The Credibility Gap Widens

In 2016, I wrote several articles about what Dr. Sherman Jackson calls, “the credibility gap”. One of them was entitled Interpretation In Free Fall. In it I discussed an embarrassing exchange between Kayleigh McEnany and Reza Aslan, in which the two battled over authoritative claims about Islam. Here we are again with yet another example of Muslims being academically and publicly dishonest about Islam. Samina Ali’s Tedx talk, delivered at the University of Nevada, attempts to reduce hijab to essentially class and culture (Ali also fails to situate the topic of hijab, or headscarf, within the broader topic of ‘awrah, or nakedness, which is where the Qur’an and the Prophet situate it). According to Ali, if a women came from a noble enough station in society, she would not be publicly molested and thus is the raison d’être for hijab. What we have here is another 5-minute (well, 17-minute) gloss-over of a topic that requires far more finesse and skill than perhaps Ali is capable of bringing to it. At the risk of sounding elitist, I must say I found Ali’s assumptions to be full of holes, presumptions, and just downright sloppy.

What is most striking about pundits of Ali’s ilk is their complete ignoring of the Prophetic tradition with hadith like,

المرأةُ عورةٌ وإنَّها إذا خرَجتْ استشرَفها الشَّيطانُ

The woman’s body is ‘awrah (i.e., nakedness), so when she goes out, Shaytan attempts to take a peek.”1

These sources are typically dismissed in favor of what is exclusively mentioned in the Qur’an. This is done so, not for academic or hermeneutical purity, but for ideological reasons. It also allows such pundits to obfuscate their lacking credentials so as to mask their inability to discuss their chosen topics in-depth.  Ironically, what is equally striking is how Ali’s 17-minute video is almost completely comprised of nothing other than non-Qur’anic sources! How is it that such sources are disqualified from the conversation, let alone from having any authority, while they are invoked with impunity to support attacks against those very same authority claims? Sadly, this is another example of zero-credibility authority. What really begs answering from the likes of Ali is how do you: pray, pay zakah, make Hajj or ‘Umrah, etc.? None of these are explained in any detail in the text of the Qur’an. Should we then abandon qiyam, jalsah, ruku’,  and sajdah (standing, sitting, bowing, and prostration) as actions to perform in Muslim prayer given that their validity and method is solely and explicitly found in the hadith literature?

What ultimately baffles me is why do such Muslims even bother with Shari’ah, in that Shari’ah is essentially a post-revelatory enterprise to understand and codify what God intended through the demonstration of His Prophet in audience of the his Companions. Why not declare oneself a non-Shar’i Muslim (for the record, I am not advocating this!)? Instead, what we have — again — is an attempt to warp and bend Shari’ah to fit various agendas, such as liberalism (which rejects all authority external to the self, including God, His prophets, etc.), individualism (the embodiment of liberalism), or in this case, what appears to be some botched Marxist critique of Muslim/Qur’anic sexual ethics.

1. Recorded in Ibn Hibban’s Sahih (5598#), narrated by ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud: المرأةُ عورةٌ وإنَّها إذا خرَجتْ استشرَفها الشَّيطانُ وإنَّها لا تكونُ إلى وجهِ اللهِ أقربَ منها في قعرِ بيتِها/”The woman’s body is ‘awrah (i.e., nakedness), so when she goes out, Shaytan attempts to take a peek. She will not be closer to the Face of her Lord than when she’s in the middle of her home.”

Humility Amidst Chaos – A Khutbah

What is the mindset of the Prophet? How can we practice his Sunnah without really trying to get into his habit, his wont, his behavior? How can we cultivate his Sunnah into actions? We have to create the environment to doing good deeds, having a good state of mind. A good place to start is to look at the supplications/دعاء of the Prophet and why would he make such supplications?

عن عبد الله بن عمرو أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يكثر أن يدعوا اللهم إني أسئلك الصحة والعفة والأمانة وحسن الخلق والرضا بالقدر

“O’ Allah!, I ask you for health, sexual morality, integrity, good character and satisfaction with what you measure out.” – related by al-Nisa’i.

Why would a man who is married ask for sexual morality? There’s the idea in today’s culture that once you’re married, it’s “game over.” Or that once you’re married, you no longer have to worry about that issue.

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَيْرُ أُمَّتِي قَرْنِي ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ قَالَ عِمْرَانُ فَلَا أَدْرِي أَذَكَرَ بَعْدَ قَرْنِهِ قَرْنَيْنِ أَوْ ثَلَاثًا ثُمَّ إِنَّ بَعْدَكُمْ قَوْمًا يَشْهَدُونَ وَلَا يُسْتَشْهَدُونَ وَيَخُونُونَ وَلَا يُؤْتَمَنُونَ وَيَنْذُرُونَ وَلَا يَفُونَ وَيَظْهَرُ فِيهِمْ السِّمَنُ

“The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, ‘The best of you, are my contemporaries, then those who follow them, then those who will come after them. (‘Imran said, I do not know if he said this twice or thrice). Then, they will be followed by those who will testify but will not be called upon to testify; they will betray the trust, and will not be trusted. They will make vows but will not fulfill them, and obesity will prevail among them‘.” al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban amongst others.

It can be no coincidence that some 1400 years ago the Prophet saw a connection between obesity and bad behavior. And while this should not infer that a skinny person is automatically more pious, it does address the problem when it (the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was addressing a group of people: ويظهر فيهم السمن) becomes a social issue, not simply the misgivings of a few individuals. How often do we hear today of so many behavior issues amongst children, indeed even adults, and we see that obesity is rampant. Yet seldom is this the Islam that is presented to the public.

وَأَحْسِن كَمَآ أَحْسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ

“And do good as God has done good unto you!” Qur’an, 28: 77.

What may be the biggest inhibitor is the lack of humility amongst the Muslims ourselves; there can be no achievement of the Sunnah without modesty, humility. Ibn ‘Ata Allah wrote:

لا يدخل عليك الإهمال إلا باهمالك عن متابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم, ولا تحصل لك الرفعة عند الله تعالى إلا بمتابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم

“Neglect will find no way to you except through your own negligence in following the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. And you will not be elevated in the sight of God except by following the example of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.” Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, The Bride-Groom’s Crown/Taj al-Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus.

حدثنا أبو مسعود عقبة قال: قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إن مما أدرك الناس من كلام النبوة إذا لم تستحي فاصنع ما شئت

Additionally, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said concerning humility:

“Abu Mas’ud ‘Uqbah said that the Prophet [s] related that from what came to the people from the Prophets before is that if you have no humility then do as you please.”

Not only is this a condemnation, it is also an explanation and when the Prophet is explaining something to us, it’s for our benefit. People find no use for religion but from this statement, we can see that so much of what Allah has been trying to give people is to be humble, to be chaste, to be healthy, to be people who are trustworthy and are satisfied with what Allah measures out for them.

الإيمن بضع وستون أو سبعون شعبةً أفضلها لا إله إلا الله وأدناها إماطة الأذى عن الطريق والحياء شعبة من الإيمن

“Faith is comprised of some sixty or seventy branches, the best of which is the testimony of ‘there is no deity but the one true God’ while the lowest form of this faith is removing something harmful from the path; Humility is a branch of faith.” Sunan Abu Dawud.

Perhaps if Jeffrey Johnson had had more humility, had had more faith, had known that his need, his du’ah would be answered, that God would provide for him, then perhaps no one would have to have been shot or killed.

يستجاب لأحدكم مالم يعجل, يقول: دعوت فلم يستجب لي

“The supplication of each and every one of you will be responded to so long as you are not hasty, saying ‘I called upon you but I was not answered’.”

Islam – Religion of Action Not Just Philosophy

Islam is a din of action not just philosophy. It is more than the decadent acquisition of knowledge. Many times we as Muslims describe the key tenets of our faith as abstracts: taqwa, ihsan (for a definition of taqwa, see the Glossary), etc. And yet, these two words, as they are used in the Qur’an are often in the imperative form: in other words, taqwa and ihsan are things you do, not simply think.

Who are the people of taqwa? God says:

لَّيْسَ ٱلْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا۟ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ ٱلْمَشْرِقِ وَٱلْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنْ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلْكِتَٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّۦنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَٰكِينَ وَٱبْنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱلْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَٰهَدُوا۟ ۖ وَٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلْبَأْسِ ۗ أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا۟ ۖ وَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ

“Goodness does not lie in turning your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true devoutness are those who believe in God and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free, who establish prayer and pay zakah; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast even in poverty, illness, or duress. Those are the people who are prove truthful. They are the people who have taqwa.” Qur’an, 2: 177.

Likewise, regarding ihsan, God says:

وَٱبْتَغِ فِيمَآ ءَاتَىٰكَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلدَّارَ ٱلْءَاخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِن كَمَآ أَحْسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ ٱلْفَسَادَ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُفْسِدِينَ

“Seek the abode of the Next World with what Allah has given you, without forgetting your portion of this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love corrupters.” Qur’an, 28: 77.

A lack action, something we are guilty of as a community, is one of the things the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم warned us about:

النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏”‏ خيركم قرني، ثم الذين يلونهم، ثم الذين يلونهم‏”‏ قال عمران‏:‏ فما أدري قال‏:‏ النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم مرتين أو ثلاثاً ‏”‏ ثم يكون بعدهم قوم يشهدون ولا يستشهدون، ويخونون ولا يؤتمنون، وينذرون ولا يوفون، ويظهر فيهم السمن

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said: said, “The best of you, are my contemporaries, then those who follow them, then those who will come after them. (‘Imran said, I do not know if he said this twice or thrice). Then, they will be followed by those who will testify but will not be called upon to testify; they will betray the trust, and will not be trusted. They will make vows but will not fulfill them, and obesity will prevail among them.” Related by ‘Imran bin al-Husayn as well as Ibn ‘Umar from Ibn Hibban amongst others.

Truthfulness is not simply a state of mind but also what one does. Both the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and Abu Bakr رضى الله عنه had titles, based on their actions:

  • Abu Bakr was “al-Siddiq” because he did actions of trustworthiness and came to be known by them/كيف سمّى أبا بكر “الصديق”؟ قد تصدق
  • The Prophet was called “al-Amin” because he was reliable, trustworthy and saw to others/كيف سمّى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم؟ قد أمن وأمّن

And with God is all success.

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