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,

A Wakeup Call – This Time For Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd – White Person Extraordinaire

I have written two articles (1 and 2) on the phenomenon of Muslim pundits. To be more precise, the articles were about Muslim Muslim pundits, those few self-elected personalities that have made careers out of irresponsible critiques against Muslims and Islam, especially when Muslim do not meet their expectations. And it is the latest article from Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Maureen Dowd, that provides an example of a non-Muslim Muslim pundit. In her New York Times article, Ms. Dowd uses 911 words (coincidence? You decide…) to inform us just how short her recent trip to Saudi Arabia, the “cradle of Islam”, fell in how it failed to educate her about the religion that, “smashed into the American consciousness on 9/11”. Dowd’s article, despite its obvious lack of respect for the subject, does manage to bring to light a glaring tendency in popular discourse, namely the general acceptance of attacking Muslims and by proxy of them, Islam, through one, convenient scapegoat: Saudi Arabia. According to Dowd and those who follow this mode of logic, to reproach Saudi Arabia is to reproach Islam in its entirety.

In one of my recent articles, I talked about the phenomenon of American Muslims and their need to travel abroad to the Muslim world in order to feel validated. Dowd has in many ways followed the exact same line, albeit for a different end goal: to denounce Islam. However, the two parties both have a misguided perception that Arab world, and Saudi Arabia in particular, are symbiotes of the same host: the religion of Islam. As we have seen in recent events, this could not be father from the case. Saudi Arabia is a country, a Muslim country no doubt, but hardly representative of Islam itself in such a way that all other expressions of Islam outside of the Arab Kingdom are merely simulacrums of Islam.

Dowd’s article, Pilgrim Non Grata In Mecca, is problematic even in its titling. From the very get go, Dowd ascribes to herself a status she does not possess: that of a (Muslim) pilgrim. A play on the Latin persona non grata, a close translation being “unwelcome person”, Dowd assumes that she is indeed on a pilgrimage (perhaps she was making ‘Umrah?), Dowd places herself within her own narrative in a role she never possessed from the start. Dowd repeatedly misses the very Muslimness of Mecca and Madīnah, especially as it relates to the necessity of those would visit the Ka’abah. Dowd fails to realize or recognize the need to be a Muslim to not only visit these places, but to perform the ritual acts for which they solely exist for. This deliberate intention, on the part of Dowd, to ignore such an overarching fact concerning the Two Holy Mosques only further demonstrates the utter lack of respect that Dowd had for her subject matter from the beginning. It is not that Dowd is an unwelcome pilgrim but that she is not a pilgrim at all.

Pilgrim Non Grata continues its bull-in-a-china-shop critique of Islam by attacking not how Islam views sacredness, but in how Islam is not Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism. Dowd’s smug rant about how Mecca is not as open as the Vatican or how one can have their picture taken with the Dalai Lama only further illustrates how absolutely biased and ignorant Dowd is on the subject of Islam. By holding up Islam to a fit it was never meant to wear, Islam can only but fall short of appearing to be “civilized”. In essence, Dowd’s main axe to grind with Islam (which during the course of Dowd’s article is difficult to discern where she’s more concerned with getting access to the country of Saudi Arabia or learning anything in particular about Islam the religion) is how it’s not Christian, or Buddhist, than it is about understanding how Islam views the sacred. Here, Dowd reveals her true colors (literally) as a white, western woman, whose only particular historicized notions of freedom, access, equality, etc., are theorized into ontological truths that can be used to demonize Muslims (by proxy of Saudi Arabians) and Islam as a religion as a whole. I must admit I am sorely disappointed that a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist could either be so woefully ignorant or so unabashedly crude. Perhaps that prize, along with western white privilege, is not all it’s cracked up to be.

It would seem that much of Dowd’s ignorance stems from a complete lack of understanding of Islam on its own terms as well as the few, highly questionable sources she draws upon. Aside from her own trumped up cosmology, Dowd refers to Sir Richard Burton, the British “adventurer”, who translated “The Arabian Nights”, referring to himself as a “amateur barbarian”. Perhaps if Dowd had done some research she may have found that the Arabian Nights in no way shape or form has any relation to the religion of Islam. No all things Arab constitute a running commentary on Islam. Perhaps if Dowd had simply talked to a few recognized, educated and reputable Muslim figures on the religion, she may have accomplished her goal of trying to “learn about the religion that smashed into the American consciousness on 9/11”.

Part of understanding Islam on its own terms would entail learning how Islam views the sacred. In fact, it is perhaps in Islam’s view of the sacred that continues to distinguish itself from other religious expressions in modernity as the quintessential pre-modern religion. In other words, the sacred, for the main body of Muslims, was never rendered into the profane; the secular. Aside from the anomaly of modern thought as expressed by a few pro-modernity Muslim thinkers, there has never existed the concept of Les Belles Lettres. Beauty, in the body of Muslim thought, has always been connected to the Divine. It is even one of the Attributes of God in Islam, where all other emanations of beauty only point back to the source of Ultimate Beauty. This notion of sacredness extends to the mosque – any mosque, not solely the Two Holy Mosques of Mecca and Madīnah – as well to the Qur’ān. Art in the Muslim world (and in pre-modern Europe as well) was viewed as religious: the decorating of mosques, the illumination of the Qur’ān and other classical texts and so forth. These artistic endeavors were done not out of a desacralized sense of beauty, but rather as a mode of religious devotion. In fact, if Dowd had spoken with a body of Muslims before hand, she may have heard voices from the Muslims who dismay over the very secularness of the Blue Mosque, in that what once used to be a place of worship has now been reduced to a museum of historic architecture; the belle lettre of buildings. So when Muslims wish to keep and preserve the sacredness of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Madīnah, perhaps Dowd could see that this decision is informed by a very specific thought process that has very specific goals, namely the preservation of the sacred for all Muslims.

As for the three faith traditions that Dowd lists, she misses a key point: you may not have to be Catholic to go to the Vatican, but you may have to be Catholic to really understand what it means to be Catholic. You may be able to learn some very interesting facts about Catholicism as a non-Catholic, but without having the experience of being a Catholic, especially in a modern mindset, you will only have accumulated a collection of details that may or may not have the same meaning for the viewer as it does the object of their viewing. Similarly, as above, simply because Catholics have chosen to open up the Vatican does not mean that Muslims should open up Mecca. The Vatican is not Mecca, nor vise versa. Perhaps Dowd should consider doing some research on her topic before flailing about wildly with her pen.

Finally, I will depart with commenting on the methodology of Dowd’s inquiry. In her own words, Dowd stated that, “It was nearly impossible for me to experience Islam in the cradle of Islam”. Another in a long line of presumptions, I would challenge Ms. Dowd on just how she arrived at this observation. Much akin to Africa being the cradle of civilization, going back to Kenya and walking around the dusty streets of Nairobi will not, cēterīs paribus, give me any epiphanic understanding of what life is like in New York City. Further, the analogy of a “cradle” is also not without critique, as a cradle, according to the dictionary, is a small bed, often for infants, during which they are nurtured in their early existence. Islam was born in Mecca, but it grew up and moved out the house, expanded in Madīnah and eventually flew well beyond its borders. While learning about Mecca will indeed teach one about certain aspects of Islam, but it cannot give the whole picture. In the end, my advice to Maureen Dowd would be: if you want to learn about Islam, become a Muslim. If you wish to know some “facts” about Islam, well, you could visit Wikipedia. Or for that matter, continue reading this blog.

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 Sacred

Today’s world is a cynical world. How often do we see the deepest, the most egregious problems dealt with a cynical hand? I heard once from a modern scholar that the only people in today’s society that have the power to critique are the comedians. But they loose their impact because they trivialize the issue by making a jest of it (whether or not that make a jest of it).

I recently gave a talk at Rutgers University, to a group of students who were taking a class on spiritual autobiography. Like many people I’ve talked to this year in regards to Islam, “why did the Muslims react the way in which they did towards the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad” has been been one of the more popular questions. My answer has been long coming to me – but the answer I gave that day and the one I’ll give again today is because of The Sacred. I will outline what I mean by sacred so that one will not conflate my words to mean that I condone actions of violence. I most certainly do not. But in an effort to break away from the certain perspectives (Orientalist, Islamophobes…) that these violent reactions are a result of the Eastern Mind or something inherent in Islam and instead, people’s (misguided, and I’ll get to that as well) frustrations towards The Sacred being violated. For many people who had issue with the cartoons (myself included), we were told that Freedom of Speech trumped our concepts of The Sacred. Being able to say whatever comes to one’s mind supersedes that of moral, ethical and public judgment. With this reckless abandonment of wisdom as a system, then there will always be people who will lash out (hopefully in a proverbial way) against having that which they hold as Sacred, trampled underneath someone else’s belief system. The final part of this short essay is the re-examination of what is and isn’t Sacred for Muslims, or if I may be so bold, what aught to be Sacred and the re-prioritization of The Sacred for Muslims based on what the Prophet and his companions held as Sacred, as a guide for Muslims living in this “Western” part of the world.

Before we can clear the deck for me to leap into this topic I’d like to clarify a few short topics. In a recent interview I was quoted as being a “progressive Muslim”. In today’s world of headlines and sound-bites, one little word, one little phrase can pigeonhole a person. To state it for the record, I never used this word “progressive” to describe myself or any of my ideologies. Islam in the 20th century has a seen a vast array of movements: Reformists. Traditionalists. Jihadists. And yes, Progressives. While it is not the focus of this post to target any of those groups or to even say that they are not legitimate, I will say that I am not a reformist, a traditionalist, a jihadist or a progressive. Now that isn’t to say that I may not share specific sentiments with some of these groups but I do not want my labeling as a Progressive to be conflated as consensual.

The most sacred thing for Muslims is God. That is a simple fact. And it is not just simply that there is a god but that there is no god except God (La ilaha illallah). This simple phrase, known as the Testimony of Faith (al-Shahadah) is the foundation of Muslim theology and belief. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, one of the key aspects of his mission was to reintroduce Monotheism back to the world. The majority of the Arabs living in the Arabian peninsula during the time of the Prophet had slipped into idol worship, despite many of them being descendants of great prophets of God themselves (Abraham, Jonah, Shu’aib to name a few). The center of interest in Makkah was the Ka’bah, the house that Abraham built as a place of worship. And while the Qur’an was revealed throughout the 23 years of the Prophet’s stay in Arabia, it dealt theologically with Sacred Ideologies, chief amongst them was not ascribing partners or association with God. God admonishes those that say God is three or that Jesus the son of Mary, the Messiah, is God himself [Q 5: 72-75]. I state this here not polemically – that is not the point of my argument. But rather to reinforce what is sacred to Muslims. God is the most sacred – one of God’s names is al-Quddus, or The Holy or The Sacred. So with this understanding, why is it that Muslims aren’t jumping off at every Christian for wearing a cross on their necks or building churches that have Jesus on the cross, worshipped as God or the son of God? Because of another sacred source for Muslims – the Sunnah.

That the Prophet Muhammad is sacred for Muslims goes without saying. His life is a holy example for all Muslims in terms of morals, permissible actions and so forth. Many rulings for Shari’ah or Islamic Law, comes from his life. But if we were to examine the Prophet’s life and look at what he considered sacred, would it coincide with what Muslims hold as sacred?

To take the example from above, referring to Christians and their theological stance that they proclaim Jesus the son of Mary is the Son of God, this would contradict the teachings that the Prophet was preaching. And yet, while going against the grain of God’s theological bounds, the Prophet never proclaimed the life of the Christians forfeit. No churches were burned down on his order. No representatives of Christianity were assassinated. To take it a step further, the pagans were not indiscriminately slaughtered. Their idols were not even allowed to be desecrated. Why? Because the Prophet knew that Jesus was holy, sacred to the Christians even while he believed it wrong! The pagan Arabs (who, on a scale, ranked much lower than Jews or Christians because they were people who had received Divine Revelation) were still treated with respect and treaties were signed with them. If Muslims would but take the time to study their own “traditions”, we might see that that which we hold as sacred and that which the Prophet held as sacred are not one and the same. And further, even when something this is sacred to us is violated, are actions are woefully unacceptable.

Our modern age is one of false universals and failed utopian ideologies. And while the Muslims are not alone in perpetuating such rhetoric, ironically, they are just as guilty as their Western counterparts which they blame of the same crime. Often wrapped in the guise of “tradition”, this one-size fits all mentality has and is causing grave harm to Muslim communities across the globe and I have personally seen its insidious affects in my 14-year career as a Muslim. For those who call for an Islamic state to be raised in America I say that you would have to obtain the rights from Roberta Flack for its national anthem, for surely this is “killing us softly”.

So what are some other things that the Prophet held as sacred? Human life would most certainly rank high on his list. Caring for the poor. Visiting the sick and caring for the old. As Muslims, where do these categories rank on our lists? This is where Muslims fail in my opinion. As a group that believes it should uphold high moral standards, how are we caring for the poor? How many Muslim organizations have we developed that care for old and sick people in our neighborhoods, regardless of race, creed or religion? How many Muslim organizations have we built that care for the poor? Are we involved in urban development? Big brother, big sister organizations? I’m sure I will receive many emails confirming that we do partake in such actions. And while there may be a few why are they absent from the public spot light?

As it stands now, Muslims are not known as a group that participate in the greater society (and yet we want people to sympathize with us when we have problems). At a recent meeting between myself and other fellow bloggers, astonishment would be the word that would best describe the reactions of others when they found out that I was a Muslim and that I desired to participate in society. This is not a PR statement for myself but rather a reflection on the status of Muslims in society. If Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man today he’d have to re-title it Invisible People.

So in the end I believe we as Muslims are in need of a serious revamping of what is and isn’t Sacred to us. We need to seriously reevaluate what is important to us and what isn’t. The military developed a term called triage – we need to stop the bleeding and then reexamine what we’re about. I believe this reexamination starts with the basics – Qur’an and Sunnah. It may surprise you that I would choose such a sloganized answer but none the less, I do believe the answer lies there in. By Qur’an, I mean we should actually spend time reading it. Many of us do not. We rely on regurgitated quotes from people who have little formal training and short intellects. The Sunnah of the Prophet is also do for a serious reexamination. What did he say? What did he do? How was he both simultaneously stern and flexible? How could he proclaim no god but God and yet make concessions with idolators? Muhammad was a complex man – revisiting his life and his prophethood will no doubt turn up many unknown gems for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This is a topic which deserves deeper introspection – an introspection that cannot fully be dealt with in a small post as it is here. Rather, it is my hope that we may ponder this questions, these situations and feel moved to do something about it. And in the words of Umar Ibn al-Khattab, “Allah and His Messenger know best”.