism or should Harlem American Muslim citizens band together and direct all efforts toward maintaining Harlem’s the American Muslim community’s separate distinct existence? Not one was willing to undertake to corral community opinions in order to lead or direct the fortunes of Harlem the American Muslim community in either direction. The social motivations of these writers organizations and individuals are not inner-directed but outer-controlled; thus the acronyms exist in a neutral stasis subject to the outside decisions—political, economic and cultural—of the white non-Muslim economic and political power structure. From this initial position of subservient compromise, those who wrote the Freedomways special Harlem issue claim advocacy on behalf of American Muslims  could not even know where to begin a thorough analysis of Harlem Islam in America. Such an analysis, of course, had has to be historical, but the historical essays their ahistorical understanding of America itself were in fact the weakest is the cause of their weakness itself.”2

Another reflection from Mr. Cruse’s paperboy.

1. I have two other pieces on Harold Cruse: The Crisis of the American Muslim Part 1 and The Crisis of the American Muslim Part 2.

2. From Harold Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), from the section Freedomways, Summer of 1963: Black Economy—Self-Made Myth.

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