More Thoughts on Reza Aslan and Historical Hadith

On August 13th, Reza Aslan, scholar of religions and professor of creative writing at the UC Riverside, posted a tweet stating that all hadith were, “created to justify orthodox behavior”.

reza-aslan-hadith

To this I posted a rebuttal of his comment,

This is why Reza Aslan is a source of misguidance for Muslims. He utters statements of kufr. Sorry if this hurts.

Since the nature of social media is in itself somewhat difficult to speak clearly I decided to clarify my intentions and points with a short video. Enjoy,

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.

The Crisis of the American Muslim Part 1

 

The following post is the first in a new post-series which will look at current conditions of Muslim thought, process, and social development in the American context, through the reading of a number of texts. The first of which is The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, by Harold Cruse. I believe Dr. Cruse’s work to be a perennial one, worthy of our thought and consideration as we look at our present condition, hoping to glean some beneficial observations for which we might find a way out of our current predicament. Dr. Harold Wright Cruse was a professor at the University of Michigan and was the author of numerous works that analyzed and critiqued the social conditions in American society, especially those pertaining to, but not restricted to, Blackamericans. He passed away in 2005. I had the honor of being his paperboy, having shared many illuminating conversations with him. I am most grateful and indebted to his contributions to American and Blackamerican thought.

The state of American Muslim cognizance still continues to baffle and befuddle. I am aware of the continuing development of its consciousness, or at least small pockets of efforts here and there, but I truthfully find it difficult to suppress my disappointment with the its rate of progress and more importantly, the general lack of urgency I see in the collective mindset of “rank-and-file” Muslims. There are a number of factors that have led to this; to list them all would beyond the enterprise of this article. Still, adjectives such as complacency and heedlessness come to mind as well as other activities: charismatic leadership and infighting to name a few. These ruminations can certainly feel like nothing other than side-line heckling; I have accused and been accused of the very same. And while the jury is still out on the former’s verdict, I would like to examine the predicament of the American Muslim through the lens of an esteemed American intellectual: Harold Cruse. Published over forty years ago, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual stands as one of the most memorable pieces of cultural criticism from the tumultuous Sixties.

Harold, who was born in Virginia but raised in New York City, came of age at what would be the ground zero of Black intellectual thought during an era which saw and bore witness to tremendous social upheavals via the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the work that Cruse produced was more than simply a cerebral testimony of the Civil Rights Movement. He just as often critiqued and criticized it as much as he praised it. His criticisms were done, not to defame or destroy the works that the Civil Rights Movement accomplished, but rather to illustrate a number of very subtle and unchallenged assumptions about the Civil Rights Movement and the supposed hegemony its institutions held over the Blackamerican community. How is this helpful in regards to the American Muslim community, you may ask. I believe there are a number of observations that Cruse makes on the nature of the Blackamerican [he uses the word Negro and all such quotes from The Crisis will continue to use Negro though I will interchange it with the more modern usage of Blackamerican] community and their social situations and conditions, observations that relate directly to the condition of the American Muslim, still relevant to this day. Cruse also makes very astute calculations about the relationship between the individual and society, the group and society, and the individual and law; all topics that are germane to the American Muslim’s current predicament. And while I do not pretend to offer Cruse’s The Crisis as a panacea, I do believe we can benefit from past scholarship [nothing new in the Muslim tradition], even if it is outside of our faith tradition [again, in truth, nothing new in Muslim tradition].

One of the first issues that come to mind that American Muslims must come to grips with is diversity: diversity of thought and practice.  Academic Orientalists are not the only ones guilty of this practice: reductionism.  The current state of Muslim-Muslim relations is rife with intolerance and a mean spiritedness that hampers the growth and development of Islam in America.  Part of this has come from not only an absence of education regarding theology and orthodoxy for American Muslims but also from a lack of understanding how Muslims have dealt with and encountered differing strains of thought throughout history.  As one scholar wrote, there is a significant difference “between formal heresy, i.e., the willful persistence in error and, material heresy, or the holding of heretical doctrines through no fault of one’s own” [Jackson 3].  This in no way implies that there are not “right” and “wrong” ways to believe in or practice Islam, but a more delicate, engaging, and thoughtful process need be called upon when coming to these conclusions, to say nothing of the authority to perform such excommunications.  For the purposes of our examination, this is keenly what Dr. Cruse contemplated when he examined the relation between the orthodoxy [for lack of a better word] of thought found in the civil rights-oriented NAACP and its conflict with dissenting opinions from other Blackamericans.  As Cruse points out, by examining the works of the likes of Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany, there was significant difference and indeed dissention amongst the ranks of the newly emancipated Blackamericans.  Cruse shows us that even as early as the Civil War, blacks were divided on roughly two mains paths: pro-integrationists and pro-segregationists, namely the Back-to-Africa movements.  I say all this to bring to light the need to recognize differing opinions as well as the development for some type of social authority mechanism for people to take their appeals to, such that unhealthy squabbling might be avoided.

One particular aspect of the question of orthodoxy I would like to comment on is the policing of it as well as the objectives of orthodoxy and the objectives of religion.  To the first point, it is exceedingly difficult to police orthodoxy in Islam, particularly in America, where there still persists a very real vacuum of knowledge and authority.  In the absence of any real authority mechanism, such attempts are reduced to individuals or small groups, either by proxy of charisma or some other means, who often seek to brow beat their coreligionists into submission.  Little can be said to its efficacy, as unorthodox practices are still prevalent in American Muslims.

As to the latter, it should be noted that orthodoxy and religion are neither one nor the same.  The objectives of orthodoxy do not necessarily coincide with those of religion.  The former seeks to gain ascendancy or authority over a particular community, whereas religion has the ability to encompass a multitude of expressions.  Moreover, to ground the argument in the present talk, it would be much more worthy of the energies and endeavors spent on the part of American Muslims to push or expand the circle of belief, leaving room for growth and understanding.  In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, he expressed concern over the lack of spiritual growth and commitment to Muslims in his particular community.  He noted the absence of Muslims for many of the prayers and many of those who did attend the mosque did not engage in any supererogatory activities such as Qur’an reading or dhikr circles.  I mentioned, while I could sympathize with him, it would be much better to celebrate those Muslims who do come to the mosque with any frequency as well as widening our acceptance for Muslims whose practices may not be as “on point” as we might hope.  However, I did note that there was considerable room for creating social stigmas and criterions for behavior in our midst, sending a clear signal to those individuals whose social behaviors are unacceptable, such as domestic violence, lack of employment or education, and so forth.  In this category, I see no issue with tightening the ranks while leaving people to develop spiritually as Muslims.

I speak upon the problem of diversity and acceptance not as a humanist but because I believe there are more pressing issues at the table facing American Muslims.  Several of these issues I have written on before but here I would like to take the opportunity to perhaps expand the conversation a bit as well as bring it to a more relevant focus.  The need or even the demand for Muslims to express an articulation of Islam that seeks to appease the dominant culture is nothing new.  However, what is not often talked about is how American Muslims might go about this task of navigating and negotiating the cultural landscape of America under what Cruse calls the “Great American Ideal”.  To clarify, I will cite Cruse’s own definition:

The superficial answer is that, in practice, it is the living expression of that body of concepts sanctified in the American Constitution.  For the Negro, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments are of special relevance.  But this is true because of the way in which the Negro has influenced the evolution of the American Ideal [Cruse 7].

This “dominating persuasion” as Cruse calls it, is quite similar to the social contexts that American Muslims currently live under.  This has even further relevance and importance for Blackamerican Muslims, whose history in this country and the potential role they might play in terms of how Islam is played out in America cannot be understated.  It is a pressure that seeks to deny American Muslims an equally dignified existence their fellow Americans enjoy.  Cruse cites very eloquently, “the philosophy of these Negroes has not been allowed the dignity of acceptance as an ethnic conception of reality” [Cruse 6].  This latter point, the conception of reality, is to me, one of the most crucial aspects of social life and acceptance that is currently hanging American Muslims out to dry.  Undeniably, there are social factors outside the complete influence of American Muslims but it would be dishonest to assert that all opportunities have not been capitalized on.  It is my firm belief that if Muslims are to harbor any hopes of having a successful and lasting stay and relationship in American, they will have to find some means of validating their own “conception of reality” in the dominant cultural landscape [a reality amongst realities if you will].  To not do so will render Islam and Muslims as an ahistorical other, an outcast with no seat at the table, and whose descendants can only look to a future in which they can and will play no defining role.

Part 2 is available here.

  1. Cruse, Harold. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. New York: New York Review Books, 1967.
  2. Jackson, Sherman. On the Bounds of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Faysal al-Tafriqa bayna al-Islam wa al-Zandaqa. Oxford: Oxford Unversity Press, 2002.

The Trouble With Muslim Pundits Today

Today was an odd turn of events that had the building which houses my office on UPenn’s campus, play host to a talk on Islam by one of today’s most darling Muslim pundits, Irshad Manji. A self-proclaimed Muslim reformist, activist, human rights lobbiest and lesbian, Irshad gave a talk to an attentive audience which was comprised of both Muslim and non-Muslim, old and young alike. Dr. Leonard Swidler, from Temple University, was also on hand to add to the discussion. But, unfortunately, like her book, The Trouble With Islam Today, the talk was filled with nothing more than drivel. And that’s just the good part.

So much of the dialog today regarding Islam is in how it can fit into the master narrative of Western discourse. This encompasses everything from morals, ethics, to aesthetics, such as standards and concepts of beauty. When Islam fails to authenticate a narrative that falls within the margins of the dominant culture, it and vis-a-vie, the Muslims, are condemned as being backwards, barbaric, and even morally, ethically, and intellectually bankrupt. And when a people are deemed barbaric or morally bankrupt, the slippery slope to subjugation, whether it be figuratively, psychologically or physically can never trail far behind. This process of brutalization bears striking resemblance to the types of psychological terror that have been visited upon various minority groups in the West, especially in America, when they failed to meet the criterion of a dominant force that often have a pattern of “moving the goal post” when it suited itself opportune.

A major portion of my critique on Manji’s arguments and positions as well as comments that Dr. Swidler gave, were that neither Manji nor Swidler are scholastically equipped to answer any such questions regarding the intellectual tradition of Islam. Manji is a journalist of questionable objectivity and Swidler’s expertise lies outside the fold of Islam. Manji often relies on crude reductionism coupled with a woefully absent basic familiarity with the Islamic Tradition. Buzz words like ijtihad, fatwah and of course, the crowd-pleaser, jihad, are tossed out to lend to her some Islamic academic credibility. In fact, Swidler’s presence is somewhat questionable as Temple University could have certainly offered up someone who would have been far better suited to the task at hand. In light of access to scholars like Khalid Blankinship, it remained a curiosity as to why Manji chose a non-Muslim religious professor to engage in talks about Muslim reform.

But to take things a step further, Manji’s book, The Trouble With Islam Today, is guilty of the same crime that many of its contemporaries are: making the personal experience an ontological narrative. To help further explain my point, let me offer this explanation: because of the trials and tribulations that Manji faced as a child, because of the personal experiences that Manji had and the choices she’s made, she has taken the sum of those experiences and built the foundation of her argument around them such that they take on a scope that is completely inappropriate. That because they were or are issues for Manji they must be equally important issues for all Muslims in all times and in all places. A great deal of Manji’s contemporaries, such as Ayan Hirsi Ali to name one, frame their arguments in the same manner. But to reiterate, these criticisms of Islam do not simply stop at personal narrative, they apex again at how Islam falls short on a laundry list of items such as equality, human rights, tolerance and progression. In where Islam fails to be equal, tolerant or progressive in the “Western” paradigm that Manji offers up, Islam is deemed to have a problem. So this left me asking some simple but pertinent questions: are any of these issues true? And if so, how, and in what way? And again, if so, what would be the best way of looking for resolutions.

Before tackling any of the issues that Manji tries to speak on the, I have a few questions of my own. Namely, is she, or Professor Swidler capable of addressing these issues from both within and without the Muslim intellectual tradition. What are Manji’s credentials that would allow her to speak authoritatively on issues that Muslims today are facing. Indeed, it seems to be Manji’s modus operandi to completely leap frog the whole of Muslim intellectual thought and just, as she put it to me, bypass dogma.

Much of the holes in Manji’s arguments, and for pundits like her, is that because they are not conversant with that tradition and thus the judgments and rulings that it produces, they marginalize it under the assumption that because it is from the Tradition it is old, outdated, antiquated and has nothing to offer to modern Muslims in modern times. This could not be further from the truth. And aside from this stiff arming they also neglect why it is important and still speaks to Muslims today. This inadequacy is more than simple ignorance of the intellectual tradition of Muslim thought but also woeful negligence in being versed in simple creedal formulations in Muslim theology such as the rightful place of God as an authority, the rightful place of authority of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and how these authorities are negotiated.

During the talk, Manji made several quips about God being a “he or she” – the idea that God is neither masculine nor feminine is one of the primary principles in fundamental Islamic creed, yet Manji insists on using a language that is far from the spirit of what Muslim theology is all about. A similar stance is taken towards the sunnah, in that it is something that should be questioned, not in its application (as is how the Tradition does) but yet to question its validity as a whole. The result of which the Sunnah is seen as also a derelict of a by-gone era and thus should be tossed aside in favor of pure, so-called rational thinking.

For many Muslim/anti-Muslim pundits today, authority lies at the crux of their objections. In their arguments, Islam has suffered from an authoritative crisis, namely that the ulama’ — or religious scholars — have put a choke hold on religious interpretation and expression and therefore to avoid the risk of any further entrapment of religious authority, the baby is tossed out with the bath water. But no body or organization can survive much less thrive without an authoritative voice. And the sham to this is that in fact, most of these pundits, and Manji in specific here, seek to simply usurp the currently perceived authority for their own hegemonic voice. It is through this tension that Manji, and pundits like her, have with authority that the agenda of such said pundits becomes clear.

During the talk, the example of the fatwah that was issued against Salman Rushdie was used as a means of demonstrating the backwards, barbaric and even violent tendencies that this authoritative voice could foster. And yet, not once, either of negligence, ignorance or purpose, the fatwah that was issued by the Mufti of Egypt from al-Azhar University denying the validity of any such fatwah was conveniently left out. In light of its absence it would indeed seem that the Muslim world is not only monolithic but monolithic in its barbarity, an image that is often offered up from the hands of Orientalist scholars of Islam. In fact, when Manji’s research is examined a bit more closely, it is laced with Orientalist tendencies of understanding Islam and Muslims. This is far from the “fair and balanced” reporting that Manji would leave us to believe.

Manji’s axe to grind with authority extends even to basic tenants of Islam such as prayer. When asked about prayer she responded that she does not need anyone to tell her how to pray – that she can devise such a way on her own. Such thinking could not be further from the pale of Islamic theology 101. But the main issue with this line of thought is not that Manji wants to “find her own way” but in that she wishes to seek accommodation in the orthodoxy of the religion. Wanting to be homosexual and pray in your own way is completely a matter of personal choice but there is simply no way to justify it with the texts, traditions and methodologies in Islam. Expecting to do so shows not only a lack of intelligence but also immaturity on Manji’s part. This only further demonstrates Manji’s desire to influence and assert her own authority for if her way was sufficient and as she put it to me, “between me and my God”, then gaining an ascendant voice would not be necessary. No, it is indeed this ambition to flip the current and Traditional modules of authority on their respective heads that lies at much of Manji’s argument.

To continue to examine Manji’s theological constructs, one comment she made struck me dead in my tracks. When she spoke to her mother about praying to God in her own way she made a rebuttal that she offered up sincere words of gratitude and that she offered them willingly to God. It is not my focus to deconstruct Manji’s arguments solely on dogmatic grounds but she has completely missed the forest ‘fore the trees. One of the basic underlying principles dictating the relationship between God and Man is that God needs nothing from us. And that anything we offer up in the way of worship, orthodox or heretical, adds nothing to the dominion of God. Manji’s argument is typical of persons who have bones to pick with religion (legitimate or otherwise) and assume a posture of arrogance that is not befitting them. Hence in Islam, only God has the right to Arrogance (al-Mutakabbir) as God needs nothing and only One free from want can be truly arrogant.

A favorite target of these hybrid-Orientalists, as I will call them, is the use of the Middle-East as a criterion for the very possibilities of what Islam can and cannot be and specifically, where it fails to achieve the hurdles set up by the very same judges who also craft the questions, Islam and by proxy, all Muslims, are deemed to be inferior. In her documentary, Manji does extensive filming in Yemen, a country in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, and as Manji put it, the birthplace of Islam (though I’d say her geography is off just a bit but who’s counting). As Manji takes in the sights of Yemen the camera displays for us the manifold women who walk the streets, head scarves covering their heads and veils on many of the faces. The critique is centered around the “sameness” of everything and that there is a stifled individuality. In its essence the whole film is a work of cinematic Orientalism. Two examples are offered to the viewer: an American woman who married a Yemeni man and now wears the hijab and veil and a Yemeni woman who has taken to adopting Western styles of dress. There was no interview done of Yemeni women who do wear hijab and veil and do so out of their own choice and not out of a 7th Century tribal (another argument of Manji’s that I will address in a moment) affiliation. Instead, we are encouraged to see how backwards the society is in how it hasn’t caught up with Modernity – Modernity in how the West has interpreted it. And it’s a steep and slippery slope from being backwards to being brutalized; both physically and psychologically.

Tribalism seems to be one of the central arguing points of Manji. That the entire Muslim world is in reality, a humongous body of worshipers who have been indoctrinated into a 7th Century modality of living. Anything that a Muslim does is not out of his or her understanding but rather in obedience to Arabian tribalism. This myopic vision is again, indicative of Orientalism, which willingly lacked the ability to look at Islam as an idiosyncrasy in the way in which white European Christians were an idiosyncrasy. Muslims were not a body of believers that had tremendous diversity in custom and in interpretation but a monolith – no variation. No individual thought. And more importantly, anything that any Muslim did or thought was inextricably linked and informed by their religion and was therefore part and parcel for Islam itself. This philosophy is still alive and well today and continues to inform a great deal of the scholarship on Islam in the West. Orientalism is not the only misgiving that Manji’s work is guilty of. Reductionist thinking is another characteristic that her work is ripe with. From the way in which she interviews small minorities of Muslims and yet offers what they have to say, think and feel, as capturing the majority spirit. Her critique that Muslim women who wear hijab are simply using fundamentalism as a moral compass is so woefully guilty of reductionist thinking that it is only because Manji offers an articulation of Islam that is appeasing to the dominant culture that it has not been cast out as completely devoid of any substance.

In the end, Manji’s work reveals bare, the bones she has to pick with authority within orthodox Islam. But instead of approaching Islam in a methodical way, she simply side steps the intellectual traditions, branding them as dogmatic, devoid of any life or creativity. And it is here that Manji’s assumptions are the same as the Orientalists: that the endeavor of Muslim history and its Tradition have nothing pertinent to say in the modern context. And it is through this adoption of Western normals and values, without a single shred of scrutiny, reveals Manji’s bias. Indeed, Manji’s critique of Islam is not in how it succeeds or impedes the pleasing of God and attaining a successful life in the Hereafter but in how it does not measure up to Westerness; a goal post that is wholly unachievable and nor should it be proffered as a desired achievement. The opinions and the histories that informed those Muslims and how they reached them are never acknowledged let alone tackled. Simply put, in each and every way that Islam and Muslims do not meet the articulation that Irshad Manji and pundits like her concoct then Islam and the Muslims are open game to be humiliated and brutalized, whether that be psychological or otherwise. And that’s not “tough journalism” – it’s sensationalism and deceit.

Perhaps in the future Manji might be willing to sit and discuss her work with a Muslim scholar or at the very least, a scholar of Islam. I found an intriguing curiosity that with a scholar like Dr. Khalid Blankinship at Temple University was passed over in favor of Dr. Swidler, who, while a professor of religion, is not a scholar of Islam. Until then I think that Manji will continue to loose face in the majority Muslim body, which is precisely where she wants to plant her flag. I for one am available for comment or discussion.

And God knows best.

Why Polemics Are A Waste Of Time

A Muslim recently brought to my attention a disturbing video (the link has since disappeared off of the person’s web site) of a Muslim openly bashing and berating a group of Nation of Islam men standing on a street corner in the UK. I watched the video with a sense of shock and disgust. The antagonist obviously had only one thing in mind – to act or perform for his audience and to denounce the “kafirs“, as he termed them, for all to see. Chalk up another victory for Islam.

My frustration and anger do not stop at the video. On the site that’s posting the video, the brother describes the NOI brothers as, “nuts”. I am curious to examine the potential reasons behind this NOI bashing in an attempt to find some validation for it.

Let me start my vent with a short statement: polemics is a waste of time. I have yet to ever see any good come of it. Nor should healthy dialog and debate be mistaken for polemics and especially visa versa. Is is because they claim Islam that they deserve such a scathing public display? For me, it is a real shame that Muslims today [with special emphasis placed on Blackamerican Muslims] cannot find the room to find a dialog with the Nation. They are simply stripped of any value and tossed aside. How utterly ignorant and shortsighted this is [not to mention thankless – we would not have had a Malcolm X without the Nation!].

While other Muslims seem to enjoy the ability to foster care, concern and dialog about their own people, regardless of religious affiliation [the Palestinians come to mind], the same room is not afforded to Blackamerican Muslims who wish to address the Nation. In fact, Blackamerican orthodox/Sunni Muslims in my opinion, tend to be the biggest offenders. Why? Have we forgotten the contribution that the Nation of Islam has made to Islam being a viable and tangible mode of Americana for blacks in this country? I would hope no one out there would be absurd enough to forget that blacks in America [for the time being] have the capacity to move from Christianity to Islam without sacrificing neither their Americanness nor their blackness. This shift has been greatly made by the efforts of the Nation. This simply cannot be emphasized enough. The sooner we all come to openly recognize this and appreciate the reality of this, the sooner I believe we can repair a rift between the Nation and other orthodox/Sunni Blackamerican Muslims.

The gentleman in the video seemed to frame his arguments against the Nation around three central points: that they’re kafirs. That they murdered Malcolm X. And that their theology isn’t “true” Islam. I shall attempt to look at each of these critical points.

Before analyzing the brother’s takfir [calling them kafirs], we must examine this word kafir and see what type of value is placed on this word now and if so, how does that value compare to previous historical values that have been used by Muslims in the past.

Undoubtedly, in the Modern context, kafir is a dirty word, akin to calling somebody a son-of-a-bitch [or in reality, much worse – so use your imagination]. But beyond ethical values, the word is also used to strip someone or a whole group of people, of their humanity. If one is a kafir, in this sense, then one isn’t even fully human. And historically, we have seen the darker side of humanity when one group of people imagines the other without human value. But in pre-Modern times, kafir was used to simply denote a person who fell outside the religious fold of Islam. Not whether or not they had value as a person or a human being. And while it’s not within the scope of this post to do so, there are numerous sources that will support my opinion here including Prophetic ones. For further reading, research some of Dr. Sherman Jackson’s work on this term, kafir.

As for the murder of Malcolm X, this is not in repute nor dispute. Rather, what is important, in the immediate case, is that were any of the brother’s in the park personally responsible for brother Malcolm’s murder. Communal guilt is not a practice that can be legitimized in the religion of Muhammad of Arabia and I find no reason to instigate that bid’ah. Conversely, Usama bin Laden and his cohorts were responsible for the mass murder of some 2, 998 people. And yet we as Muslims, worldwide, have been clamoring against precisely the same thing – communal guilt. That we are guilty by religious association, for the deaths of those 2, 998 people [God rest their souls]. I have no doubt, that if put to the question, Mr. Abdur-Raheem Green, would agree that he in no was is responsible for the actions of the nineteen hijackers despite his religious affiliation with them. So why then are the NOI brothers held in duplicitous guilt? I can find no facts that support this presupposition and move to have the case dismissed.

Mr. Green’s final point, that their Islam isn’t “real” Islam, again, is a dog barking up a wrong tree. I don’t think any moderately educated orthodox/Sunni Muslim [in his/her religious tradition] could condone the Nation of Islam’s theology as valid according the strictures of the religion that Muhammad of Arabia brought. The fact is besides the point and ties back to the misplaced value and making takfir on them. Nation of Islam or not, kafir or not, does not give one the reason to chide these people. But let me further my case with some Sunnah.

Any orthodox/Sunni Muslim worth his or her salt knows that the Prophet loved his people. Religious affiliations aside, he loved his people. It is apparent in his actions and most evident in the love of his uncle, who is recorded in more than one authentic narration, died in a state of kufr [disbelieve]. If one were to give the life of the Prophet a thorough, detailed study, you will find a man who was deeply troubled about and for his people. That throughout his Prophethood, he dearly wanted to make concessions to make Islam more attractive for Makkans/Arabians. Which is why Allah shows to us in the Qur’an that He had to strengthen the Prophet’s resolve or he was have conceded more to them than was proper. That is the real Muhammad, Mr. Green. That is your real Prophet, of which your actions show you are woefully ignorant of. And to toss gasoline on a fire, Mr. Green actually proceed to yell out verses of the Qur’an, in Arabic, of which his target audience was most likely ignorant of. In my opinion, this is akin to shouting fire in a burning house full of deaf people. It does no one any good and saves no lives. What would you do, Mr. Green? Keep shouting at those poor, miserable deaf bastards until the house falls down on them or learn to communicate with them and try to save some lives?

Nuts? Only nuts I’ve seen lately were in the snack isle. But I have seen some crazy stuff on the Internet lately.

And God knows best.