Humility – A Khutbah at ICIE

إِنَّ مِمَّا أَدْرَكَ النَّاسُ مِنْ كَلاَمِ النُّبُوَّةِ الأُولَى إِذَا لَمْ تَسْتَحِي فَاصْنَعْ مَا شِئْتَ

Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari reported that the Prophet () said,

“One of the admonitions of the previous Prophets which has been conveyed to people is that if you have no modesty, you can do whatever you like.”

[Al- Bukhari].

Islam and Society – The Society of Dependence

The following is a video from the ongoing class being taught at ICIE, entitled, Islam and Society. This week’s class is The Society of Dependence.

Last time we asked the question: “Is being Muslim in America an oxymoron?

Reality: “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit.

What does it mean to be religious?

  • What are the perceived pitfalls to being “religious” benefits can/should religion bring to society?

Religion can simultaneously enforce and challenge social norms. How is this a benefit?

How can we call people to God if they are not dependent on Him? If they are wholly dependent on Things?

One of our main roles, socially speaking, should be to stop trivializing life. To encourage people to come back to serious contemplation.

The PDF/presentation notes can be downloaded here.

Guidance – A Khutbah

The following video is from a khutbah delivered at the Islamic Center of Inland Empire. In it, I discuss some of the in’s and out’s of guidance. “I’m a good person – that’s all that counts, right?” “If God wants me to do good, then I will. If not, then….” I also discuss whether or not guidance is something immutable or changeable, and if so, what is our role in it.

قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَكُمُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا عَلَيْكُمْ بِوَكِيلٍ

“Say [Prophet Muhammad]: ‘Mankind!, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Whoever is guided is only guided for his own sake. And whoever is misguided is misguided to his detriment. I have not been set over you as a guardian’.” [Qur’an, 10: 108]

Why Islam Is Not A Culture

During my talk in Rancho Cucamonga last week, one of the main points that I spoke on was that Islam is, ultimately, not a culture. I thought I’d take a comment to speaker further on my statement and explain it in a bit more detail.

One of the problems of seeing Islam as a culture is that, if it is a culture, then it must lose its ability to inform, for all of its arguments become circular. This is one of the reasons I feel many Muslims object to the notion of Islam not being a culture is because they want Islam to inform their lives. In many ways this conundrum is really a matter of semantics. After all, it is Islam, its book — the Qur’an — and the life of the Prophet Muhammud (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that gives meaning and direction to the lives of Muslims, and rightly so. However, I feel the only way to retain the perfection of Islam, and its ability to reform and guide the human being, is if it is ultimately elevated beyond the construct of human endeavors, time, and history. In defense of this approach, one of the central tenets to the Islamic faith is that the Qur’an is not manufactured by man and that Muhammad did not speak of his own accord.

Let us examine this semantic conundrum further. One of the main challenges facing Muslims in the modern age is the inability to no longer see the distinctive line between where revelation ends, on the one hand, and where their cultures begin. From this troubled point of view, Muslims can often end up condemning other Muslims, not for having infringed upon divine Scripture or prophetic tradition, but rather simply for being different from them. Let me be clear here: this is not a challenge solely for immigrant (I prefer legacy Muslims) Muslims, who fail to see the dividing line between Islam and their own cultural interpretations on it. It is also a major challenge, for the sake of this article, for American Muslims (particularly converts) who also express difficulty in discerning where Revelation ends and culture begins. In fact, American Muslim converts can be the greatest enforcers of this (false) regime. In the end, however, the intentions driving this mindset, no matter how well-intended, often lead to divisiveness inside the broader (global) Muslim community.

It is precisely this above-mentioned mindset that drives most of the criticism against those in the American-Muslim community who seek to establish a bona fide American-Muslim culture. And yet, at its heart, the discussion around the creation of a authentic and valid American-Muslim culture is in essence, an attempt to do precisely what the Muslim Ummah has done throughout history: negotiate their customs and norms with the revelation of Islam.

In summary, by insisting upon Islam’s supra-worldly status and origin, we can then set about to the enterprise of “commanding to the good and forbidding the evil”, as the bulk of both categories are wholly unknowable without relying upon pre-existing, man-made cultures. And perhaps most important of all, we’ll be reminded of where our best efforts end and God begins. The detriment of not doing so explains to great lengths why the Muslim world has lost its ability to change and adapt to modernity: not because Islam is incapable of doing so but precisely because these Muslims no longer see a distinction between their cultures and divine Revelation. Therefore, once this distinction is removed, there is no other recourse for these cultures to change (if they are inseparable manifestations of Revelation then logic dictates there can be no change! – for Revelation does not change!) for only a man-made culture can indeed be advised and informed by that which is from Beyond.

وَفِي ذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَتَنَافَسِ الْمُتَنَافِسُونَ

“Let people with aspiration aspire to that!” Qur’an, 83: 26.