Shari’ah A-Go-Go – The Persistence of the Credibility Gap

In a recent video, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, delivered a response to what is most likely a challenge to Shari’ah, or what is commonly referred to as “Islamic Law”. Shari’ah has become the go-to boogeyman which anti-Muslim haters evoke to attack Muslims as inherently and deceptively violent and barbaric. And while I appreciate the spirit in which these rebuttals are formulated, am I again reminded that it is liberalism and secularism which are the two main informers of modern Muslims as well as two of the real opponents of Islam, whereas anti-Muslim rhetoric (mistakenly called Islamophobia; it is none other than white supremacy) is merely the opponents of Muslims. The difference here is subtle but crucial to understand, if Muslims are to thrive in the West.

While I laud sister Abdel-Magied’s attempt to distance Muslims from such societal practices as Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, I must say she is somewhat off the mark. The core to Abdel-Magied’s argument is that Shari’ah is simply, “about a Muslim’s personal relationship with their god”. In other words, Shari’ah is nothing other than a personal code of conduct. First off, we’ll have to back up and make one short but important observation. Clearly, according to Abdel-Magied (and to her intended audience no less), law is (a) positive law1 and (b) only dispensed by the State. While this sounds all well and very modern, it however ignores that that is not how law has always been understood, least of all throughout much of Muslim history. This is not an appeal to “traditional Islam” as much as it is to illustrate that Abdel-Magied is operating on modern assumptions about how laws are written, interpreted, and enforced. If Abdel-Magied wishes to depart from this historical norm (of which much of the modern Muslim world already has) she should clearly state this versus giving the impression that the latter (her claim) is the uncontested historical norm.

Abdel-Magied’s statement, “The Qur’an clearly states that, ‘there’s no compulsion in religion’.”2, is also given devoid of any context. In fact, there’s a whole subfield of study in Qur’anic interpretation called asbab al-Nuzul3, or “The Conditions Surrounding Revelation”. Indeed, there are also conditions surrounding many of the Hadith, or narrations of the Prophet, which, when cherry picked, only serve to undermine Muslim scholastic authority. One such hadith which is often quoted in the name of tolerance is the following:

عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ أَنَّ رَجُلًا عَلَى عَهْدِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ اسْمُهُ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ وَكَانَ يُلَقَّبُ حِمَارًا وَكَانَ يُضْحِكُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَدْ جَلَدَهُ فِي الشَّرَابِ فَأُتِيَ بِهِ يَوْمًا فَأَمَرَ بِهِ فَجُلِدَ فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ الْقَوْمِ اللَّهُمَّ الْعَنْهُ مَا أَكْثَرَ مَا يُؤْتَى بِهِ
فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا تَلْعَنُوهُ فَوَاللَّهِ مَا عَلِمْتُ إِنَّهُ يُحِبُّ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ

“Umar bin al-Khattab narrates that a man who was close to the Prophet, his name being ‘Abdullah, went by the nickname “Donkey” (lit. Himar). He used to make the Prophet laugh, though the Prophet had him flogged for drinking intoxicants, for the order had come to him (the Prophet) to do so regarding public drinking and flogging (what is known as hudud). But then a man amongst the people took note of this and called upon God to curse him to which the Prophet responded, ‘Do not curse him, for God as my witness I know him to love God and His Messenger’.”4

The reason why I quote this particular hadith is because it’s a favorite amongst many modern Muslims to demonstrate the tolerance of Islam. The issue with this is that the hadith is seldom narrated in its entirety, leaving the impression that the Prophet was not simply lax or lenient in administering divinely-sanctioned punishments, but that in fact he ignored them. What we see in the Prophet’s actions and words is that he (a) did not allow his friendship with Himar to create a kind of nepotism: if you can “get in good” with the Prophet, you can flaunt divine injunctions publicly. But also (b) he did not allow a person’s frailties, mistakes, or weaknesses, to prevent them from hope of salvation. In fact, one could even say that one could potentially be in good standing with God and His Messenger even when infracting the law publicly. And this brings us back full circle to the issue above. Shari’ah is more than simply a personal code of conduct which can never be enacted upon someone external to the self. The question is: who gets to interpret and execute said law? That is a much more complicated question, which brings me to another point: Shari’ah is a very complicated thing and cannot be easily explained away in a five minute video. Attempts to do so undermine Muslim scholastic credibility through crass reductionism of complicated topics.

The other problematic aspect of Abdel-Magied’s explanation of Qur’an is its attempts to distance Muslims from the practices of other Muslims: those they differ with or that are even genuinely erroneous. The problem is that Abdel-Magied suggests that when it comes to Muslims getting something “wrong” in their understanding of Islam, in this case women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, it is always a cultural issue. What Abdel-Magied fails to understand is that undoubtedly those scholars in Saudi Arabia are indeed drawing inspiration from Shari’ah in their proclaiming women cannot drive. We must be careful not to reduce Shari’ah only to some abstract, personal code of ethics, whose genius is only realized when it has appeal: either to ourselves individually or to those whom we seek to gain mass acceptance. The most obvious question which Abdel-Magied fails to address is why is Saudi Arabia held upon as a criterion to measure other Muslims by, either as the unadulterated “true Islam” or a completely polluted manifestation of Islamic truth-claims?

We must accept that Shari’ah, if it is truly a man-made attempt at understanding what God wants from us as Muslims, can err, if for no other reason than Shari’ah is the attempts of human beings to realize good in the world, and that those attempts can be just as susceptible to the character flaws of those same humans, no matter how well intended they may be. In other words, the Shari’ah can still remain “sacred” in that the sources that it draws upon — the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet — are sacred, even if the mark is not always hit. Ironically, the very same downfall science experiences when it goes out of its bounds, when “scientific progress”expects “science to do more than it reasonably can may lead to an even more widespread distrust of what it demonstrably has done”. My purpose of invoking Tolson’s comments on science here is that they, and Abdel-Magied’s dilemma, are quintessentially modern.

While I appreciate the a-go-go music, Shari’ah is more than a personal commitment to “justice and equality”. It’s primarily about the worship of God, without partners or associates, according to the Prophet Muhammad. Whether we dub them “laws” or “rules”, Shari’ah does have aspects which transcend individual morals, ethics, and commitments. Regardless of Himar’s commitment to Islam — the Prophet testified to the veracity of his faith himself! — he was publicly punished for an act of public indecency. To whom befalls this responsibility is secondary to its existence.

These little apologist videos are cute but they’re equally deceptive as well as intellectually dishonest, which is why so many non-Muslims just don’t believe Muslims when they claim to be who they are.

Resources

1. For a concise definition of positive law, here’s The Free Dictionary’s definition: “statutory man-made law, as compared to ‘natural law’ which is purportedly based on universally accepted moral principles, ‘God’s law,’ and/or derived from nature and reason. The term ‘positive law,’ was first used by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan (1651).”

2. From the Qur’an, Chapter 2, verse 256: “لا إِكراهَ فِي الدّينِ ۖ قَد تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشدُ مِنَ الغَيِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكفُر بِالطّاغوتِ وَيُؤمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ استَمسَكَ بِالعُروَةِ الوُثقىٰ لَا انفِصامَ لَها ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَميعٌ عَليمٌ/”.

3. When the conflict between the Muslims and the Jews of the Banu Nadir was settled, with the requirement that the Jews had to leave the city and move elsewhere, it was found that there were a number of Arab children living among the Jews. This was not unusual, as some were adopted, while others were being raised as Jews with their (Arab) parents’ consent. The reason why some Arab children were raised as Jews is because of a curious local custom. If a woman was considered to be barren, she would vow that if she ever was able to give birth, she would raise the baby as a Jew in compensation for the miracle. This happened from time to time. The Madinan Muslims did not want these Arab children to leave with the Jews, and they asked the Prophet if they could take custody of them. This verse was revealed in response. The Prophet gave the Arab children the choice of going with the Jews or becoming a part of the wider community in Medina. Some left, and others remained (asbab al-Nuzul).

4. Sahih al-Bukhari, hadith #6780.

5. Tolson, Jay. “From the Editor”. The Hedgehog Review. http://iasc-culture.org/THR/index.php.

Embracing God By Embracing America: American Muslims, Shari’ah & the Constitution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Preamble of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

What is the Shari’ah? Is it taking over America? Can American Muslims embrace the United States’ Constitution as believing Muslims?

Extra Reading

Maqasid al-Shari’ah handout/cheatsheet [PDF].

Dr. Sherman Jackson’s response, ” ‘Soft Shari‘a Fundamentalism’ and the Totalitarian Epistemology of Vincent Cornell” in [PDF].

Vincent Cornell’s article, “Reasons Public and Divine: Liberal Democracy, Shari‘a Fundamentalism, and the Epistemological Crisis of Islam.” [PDF].

Exercise in Islamization – Should(n’t) Islam Equal Good Design (?)

The following is an exercise in “Islamization”. Islamization may feel too large or charged a term but it is precisely the word I plan to use with a group of MSA students this weekend at our retreat. The idea behind Islamization is that one looks to one’s environment and is able to see, infuse or somehow impose or appropriate purpose upon that thing in such away it reminds oneself of God, of the Messenger صلى لله عليه وسلم or some other “Islamic” principle by which we can enrich our lives as Muslims.

All too often I see Muslims (particularly young Muslims) laboring underneath a cloud of inferiority, insecurity and just plain doubt as to what they can (or most likely) can’t do as Muslims. Part of this ailment hails from a lack of intellectual authority over their lives as Muslims. Simply put, they are not literate as Muslims, despite the fact that many are highly educated. So when I came across a documentary this weekend on Netflix entitled Objectified,  I was struck by Japanese designer, Naoto Fukasawa, when he expressed what he felt “good design” was:

“Design dissolving in behavior. Design needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.” – Naoto Fukasawa, industrial designer, former head of IDEO.

Immediately, my mind went to not design, but to Islam. For was not Islam something that should be and come natural to the human being? So I played a little experiment that I shall continue this weekend, but substituting the keyword of “design” with a variety of “Islamic” vocabulary in order to appropriate an idea/ideal, whose origin was not “Islamic” per se, but nonetheless, resonated well, exceptionally well in my opinion, in that it showcased the ghaayah or goal that Islam has with the human being and thus provided some clues as to how one must just go about “dissolving [it] in [one’s] behavior”:

Islam dissolving in behavior. Islam needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Qur’an dissolving in behavior. Qur’an needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Sunnah dissolving in behavior. Sunnah needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Taqwa dissolving in behavior. Taqwa needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Ihsan dissolving in behavior. Ihsan needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Adab dissolving in behavior. Adab needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Akhlaq dissolving in behavior. Akhlaq needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.
Shari’ah dissolving in behavior. Shari’ah needs to be plugged into natural human behavior.

Mu’min and Kafir – Negotiating Shared Space

In continuing with the theme of religious literacy (or in the immediate case, illiteracy), another important component in this issue I wish to touch upon is the shared space between Muslims and non-Muslims. To be frank, Muslims in America are long overdue for an overhauling of how they conceptualize and approach the very possibilities of Muslim/non-Muslim engagement. Part of this was addressed in a recent series of khutbahs, Da’wah & Fraternity in Islam, as well as in the previous post, Tackling Religious Literacy: Lexical Empiricism. For this article, I will examine the word kafir, its uses in pre-modern and early modern sources, as well as highlight one example from ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf, a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ and his struggle to negotiate his own shared reality as a believer.

To say that the post-colonial period is still haunting Muslim thought to this very day would be a feat in understatement. One of the debilitating byproducts of colonization is that the colonized lose sight of dimension: What I would call the dementia of colonization. This disease renders its victims incapable of recognizing three dimensions or space. Like physical dementia, this version “affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior”. In this condition, all objects within an individual’s frame are compressed into one-dimensional objects, stripped of any human characteristics the victim might be capable of sympathizing with. For Muslims today this has resulted in the word kafir being de-contextualized, from where it once stood to demarcate the boundary of belief and disbelief, to one in which kafir is hurled about with impunity. Dr. Sherman Jackson, in his invaluable work Islam and the Blackamerican, gives an elegant breakdown of this malady:

“(The) dehumanized Post-Colonial Muslim, on the other hand, tends to objectify his target and view him as a thing to be conquered, dismantled, and controlled. In contradistinction to his premodern predecessors, he transforms the category “kafir” (i.e., “non-Muslim) into a reference to an almost subhuman species who is inherently and utterly different from Muslims, not only religiously but culturally, ethnically, and civilizationally as well.” Islam and the Blackamerican, pg. 94. (see footnote #72 below)

As we can see here, kafir is a word that clearly, in its modern use, indicates more than the boundary of belief and non-belief. Its contemporary use is more often implemented to draw the line on what has and does not have human value. And while Dr. Jackson’s observation reveals the genealogy of the word, it would be unfair to lay this change solely at the feet of post-colonial immigrant Muslims. Its use amongst Blackamerican Muslims has also been a code word for “white”, itself an epithet of sorts. In both uses, kafir comes to connote an feeling of anti-establishment. But how is all of this important to the article at hand? I will tie this into the story of ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf and his relationship with Ummayah Bin Khalaf, one of the major opponents of Islam at the time of the Prophet ﷺ.

In the nearly two decades I have worked in the Muslim community as an educator, adviser, and casual observer, one note that strikes me significantly is the need for a new fiqh. By fiqh I mean a new comprehensive understanding of Islam particularly as it relates to the daily existence of Muslims in America, not a necessarily a new school of jurisprudence. This of course may set many on edge who feel that their commitment to a legitimate and authentic expression of Islam is jeopardized by such utterances. And yet, I continue to watch American Muslims flounder under a practice of Islam that is detrimental to the healthy development and prosperity of Muslims in this part of the world. To be precise, what I am talking about here is the relational dynamic between Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly in relation to familial and fraternal social ties. Unlike many parts of the historical Muslim world, Muslims in America, particularly indigenous Muslims, have families where they may themselves to be the minority if not the only Muslim in their family. The demands that are put on Muslims here to navigate these sometimes-murky-waters are made even more perilous with a fiqh/comprehension of Islam that is antithetical and unresponsive to their needs. Such Qur’anic versus as the following are often conjured up to support this self-imposed exile:

يأيها الذين ءامنوا لا تتخذوا اليهود و النصرى أولياء بعضهم أولياء بعض و من يتولهم منكم فإنه منهم إن الله لا يهدى القوم الظلمين

”You who have iman! do not take the Jews and Christians as your friends; they are the friends of one another. Any of you who takes them as friends is one of them. Allah does not guide wrongdoing people.” Qur’an 5: 51 — Aisha Bewley translation

”O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust.” Qur’an 5: 51 — Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation

I have purposely chosen to show two of the most common translations here as they are representational of the dominant view on the contemporary meaning of this verse. Of main interest here is the plural, awliya’/أولياء; its singular being wali/ولي. Ali and Bewley translate awliya’ as “friends”. While I consider Ali and Bewley to be fine translators, I do question the choice of wording here. I find considerable evidence to support changing “friends” for “guardians as a translation for awliya’, especially given its Madinan context (where the verse was revealed). What is missing here, which interestingly enough, Muhammad Asad’s translation seems to find, is the call for political independence and responsibility on the part of the growing Muslim population in Madinah. Asad’s translation breaks ranks with Ali and Bewley, hinting at the contextual meaning, not solely the lexical one:

ولي الوالي البلد

ولي الرجل البيع

“The wali is the patron of the state/country.” Walia al-Wali al-Balad.

“The man secures the transaction,” Wali al-Rajul al-Bay’. — Mukhtar al-Sihah, pg. 306

From these sources, I feel there is more than enough evidence to support a revisiting of the definition of awliya’/wali as “friend”.  Not from the position of wanting other than what God has intended, but precisely because the current entrenched methods and approaches Muslims are currently engaged in are in contradiction to this Divine edict. But finally, to bring it back to the story of ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf and Ummayah Bin Khalaf, we’ll examine a hadith that recounts their relationship in a way that will, I hope, help to illustrate how tenuous this endeavor was, and still is.

In the story of Revelatory Islam (i.e., Islam at the time of the Prophet ﷺ), there were few greater opponents of Islam than Ummayah Bin Khalaf.  Know as the master of Bilal Ibn Ribah, Ummayah’s name is famous as one of the staunchest opponents of monotheism.  Before the advent of Islam however, Ummayah had developed a friendship with ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf. This friendship of theirs became strained and was put to the test upon the conversion of ‘Abd al-Rahman, whose name before his conversion was ‘Abdu ‘Amr (lit. “the slave of ‘Amr”). Eventually, ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf migrated to Madinah to join the Prophet ﷺ. Despite ‘Abd al-Rahman’s growing commitment to Islam, the two men still tried to maintain civility and even entered into a pact with one another:

كاتبت أمية بن خلف كتابا ، بأن يحفظني في صاغيتي بمكة ، وأحفظه في صاغيته بالمدينة

“I entered into an agreement with Umayyah Bin Khalaf, where Umayyah would protect my affairs (property and family) in Makkah and I would do the same for his in Madinah.” Narrated by ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf, related in Sahih al-Bukhari #2301

At the time of drafting up this agreement, ‘Abd al-Rahman’s “Muslim name” was mentioned in the document (not ‘Abdu ‘Amr), Umayyah protested, saying,

فلما ذكرت الرحمن ، قال : لا أعرف الرحمن ، كاتبني باسمك الذي كان في الجاهلية ، فكاتبته : عبد عمرو

“I do not know al-Rahman” and requested that the pre-Islamic name ‘Abdu ‘Amr should be used, to which ‘Abd al-Rahman yielded.”

Sometime later, during the Battle of Badr, Umayyah was captured by his old friend ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf. Even though the two men found themselves on two opposite sides of a battle, ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf attempted to intervene on behalf of his old friend (who, as no small crime, had persecuted other Muslims, Bilal in specific, whom he tried to force a recanting of his testimony of “no god but God” by crushing Bilal underneath a rock). Even to the very end, when a group of Muslims led by Bilal himself, sought revenge, ‘Abd al-Rahman protested on Umayyah’s behalf, going so far as to try and shield Umayyah’s body with his own.

So what can we deduce from this? Was ‘Abd al-Rahman disobeying God’s commands by maintaining his friendship with a polytheist? Or did ‘Abd al-Rahman perhaps understand the above verse and its counterparts in a different framework than we commonly do today. Surely, there is little argument concerning ‘Abd al-Rahman’s qualifications as a pious and learned Muslim: He was amongst the first converts to Islam and thus spent considerable time with the Prophet ﷺ; ‘Abd al-Rahman is agreed to be amongst the Ten Who Are Promised Paradise/العشرة المبشرون بالجنة; ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab chose him to be on council of Shura to choose the Khalifah after his death. To say that ‘Abd al-Rahman was a pious and intelligent Muslim, one who lived at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, during the time of Revelation, who lived in direct presence of the only living infallible interpretation of Islam ﷺ and was not chastised for “becoming one of them”, Muslims cannot continue to perpetrate social and cultural disengagement in the name of piety and religiosity. ‘Abd al-Rahman Bin ‘Awf was a man, God be pleased with him, who still loved and cared for his friend, despite their theological differences, and even put his life and potentially political standing on the line.

The question that must be asked is, do Muslims not owe it to themselves to examine, re-examine, and change their tactics if they wish to please both God and country. To remain ensconced in a protest spirit, one that seeks to enthrall us as much as set us free, without any principles attached to it, can only spell future doom for Muslims in America if major steps are not taken to educate themselves on the rich, nuanced, and complex narrative of Islam.

Sources

1. Footnote #72: Premodern and even early modern jurists spoke quite casually of the “non-Muslim wife” (al-zawjah al-kafirah), the “non-Muslim mother” (al-umm al-kafirah), and “non-Muslim parents” (al-walidan al-karifan) as human beings worthy of respect as such. For example, in Bulgat al-salik li agrab al-masalik ila madhhab al-imam Malik 2 vols. (Cairo: Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi, n.d.) (an authoritative Maliki text still used on the graduate level at al-Azhar seminary today), after indicating that a Muslim must be good to his parents regardless of their religion, al-Dardir (d. 1201/1786) writes, “and he should guide the blind parent, even if he or she is a kafir, to church, and deliver him or her thereto and provide him or her with money to spend during their holidays” (2: 523). Also, the Maliki and Hanafi schools unanimously agree that a non-Muslim mother (umm kafirah) had a primary right to custody of her Muslim children in cases of divorce from a Muslim husband, assuming she would not attempt to steer the children away from Islam. For more on this point see my “Kramer versus Kramer in a Tenth/Sixteenth Century Egyptian Court: Post-Formative Jurisprudence between Exigency and Law,” Islamic Law and Society 8, no. 1 (2001): 33-36. It should be noted that the Maliki school bore the brunt of the atrocities inflicted by the Christians upon the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain and Sicily and the Hanafi school bore the brunt of the Mongol invasions. Still, these views on non-Muslim relatives remain standard in the Maliki and Hanafi schools right down to the present day. On another note, the tendency of certain Muslim “liberals” to deny essentially that anyone is a kafir reflects their subscription to this same notion of kafir being some sort of subhuman species. (Islam and the Blackamerican, 212)

2. “Who Are the Disbelievers?” (PDF) by Hamza Yusuf in Season’s. Hat tip to the Deenport folks.

3. كاتبت أمية بن خلف كتابا ، بأن يحفظني في صاغيتي بمكة ، وأحفظه في صاغيته بالمدينة ، فلما ذكرت الرحمن ، قال : لا أعرف الرحمن ، كاتبني باسمك الذي كان في الجاهلية ، فكاتبته : عبد عمرو ، فلما كان في يوم بدر ، خرجت إلى جبل لأحرزه حين نام الناس ، فأبصره بلال ، فخرج حتى وقف على مجلس من الأنصار ، فقال : أمية بن خلف ، لا نجوت إن نجا أمية ، فخرج معه فريق من الأنصار في آثارنا ، فلما خشيت أن يلحقونا ، خلفت لهم ابنه لأشغلهم فقتلوه ، ثم أبوا حتى يتبعونا ، وكان رجلا ثقيلا ، فلما أدركونا ، قلت له : ابرك فبرك ، فألقيت عليه نفسي لأمنعه ، فتخللوه بالسيوف من تحتي حتى قتلوه ، وأصاب أحدهم رجلي بسيفه ، وكان عبد الرحمن بن عوف يرينا ذلك الأثر في ظهر قدمه

“I entered into an agreement written with Umayyah Bin Khalaf, where Umayyah would protect my affairs (property and family) in Makkah and I would do the same for his in Madinah. When I mentioned the word ‘al-Rahman’ in the documents, Umayyah said, ‘I do not know al-Rahman. Write down your name from the Jahiliyyah (Pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance).’ So, I wrote my name, ‘Abdu ‘Amr. On the day Badr, when all the people were asleep, I went up the hill to protect him. Bilal saw him and went to a gathering of Ansar and said, ‘Here is Umayyah Bin Khalaf! Woe to me if he escapes!’ So, a group of Ansar went out with Bilal to follow both of us. Being afraid that they would catch us, I left Umayyah’s son for them to keep them busy but the Ansar killed his son and insisted on following us. Umayyah was a fat man, and when they approached us, I told him to kneel down, and he knelt, and I laid myself on him to protect him, but the Ansar killed him by passing their swords underneath me, and one of them injured my foot with his sword.” (The sub narrator said, ” ‘Abd al-Rahman used to show us the trace of the wound on the back of his foot.”) Narrated by ‘Abdur-Rahman Bin ‘Awf, related in Sahih al-Bukhari 2301.

Islam: An Informed Decision

First Khutbah – Main Points

طه ما أنزلنا عليك القرآن لتشقى
إلا تذكرة لمن يخشى
تنزيلا ممن خلق الأرض والسموت العلى
الرحمن على العرش استوى
له ما في السموت وما في الأرض وما بينهما وما تحت الثرى
و إن تجهر بالقول فإنه يعلم السر وأخفى

“Ta Ha – We did not send down the Qur’an upon you so that you would be miserable, but such that it would be a reminder for whomever has fear and awe; a revelation from the One who created the Earth and the Heavens on high; the Most Merciful, upon the Throne, firmly established. To Him belongs the Heavens and the Earth and all that is between them and what lay underneath. Though you speak out loud, He knows what is secret and even more concealed.” [Q: 20:1-8]

Many Muslims are feeling miserable these days because of all the hype and attention Islam is getting in the news and in the public discourse. Qutadah relates in Ibn Abi Hātim’s tafsir:

لا ولله ما جعله الله شقيا ولكن جعله الله رحمة ونورا و دليلا إلى الجنة

“No!, by God I swear that God did not make him miserable, but instead God made him a mercy, a light, and a proof for Paradise!” [Tafsir Ibn Abi Hatim]

The importance of choice in the Qur’an: Why and how we make choices.

The choice of what we decide to do; the choices God wants us to make [Shari’ah/Iradah Kawniyyah/Shar’iyyah]:

How we see the importance of making choices through the language of the Qur’an:

Positive choices elicits God’s favor:

ثم كان من الذين ءامنوا وتواصوا بالصبر و تواصوا بالمرحمة ألئك أصحاب الميمنة

“Then he will be amongst those who have faith and command/determine by will with perseverance and and mercy – they are the companions of the Right-Hand Way .”
[Q: 90:17-18]

Negative choice elicits God’s displeasure:

قل كفى بالله بيني وبينكم شهيدا – يعلم ما في السموت والأرض – والذين ءامنوا بالباطل و كفروا بالله ألئك هم الخاسرون

“Say: ‘Sufficient is God for me as a witness between us. He knows what is in the Heavens and the Earth. As for those who believe in falsehood and show ingratitude towards God, they are at a severe loss’.” [Q: 29:52]

و إذا قيل لهم اركعوا لا يركعون – ويل يومئذ للمكذبين – فبأي حديث بعده يومنون

“And when it is said to them, ‘bow’, they do not bow. On that day, Woe to the deniers! In what discourse after this will they achieve faith?” [Q: 77:48-50]

الذي خلق الموت والحياة لنبلوآم أحسن عملا

“We created death and life to test which of you is best in deeds.” [Q: 67:2]

Second Khutbah – Main Points

To demonstrate the difference between these two applications of literalism, take a series of commands, open the window, fetch a fan, turn off the lights, and pour a glass of water. One can separate these commands, interpret them literally, and stop at that. Or one can combine them and interpret them literally, in which case they might generate a cumulative meaning to the effect that, “It’s hot!” On this understanding, it would be proper to do anything that could effectively counter the heat (for example, buy an air-conditioner) and to do nothing that might increase the heat(for example, turn on the oven). In neither case, however, does the status of these ancillary actions depend on any explicit command or prohibition … It, in other words, possibilities [are] opened up by figurative interpretation, that allows (or perhaps even compels) us to go beyond these commands.

Muslims have become defensive and reactive.

Islamic history; the “High Ground”; military strategy; defensive mind set; can’t get to what we need to get at.

God asks us to make the ascent!

فلا اقتحم العقبة

“By he [man] has not made the ascent!’” [Q: 90:11]

وما أدراك ما العقبة
فك رقبة
أو اطعام في يوم ذي مسغبة
يتيما ذا مقربة
أو مسكينا ذا متربة

“But he [man] has not made the ascent!’” [Q: 90:13-16]

Let’s not get too caught up in the dominant hype and forget about those who have come out in support of us and do the responsible thing, make choices and act responsibly based on the hidayah that God has given us through his Holy Prophet [s].

Dr. Sherman Jackson’s article, Literalism, Empiricism, and Induction [PDF].