Islamic Reformation – Why It Continues To Fail

“The only universally accepted dogma in the modern world is the rejection of tradition.” — William Chittick1

Until the call (and the callers) for a so-called Islamic reformation moves beyond its craven commitment to a totalizing and unprincipled commitment to the rejection of all tradition it will neither be taken seriously by the bulk of the Muslim community nor will it bring any benefit to Muslims, which is where it reveals its lack of authenticity: Muslim scholastic endeavors (fiqh, Shari’ah, spiritual rumination, etc.) have always primarily focused on bringing benefit to the Children of Adam by centering God’s pleasure as the aim of its objective. And while we can argue, debate, and interrogate these endeavors and ask whether they’ve achieved their goals, the sincerity of these men and women trying to follow and please their Lord and Master ﷺ is not.

What’s telling about the so-called Islamic reformist movement is that they are more akin to those desert Arabs who opposed the Prophet, but not necessarily God: They could accept that there was a god, even The God (Allah), but that He would have a Messenger would could have earthly authority? That they fought against. So in the same vein, while the so-called Islamic reformers reject the authority of the Prophet, they still in some manner attempt to affirm the Qur’an as a valid and (somewhat) authoritative document, by means of appealing to its transmission: “The Qur’an is mutawatir” many will say, the definition of which is meant that the Book’s transmission and dispersement — with such range and authenticity — that its truthfulness, at least as pertains to its contents, is beyond question from a Muslim perspective. What’s ironic is that the same transmission and dispersement is reliant upon the very same men and women who have transmitted the hadith, or the Prophetic traditions, which would (inconveniently?) challenge many of their so-called reforms.

If the Muslim reformists wish to be taken seriously by the majority of Muslims then they should prioritize benefit and authenticity if they hope to come across as genuinely concerned for the well-being of the Muslim community, versus looking for ways to blackmail the religion to achieve (perceived) social gains.

ما جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِرَجُلٍ مِن قَلبَينِ في جَوفِهِ

“God hasn’t placed two hearts in any man’s chest.” Qur’an 33: 4

Resources

1. Chittick, William C. Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul: The Pertinence of Islamic Cosmology in the Modern World. Oxford: One World. Pg. 19.

The Crisis of the American Muslim Part 2

Navigating American Individualism

As was stated earlier, Cruse brings to light for us one of the primary underlining social tenants of Americanism, that is to say, individualism. Islam as a religion certainly engages the individual on his or her place in the cosmos as well as other social themes, yet it would a far leap indeed to say that Islam supports individualism, the practice of making the individual the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood. What Cruse has to offer American Muslims is more than debating cosmologies, but rather a very critical and valuable investigation as to how American society works. Specifically speaking, the dynamic between the individual and society, between the group and society, and both of these in relation to the law [specifically the Constitution]. Cruse’s remarks about social imaginations are particularly useful:

On the face of it, this dilemma rests on the fact that America, which idealizes the rights of the individual above everything else, is in reality, a nation dominated by the social power of groups, classes, in-groups and cliques—both ethnic and religious. The individual in America has few rights that are not backed up by the political, economic and social power of one group or another. Hence, the individual Negro has, proportionately, very few rights indeed because his ethnic group [whether or not he actually identifies with it] has very little political, economic or social power [beyond moral grounds] to wield. Thus it can be said that those Negroes, and there are many of them, that have accepted the full essence of the Great American Ideal of individualism are in serious trouble of trying to function in America [Cruse 8].

What Cruse spells out here lines up in perfect harmony with the current dysfunction of American Muslims, who have fallen victim to a number of maladies, many of which are, if not self-inflicted, certainly seem self-perpetuated. Neither indigenous Blackamerican nor immigrant Muslims are free from this current social condition. In their efforts to assimilate, many immigrant Muslims have “idealized” the Great American Idea. While the spirit of this effort may not be blameworthy, its methodology is certainly open for examination. The result of this maneuver has been a schism within the immigrant Muslim community itself, which for the ease of this article, has left one group diving headlong into American culture with no heed for discernment, whilst the other has attempted a Mexican standoff of sorts. One group deems the whole of society and all its practices benign, whilst the other holds everything in American culture to be woefully malign. Neither approach has any chance of bringing to light a balanced practice and approach for American Muslims that would allow them to participate in society, having the power of mind to “see the playing field” and make intelligent choices of where and how to participate without running aground.

What is most crucial to take from this passage is the social reality that Cruse is trying to underpin here. Not dissimilar to the 1960’s Negro, the likelihood of the American Muslim to prosper and grow as an individual in society that in its reality places all power in the political, economic, and social group, is dubious at best. It is crucial that American Muslims come to see the necessity to put aside all small and non-critical arguments and deal with the very real danger and threat at hand; the threat of total erosion or complete irrelevance. If American Muslims are to be successful in striving to lead a life that is both pleasing to God as well as amicable to the general public, it will require the formation of a political, economic, and social clout on the part Muslims. This can only be achieved through cooperation versus dissension. I believe that differences of opinion can withstand this test; this is not a clarion call for uniformity masked as unity. The consequences are fairly clear: Muslims who capitulate to American individualism will either lose that which defines them in any distinct way as Muslim, or they will be branded an outsider, hostile, and socially irrelevant.

Part three to follow shortly. Part 1 is here.

Providence and Reliance in Islam: An Exposition

First Khutbah – Main Points

يا قوم ادخلوا الأرض المقدسة التي كتب الله لكم ولا ترتدوا على أدباركم فتنقلبوا خسرين

قالوا يا موسى إن فيها قوما جابرين وإنا لن ندخلها حتى يخرجوا منها فإن يخرجوا منها فإنا داخلون

قال رجلان من الذين يخافون أنعم الله عليهما ادخلوا عليهم الباب فإذا دخلتموه فإنكم غالبون – وعلى الله فتوكلوا إن كنتم مومنين

“[Moses] said: ‘O’ my people! Enter the Holy City which God has ordained for you and do not turn your back on your tracks. If you do you will be made the losers’.

[His people] said: ‘O’ Moses! But there are powerful people in that city and we will never go in until they leave. If they leave then we will certainly go in’.

Two men amongst them who feared God said: ‘Enter upon them by way of the gate. If you do so you will be victorious’. And upon God you should rely if you are believers.” [Q: 5: 21-23]

What does it mean to rely upon God? Is tawakkul an individual endeavor or can it also have communal aspects as well? Continue reading “Providence and Reliance in Islam: An Exposition”