In this episode, I discuss what might be thought of as a “How To Win Friends and Influence People” for Muslims in the age of social media.
I’d like to say it’s that time of year again for another controversy but it seems these days every day is controversy day in the world of Muslim social media. In specific, many were deeply offended by the statements of Amina Wadud, a scholar who focuses on Islamic studies from a more feminist point of view. Her statement regarding Prophet Ibrahim was as follows,
Amina Wadud’s comment,
Yep. abandon a mother with her nursing baby in the desert DEAD BEAT https://t.co/Zw0ATDOAfN
— amina wadud (@aminawadud) April 29, 2017
Yes, you read that correctly: She labeled Prophet Ibrahim a dead beat dad. I know many found it difficult to look beyond Wadud’s statement, which is blasphemous to say the least, but for myself, having some moderate training in recognizing mental health disorders, it signaled to me a person suffering from some form of a breakdown. Not simply this particular statement but Wadud’s statements and positions over the years. Also knowing a little bit about her personal background I think Amina Wadud may be dealing with untreated trauma, fueled by negative experiences within the Muslim community. I’m not saying this to excuse her despicable comments about the “Friend of Allah” (Khalil Allah), Ibrahim, peace be upon him. Just looking at the situation from another angle.
One problem I have had with the response to this is that from a number of imams and public figures. Many of them, not having adequate mental health training, took the opportunity to not only attack Wadud’s statements (legitimate attacks in my estimation), but also to then use her statements as opportunities to impugn any Muslim women who espouses any relationship to so-called feminist thought. For instance, Mikaeel Smith stated,
It’s not that I have an issue with Smith, and others, being offended by Wadud’s statements, but it’s that they did not restrict their issue to her statements themselves. It’s as if they’re saying any woman who is a feminist (especially black) is in complete agreement with Wadud. Would this include such sisters as Ieasha Prime or Tamara Gray, simply because they speak on matters pertaining to women? I’m not confident that many of us in roles of leadership/scholarship completely understand our grievances with feminism (of which there certainly are grievances). So to make statements like the above is, in my opinion, sloppy. There are legitimate critiques against feminist thought, many I have myself, but I prefer to perhaps be a bit more concise in my critique. I would encourage the brothers to consider doing so as well. In fact, sister Faatimah Amatullah Knight makes the kind of rebuttal that I’m thinking of,
She goes on to give a very balanced critique of Wadud’s statement by saying,
“If we are more forgiving to the characters of Shakespeare or Homer then perhaps we need to work on the prejudices that make us attack people who are traditionally deemed holy.” — Faatimah Amatullah Knight
Returning to the question of mental health, I would ask, has anyone checked in on sister Amina Wadud? Perhaps she’s in her right state of mind (I pray to God she is not to excuse her from these statements) and perhaps she’s not.
But let us turn for a moment from the controversy — for there will always be controversy — and look at the kind of situation we have here and what our Deen tells us about it.
أَنَّ نَافِعَ بْنَ عَبْدِ الْحَارِثِ، لَقِيَ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ بِعُسْفَانَ – وَكَانَ عُمَرُ اسْتَعْمَلَهُ عَلَى مَكَّةَ
It was narrated that Nafi’ bin ‘Abdul-Harith met ‘Umar bin al-Khattab during his khilafah in ‘Usfan, when ‘Umar had appointed him as his governer in Makkah.
فَقَالَ عُمَرُ مَنِ اسْتَخْلَفْتَ عَلَى أَهْلِ الْوَادِي قَالَ اسْتَخْلَفْتُ عَلَيْهِمُ ابْنَ أَبْزَى قَالَ وَمَنِ ابْنُ أَبْزَى قَالَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ مَوَالِينَا قَالَ عُمَرُ فَاسْتَخْلَفْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ مَوْلًى قَالَ إِنَّهُ قَارِئٌ لِكِتَابِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى عَالِمٌ بِالْفَرَائِضِ قَاضٍ قَالَ عُمَرُ أَمَا إِنَّ نَبِيَّكُمْ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْفَعُ بِهَذَا الْكِتَابِ أَقْوَامًا وَيَضَعُ بِهِ آخَرِينَ
‘Umar asked, “Whom have you appointed as your deputy over the people of the valley?” He said, “I have appointed Ibn Abza over them.” ‘Umar said, “Who is Ibn Abza?” Nafi’ answered, “One of our freed slaves.” ‘Umar replied, “Have you appointed a freed slave over them?” Nafi’ assured ‘Umar, “He has great knowledge of the Book of Allah, is well versed in the necessities of the religion and is also a good judge.” ‘Umar then remember a statement of the Prophet in which he said, “Did not your Prophet say: ‘Allah raises some people in status because of this book and brings others low because of it.’“
For me, I see one of the central lessons to be learned here for our community is that we should ask ourselves, “how is my approach to the Qur’an ennobling me?” And, “how is someone else’s approach to the Qur’an ennobling them?” When you look at the trajectory of sister Amina’s last decade or so she seems to have become even more extreme and isolated in her musings about Islam and the Book of Allah. Is this due to mental health degradation? Perhaps. Or perhaps this degradation is brought on by insulting one of the greatest humans God has ever created and appointed as a light of guidance. It would seem the latter part of the hadith above gives much to consider.
But now, what about ourselves and our responses. Whether we like it or not, we must come to accept that some folks are going to say things we find offensive. When this happens we must also remember the advice that Luqman, peace be upon him, gave his son,
يا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلاةَ وَأمُر بِالمَعروفِ وَانهَ عَنِ المُنكَرِ وَاصبِر عَلىٰ ما أَصابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذٰلِكَ مِن عَزمِ الأُمورِ
“My son, establish salat and command what is right and forbid what is wrong and be steadfast in the face of all that happens to you. That is certainly the most resolute course to follow.” — Qur’an,
Is this easy? No, but neither is the discipline of controlling ourselves (عَزمِ الأُمورِ). I’m not saying that we don’t defend the Prophets, that we don’t stand up for what is right and against what is wrong. I’d be a hypocrite by publishing statements about Reza Aslan if I didn’t believe we have a right to respond to statements of disbelief and blasphemy. Just giving us some food for thought.
May Allah guide us, put Islam in our hearts, and make us from amongst the Grateful. Amin.
وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَيَأْتِيَنَّ عَلَى النَّاسِ زَمَانٌ لاَ يَدْرِي الْقَاتِلُ فِي أَىِّ شَىْءٍ قَتَلَ وَلاَ يَدْرِي الْمَقْتُولُ عَلَى أَىِّ شَىْءٍ قُتِلَ
By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, a time will most certainly come when the murderer would not know why he has committed the murder while the victim would not know why he has been killed. — Prophet Muhammad,
related by Abu Hurayrah – recorded in Sahih Muslim, #2908
What is western civilization? Does it mean that not only can one be the victim of a senseless crime, but even our elderly will have their demise live streamed on the internet? Robert Godwin, a 74-year-old elderly man, was approached by Steve Stephens in broad daylight and executed whilst being filmed on Facebook’s new live streaming feature, Facebook Live.
I cannot sleep. There comes a point where the violence can’t be shrugged off; the cynicism cannot wash away the blood. We live in a civilization of terror.
— ✨mo✨ (@daoenix) April 17, 2017
I came across the following quote that I felt gave good advice to those of us seeking God’s pleasure,
I read about an article in a science journal recently co-written by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. The scientists surveyed a bunch of women to look at how many of their daily activities brought them satisfaction. Oddly, the stuff they chose to do for hours at a time every, single day, as leisure – namely, watching TV – didn’t bring them satisfaction. Instead, connecting with the present did – via prayer and meditation.
It reminds me of the narration from Mu’awiyah bin Abu Sufyan,
الخيرُ عادةٌ والشَّرُ لَجَاجةٌ، مَن يُرِدِ اللهُ به خيرًا يُفقِّهْه في الدِّينِ
“Doing good is a habit just as doing evil is obstinacy. Whomever God intends good for, He grants that one understanding in Islam (al-Din).” Reported in Ibn Hibban’s Sahih as well as Ibn Majah’s Sahih.
Join Hind Makki, Ibrahim Abdul Matin, Nsenga Knight and myself, and others tomorrow, 2:30pm on al-Jazeera Stream (@AJStream) for “What is it like #BeingBlackAndMuslim?”: http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201402132007-0023473. please tweet questions and comments using the hashtag #AJStream.
The daughter of African immigrants to the American Midwest, Hind Makki (@HindMakki)has long been interested in understanding the impact of migration, race, religion on shaping the development of Western Muslim consciousness. Hind has appeared on Al Jazeera’s “The Stream,” Chicago Public Radio and Huffington Post Live; her work is featured in Alarabiya News, AltMuslimah, The Cambridge Companion to American Islam, Common Ground News, The Economist, The Huffington Post, Islamic Horizons, National Public Radio, PolicyMic; and she has published pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Hind holds a degree in International Relations from Brown University.
The author of The Green Deen, Ibrahim (@IbrahimSalih) is a former National Urban Fellow and policy advisor to Mayor Bloomberg. He spends his days pounding political and executive corridors to find integrated solutions to complex business and social challenges.
Nsenga Knight (@Nsenga_K) is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. Her work expands upon the common aesthetic and conceptual inclinations in Islamic Art, American and European abstraction and the conceptual arts movement, reflecting her interests in ritual, subjectivity, history, archiving and intervention. Nsenga’s artistic process is as tied to the medium of drawing and performance art as it is to photography and the aesthetics of cinema, particularly experimental films. For more on her work, see her web site here.
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You can watch this episode here.