Sunday, October 31, 2004

Yahiya Emerick Sums Up the Progressive Muslim Agenda

Yahiya Emerick wrote an essay called The Fight for the Soul of Islam in America which was edited and included in the Michael Wolfe anthology Taking Back Islam. He speaks about the prevalance of Muslim groups in America and how each group has either a Salafi, Sufi or Modernist orientation. Though most Muslims do not define themselves with such labels, we still encounter these groups because of they are usually the heads of huge Islamic organizations and they hold conferences, lectures and meetings. Since the Progressives at this time did not have the desired media coverage, he labels such liberalist reform groups as secularist or modernist rather than progressive but he certainly foreshadows the coming of a "Reform" Islam. Here, a few comments...

Emerick: The Modernists (i.e. Progressives) are next in our analysis, for indeed, these people are the most potent of the enemies of the Salafees. They are made up principally of settled Muslim immigrants from the Indian Sub-continent (with a few from the Arab world). No, not all Indo-Pak Muslims are modernists, mind you, just a small, very powerful segment.

Ris: While I certainly agree that the PMs are not predominately Indo-Pakistani or any other ethnic group, this does explain the lack of American born Muslim voices--especially Latino, Black and Caucasian Muslim voices.

Emerick: The modernists, who are almost always wealthy professionals, follow the Western-style secular-liberal tradition. (The infamous "American Muslim" crowd. When a person places their national citizenship in front of their Muslim designation, then watch out! The priorities are made clear.)

Ris: Does a infamous book come to mind?

Emerick: They were brought up in countries in which the ways of the British (and now the mythological Americans) are worshipped and idolized to this day. They are the people who are almost always in control of the suburban immigrant-dominated Masjids and Islamic schools (because only they had the money/clout to build them).

What is their agenda? In my experience, observations and travels, I seem to have identified three main goals of these modernists. They can be roughly listed as: Assimilation of Islam into the American mainstream, promoting an interpretation of Islam which is as loose and uncontroversial as modern Christianity or Judaism, and finally, curiously enough, the establishment of a class system based on status, position and a well-defined hierarchy dominated by the leader class. All three of these things are in contradiction to each other, but this fact seems to have escaped their intellectual gymnastics.

Ris: Translation: The Americanization of Islam where Ramadan is something they do overseas. Obligatory salaat is compressed into three times a day by "reformist" scholars, but that's if you pray at all. Leadership is determined not by piety or wealth of sacred knowledge but by who pays the highest memberships dues and who holds the highest college degree. Eid al Fitr is co-opted like Christmas and Hanukkah where we spend money on parties and gifts instead of spending time in the masjid reading the Qur'an and doing Sunnah prayers. You get my point. It's more or less an Islam that's been emptied of all meaning.

Emerick: Their goal of assimilation is easy to analyze: they want to be like the Jewish community in America. That is their model and they always reference it. They have this image of the Jews as being a "prosperous" minority which is accepted in mainstream American society. The Jews, in their eyes, control the media, government and foreign policy of this nation and therefore cause American policy to be pro-Israel. They do this with no serious backlash and no one bothers them based on their religion or ethnic group.

Ris: Read Living Tradition's entry on the Newsday article where one of the PMU board member and "arch secularist" Hussein Iblish makes a reference of comparing Muslim orthodoxy to Jewish Hasadism. Many of their articles point to how American Jews have changed their religion to accomdate the demands of American culture so accordingly we should be the next ones in line to jump on the Americanization bandwagon.

Emerick: Of course, the strengths of the Jewish community in America are well known, but what the modernists fail to realize is that the Jews have no religion. They are thinly united on a loose, ethnic affiliation and there is never any talk of prayer, morality, obedience to God or anything of the sort. As is accepted by all today, most Jews are atheists or hopelessly secular. (Inter-marriage with non-Jews, according to the few Orthodox Jews in America, is threatening to destroy even that tenuous ethnic affiliation.)

Ris: Though I won't go as far as saying most Jews do not have a religion, many have wondered if the Jews have assimilated too well, almost to the point where the lines of distinction between them and American Christians are almost gone. It would definitely explain the rise in Judaica and Madonna's sudden conversion into Jewish mysticism with the Kabbala. But as the article states, many Jews marry outside the faith with their children being raised as secular or Christian. They were once a religious and ethnic community with its own proud traditions. Due to mass assimilation, their numbers are shrinking with a few Orthodox pockets existing here and there. Is that what the PMs want for us?

Emerick: Modernists fight against communal living and never desire to challenge the validity of other religions, desiring, rather, to "live among the society" and to "dialogue" with others. Now if the modernists succeeded in getting themselves and their families assimilated in the same way the Jews are, then they would be Muslims no longer. (I have met a lot of Modernist Muslims and almost all of their children are hopelessly unIslamic.) They would be Americans of Indo-Pak heritage who are only interested in getting foreign aid dollars for their nostalgic homeland. Their spoiled, fun-loving Americanized children of course, would not continue this trend and thus their mission of foreign aid dollars for home-country X, Y or Z would dry up real fast.

Ris: Once again he states why Muslims must and should form their own communities like every other group has done before us. Not only will we survive the heavy cultural pressure to conform, we can live in safe, non-hostile environments where Muslims can be comfortable being Muslims. He also points out how many of these movements are just political issues with the veneer of Islamic reform, all devoid of spirituality.

Emerick: Once you give up the forms and structures of Islam, once you no longer really believe that it's true, then you defeat your original purpose, and that is to stay intact as an identifiable community. If no one prays, goes to the Masjid or reads the Qur'an, then your community is reduced to iced-tea sippers who water their lawns on Friday afternoons. Then there is no community after all. The paradox is that it's the modernists who make Americans less afraid of Islam and they are also the ones who usually make the mainstream aware of our holidays and similarities with them. Go figure.

Ris: That may be the only good thing.

Emerick: The second goal of the modernists is to dilute Islam so much that it becomes harmless and "normal" in the eyes of non-Muslims. They want an Islam where there are no Hijabs, no beards, no prohibition of interest, no judgments of right or wrong, no haram meat and certainly no moral restrictions on personal or social conduct. The modernist agenda is basically to make Islam as irrelevant and harmless as "Reform" Judaism. (Maybe they'll make a "Reform" Islam one day.)

Their favorite argument against any teaching of Islam that they don't like is saying that it's based on a "weak" Hadith or that the scholars are "divided" about the issue- so they can do as they see fit! I have seen all of these ideas promoted by modernists and I'm sure you have as well. What's the point of saying you're a Muslim if you throw everything in Islam out that you don't like? This last objective is shamelessly played out everyday in our Masjids and politically-oriented "Muslim" organizations.

Ris: Once again, the PM agenda is about removing that which does not conform to Western secular norms which is why they promote pre-marital sex, dating and the like. These movements are also known for their rejection of any hadith that does not fit into their agenda. Read the whole article and you will see what I mean.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Confusing Martin Luther with Voltaire

Here's a worthwhile article that includes valuable input by former hostage Terry Waite, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Timothy J. Winter (a.k.a. Abdal-Hakim Murad):

Citizenship, Islam and the West

Even though I loved Sheikh T.J. Winter's statement that Islam and the West “inhabit each other", and Sidi Hamza's observation that Muslims have "a rich history of being minority communities", my favorite part of the article was deconstruction of the often-heard argument that "Islam needs its Reformation". What many don't realize is that "this was invariably an argument made by western secularists rather than Christians". It's also glaringly true that the Secular Fundamentalists who spout the call for Islamic Reformation often “confuse Martin Luther with Voltaire, for what they really mean is that Islam needs its Enlightenment. But what they really, really mean is that Islam needs its secularisation". Sidi Hamza's concurrence that Islam needs “a restoration not a reformation” is right on the mark. As Sheikh Timothy Winter so aptly put it in his Contentions 4, "We need an Erasmus, not a Luther".

Exposing the "reformers"

Conservative anti-Zionist Jew Henry Makow has an interesting article on his website about Irshad Manji. Makow as usual, is unimpressed with the theatrics of this self-absorbed charlatan.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Speaking Ill of Scholars

Speaking Ill of Scholars

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Alhamdulillahir Rabi'yal 'alamin wa salatu wa salamu 'ala rasul'illah Sayiduna Muhammad wa 'ala ahlihi wa sahbihi wa salaam

Several years ago, I asked Sidi Faraz Rabbani how our beloved scholars feel when they are attacked and slandered online. His response, which has always stuck with me, is that the shayukh only care about how Allah thinks of them. Subhan'Allah. Many of you have been honored to sit in the presence of our shayukh and teachers, and witnessed their humility, their kindness, and, most importantly, their constant dhikr of Allah ta'ala. Islam has traditionally stressed seeking knowledge with the shayukh. Not just for what they can tell you is contained or meant by the words in a book, but because you learn just as much by observing their mannerisms. Our beloved Messenger, sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam, said that he was sent to perfect character. Our scholars are his inheritors, and we have many examples and narrations throughout history until today of our shayukh and teachers, men and women, striving to observe the highest etiquette and to model it for their students

The scholars of this diyn, the men and women who have put their lives into studying it, so that they might pass the knowledge on to others, deserve a certain amount of respect from the rest of us. Not because they are worth more as human beings, but because they have done something, sacrificed of their time, perhaps sacrificed a more financially lucrative way of life, in order to serve the Ummah and the rest of humanity. This doesn't mean you're going to get along with every scholar, or that your personality will mesh with his, it's just simple adab. Your parents are due a certain amount of adab, as are your fellow Muslims, as well, regardless of gender or status.

Those of us born and raised in the West have been inculcated in a culture that encourages a certain degree of iconoclasm. A popular sticker commands us to "Question Authority." There are some in the Ummah who believe it is their God-given right to question everything a scholar teaches, even if, or especially if, the questioning is done in vulgarity, poor taste, or with a certain degree of hostility. They say that the followers of Traditional Islam don't want us to question anything, but to blindly follow the teachers and accept what we are spoon fed, and they say that this gives them the right to say whatever they want, however they want, about those teachers, as well as their students.

Does the seeking of sacred knowledge in a traditional setting demand blind following on the part of the student? It does not. It does demand, however, that we enter into the student-teacher setting with love and respect, just out of regard for our mutual status as Muslims. Questioning and asking for clarification, in this atmosphere, is far from "wrong," it is encouraged. The great scholar and companion Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) was asked how he attained unto so much knowledge and he said, "By a questioning tongue and an ever-sharp mind."

It is an oft-repeated proverb that we owe our brother and sister Muslim seventy excuses for bad behavior. Whatever you think you see or hear him or her doing, you give them an excuse. And then another, and then another. You inquire about the matter quietly, in private, so that they are not humiliated or slandered. You allow for the possibility that you did not see or hear what you thought you saw or heard, because you allow for the possibility that you are not as perfect or intelligent as your nafs wants you to believe you are. You allow for the possibility that shayukh and teachers make mistakes, misspeak, have bad days, and get angry just like any other human being does. We all know that when we make mistakes or say things that are misunderstood, we don't want to be humiliated in public for it. How can you expect the consideration of seventy excuses to be given to you if you don't extend it to others first?
Slander, backbiting, and tale bearing are all serious matters about which Allah subhannahu wa ta'ala has given grave warnings.

"Those who slander such of the Believers as give themselves freely to (deeds of) charity, as well as those who give according to their means, -- and throw ridicule on them -- Allah will throw back their ridicule on them: and they shall have a grievous chastisement."
(Surat al Taubah, 79)

The Messenger of Allah (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam) also had very strong words for those who engage in this talk. For example:

"The most prevalent kind of usury [riba] is going to lengths in talking unjustly against a Muslim's honor." (Abu Dawud)

"O community of people who believed by their tongue, while belief has not entered their hearts: Do not backbite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house." (Abu Dawud)

Our reputations are sacrosanct in Islam. Unfortunately, it is so easy to wag the tongue, and many of us do not understand the damage that can be done with one sentence, one conversation, one article, until it's too late. May Allah ta'ala forgive us all for the damage we have caused, inadvertently or otherwise.

LT Editorial Comments: On Two MWU Articles

Salaam Alaikum

Medically Speaking: Hymens, Tampons, and Virginity

All in all, a pretty good article. Her penultimate paragraph

My opinion has always been that a woman is no longer a virgin when she has sexual intercourse with a man, not when she inserts a tampon into her vagina or when a doctor inserts a speculum to view her cervix. Virginity and chastity are about preserving one's sexual relationship in a manner that is sanctified by God.

agrees with the fuqaha. Even if the hymen is removed by hand, the girl remains a virgin.

Her questions about why a girl's word is not good enough is great, but shallow. There is a mahr involved, after all, and people get crazy when there is money.

Unfortunately, some people have turned chastity into a cult of hymen worship. What they fail to realize is that while a hymen is an indication that a girl has been chaste, it is not proof: it says
nothing about what the girl has been doing with the rest of her body. And today, it is not rare to hear of girls who will do everything except vaginal intercourse, because they are saving their "chastity" (i.e., their hymen) for their husband.
Lost Pages from Sahih al-Buykhari's Chapter on Menstruation

It's zandaqa and hyperbole.

[We are] disgusted with how some Muslims approach traditional texts with their own misogynistic baggage. If we get sucked into playing Whack-A-Mole with these zanadiqa, we will not have time to correct the actual problems. But then, problem fixing is what these folks are trying to make sure never happens.

Be Careful Who Praises You

The discerning reader,especially those of us who live in North America, would have noticed a trend in the past few years. The kind of Muslim who is acceptable to the establishment,who is media friendly and more importantly says things that make the general populace happy. The only problem is that these Muslims tend to have little credibility in our community and many of them have an axe to grind.

I do not want to get personal but I would like to discuss two people who have received their fair share of publicity from the Western media and examine who they are and what they espouse to understand why they are being feted in the mainstream press.

The first is a self styled Muslim Refusenik (whatever that means) who openly admits to being a lesbian and who has written a book which has received gushing tributes and accolades from reviewers coast to coast. I make mention of Irshad Manji, who wants to know why Muslims unquestioningly accept every word in the Quran as the Word of God, claims that it is not necessary to face the Qibla, and has the temerity to compare the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to Osama Bin Laden. When questioned on the last point she said that it was never her intention to impugn the Messenger though most Muslims would strongly disagree. These are just a few of the "gems"that one finds in her book. As expected she was able to garner tremendous publicity here in Canada and then south of the border and has been hailed as a visionary,a reformer and representative of the reformist face of Islam. And this from a woman who has given to her book the title The Trouble With Islam.

The second case is more subtle and concerns the efforts of an "activist" in Morgantown, W. Virginia who has been fighting for the rights of women in the masjid. This, on the face of it,is commendable but the issue is more insidious than that. The person in question is Asra Nomani whose chief claim to fame is the book on tantric sex that she authored; she's also a contributor to the pornography laden Sex and the Ummah columns in MWU. It is not surprising that her chief ally in this issue is Mohja Kahf who also contributes, and quite regularly at that, to the same column. Asra has also gone on record as stating that she feels more like a secular Jew. Now the question that arises is what is the locus stand of a person like this who is unrepentant about what she writes about her personal life and who in her own words claims allegiance to a different set of values? Anyone who aspires to a position of leadership is automatically bound by a higher set of values. If our leaders lack moral fibre, the whole community suffers. Needless to say,Asra garnered more than her fair share of publicity from the media.

It is obvious that the traditional Muslim who strictly adheres to the Quran and the Sunnah is of no interest to the establishment. I am convinced that a Muslim either has to be a maverick or a terrorist to gain mention in the media. And the only way to be the target of fulsome praise is to not just question the basic principles of Islam but to preferably bad mouth the vast majority of Muslims. Call them ignorant, backward, wife beaters, and top it off by severely criticising our mullahs. Now what can be better than that? This kind of attitude is bound to get you an opportunity to appear on prime time TV. Insist that the problem is not just with Muslims but with Islam as a whole. Argue that there should be a new and progressive interpretation of Islam, one that calls for the acceptability of that hitherto banned,and you will be called a leader with conviction and courage.

Traditional Muslims look to the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Salaf for inspiration. We are concerned with obtaining the approval of Allah and following the example of the Best of all men (peace and blessings be upon him). We will never sell our souls for a few fleeting moments of fame, insha'Allah. This is what sets apart from those who have pledged their allegiance to a power that is ephemeral.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

14 Minutes and Counting

Salaam 'Alaikum

Jordy Cummings at Press Action ruminates on the intellectual contradictions and ambitions of Irshad Manji in "Hey Irshad, Your Fifteen Minutes Are Up."

Justin Podur at Z-Mag gave a thorough -- and scathing -- review of Manji's book and politics last December, "A Multi-Faceted Fraud." I'm not sure, but I think re-ran this essay or one similar, critiquing Manji's cozying up to right-wing politicians here and in Israel.

Muslims, the Media, and the Masjid

If you bring up the topic of “Women and the Masjid”, to a Muslim woman, it doesn’t matter if she is religious or secular, liberal or conservative, traditional or modernist. The response is usually the same. We feel that in most American mosques, women do not play an active role. We are not involved in decision making, program development or management. When considering the floor plan of a masjid, the women’s area is usually an afterthought. It’s as if they are saying, “Well, IF some women decide to come here for Jumuah, we’ll stick them here.” “Here” usually being a small balcony or side room that should magically fit in all the women and their children. Or, it’s a side room where the women are cramped together in a messy, uncomfortable room. Or worse, the poor Muslima who lives in an area where the men are so indoctrinated with backward cultural beliefs that the mosque does not even allow women. “Hey, Islam does not oppress women,” we tell non-Muslims as there are musallas where the women’s prayer area is small, unkempt, and inadequately maintained (which is a just a passive aggressive way of saying we don’t want you here). “Do not keep the maidservants of Allah from entering the houses of Allah,” spoke our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) and yet dozens of masajid around the world are doing just that. They may confident that they can escape social criticism for their behavior but they will be questioned about it on Yaum al Qiyama.

So I must give credit to the Progressive Muslim movement for pointing out this gross violation which is against the tenets of our religion. For too long, educated Muslim women who wanted to contribute to their masjid, in the same way that many women in our history had done, were turned away—some quite harshly. This has lead to pent-up resentment and frustration against the extremist (meaning extremely incorrect) behavior posing as true Islam that would render our deen of rahma into an all boy’s club. Unfortunately, out of this anger and frustration, this has led some of the fighters against this injustice to embrace another equally extremist and incorrect interpretation. Since women were not allowed to have adequate prayer sections, the left-wing extremists would demand that women pray shoulder to shoulder or right next to the men (even if that means ignoring the Sunnah?). And if their requests were not met immediately, they would take it by force. Hence the battle at a West Virginia mosque led by Tantrika author Asra Q. Nomani. After her spiritual and sexual exploration in the South Asian continent, she launched a campaign to “Take back the masjid!”

Great! This is EXACTLY what we need. One heroic voice crying out in the night for equality…oh wait. Wait a minute! What does that article say?!

Yes, from the New York Times to, we have read stories of how ALL of our masajid are filled anti-female sentiment. Our houses of worship are just crawling with sulking, brooding men looking to throw a woman out like a bouncer at some upscale night club. And while I am not denying that this ogre exists, to say that ALL masajid are like this, or that ALL masjid-going Muslim men are violently barring women from their Islamic rights, is laying it on pretty thick. Once again, we do have a problem with women’s spaces, but not to the point where America has turned into a mini Afghanistan. These are problems that must be addressed but I would talk about how we SHOULD NOT address them.

Muslims and Media

Writing scathing articles for Western media outlets do not solve the problem—in fact, it only makes it worse. It is counter-productive to write articles for the New York Times or Time Magazine, publications that are not known for being fair when it comes to Muslims and Islam. How could they be when NYT hired Judith Miller, a woman who can’t speak Arabic and has no Islamic knowledge, as a Middle East expert? She craftily penned a book called God has Ninety-Nine Names in which Palestinian scholar Edward Said slams for incorrect translations and gross generalizations. (Yes, Mrs. Miller. God does have 99 names and you don’t know any of them.)

And how nice it was to see an article in Time Magazine with Ms. Nomani and crew protesting in the streets against the sexist policies of her masjid while also featuring an article as to whether or not the Qur’an condones beheadings and kidnappings. These publications could care less about Muslim women and more about presenting their readers with entertaining stories about “them crazy Moozlims.” Also, they are published by ignorant people who have an abysmal knowledge of Islam so these articles do nothing but enforce their stereotypes when they come from Muslim women. It doesn’t matter if you say, “We can change Islam,” or “This is behavior is not Islamically correct.” The impression has been made and the idea of oppressive Muslim men, enforced.

And why can’t these issues be addressed from within the community? Why must we run to media everytime there’s a dispute or crisis? Are we so inadequate at handling our own problems that we must run to “Big Daddy West” to solve them? I would like to think not. Shame tactics do not work. Education works. Having good adab while your opponents shame themselves works; not embarrassing your community and shaming those who don’t deserve that negative attention.

Muslim men care about women’s rights, too

I noticed that in all the articles, the male Muslim voice is absent. (Except for Nomani’s father regretting his past mistakes about excluding women from their masjid.) This is not a "men vs. women" issue. This is a righteous struggle to see that mosques adhere to the Sunnah. These articles create the impression that there isn’t a strong collective voice among American Muslim men that care about seeing their sisters receive their Islamic rights. And yet, Imam Zaid Shakir, Yahiya Emerick and Abdul Malik Mujahid have spoken and written on the subject. But their voices aren’t heard or read on NPR or NYT. Is it because they don’t want the American public to know that Muslim men actually care about Muslim women? How many Shaykh Hamza Yusuf lectures have we’ve heard where he admonishes men for not being appreciative and kind to their wives? How many times has he criticized and educated our less enlightened brothers on the rights of women in Islam? American media outlets would rather give voice to the disgruntled among us who are half-way between belief and unbelief rather than pay attention to those of us who fight for our rights within a classical Islamic framework.

Not all masajid are the same

I live in a city with about nine different masajid. I have attended almost of all them and what strikes me the most is how differently each masjid divides its men and women. There are two masajid where the women and men are in one room, all together, with ample space for both genders and everyone can see the imam. There’s another where the women pray in a small balcony while the men have the larger bottom floor. There’s also another where, the women are in a side room, while the men have a huge prayer area in the main hall. You noticed how I mentioned the two masajid with equal space for men and women? When these articles are written about American masajid, there is never any mention of the ones that are doing the right thing. They never say, “Well there’s this mosque in Anywhere, USA and they adhere to the Sunnah. Why can’t we be more like them?” The mosques that I mentioned are predominately African-American and maybe it’s just me but I notice that some of these polltakers and reporters systematically leave them out. I wonder why. (And sadly enough, some Muslim orgs. do that as well but that’s a topic I’ll get into another time.)

Since all masajid are not the same, the way that they handle the problem of female exclusion (if they decide to tackle the problem) should differ according to the consensus of the people of that particular masjid. But whatever each masjid decides, what is important is that women feel like active members of their communities. But launching vicious invectives and “literary jihads” only pours salt on a gaping open wound. This problem must be addressed by all Muslims together who strive to please their Lord, not Western commentators or our own egos.

Here are some articles written on the subject and how we SHOULD address this problem.

The Twin Halves of Men: A Guide to Establishing a Woman-Friendly Community

Make Way for the Women

Challenges of Women Space in Masjids

Flight from the Masjid

Women in Mosques

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Failed Academics and the PM movement

Muqtedar Khan is a busy man. An import from the Indian subcontinent, Khan has worked hard to get where he’s at today as “the Chair of the Department of Political Science and the Director of International Studies at Adrian College. He is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution.” Resume regurjitation is a consistant theme amongst PMs, highlighting the absolute dearth of Islamic scholarship.

Like most Eurocentric academics, Khan’s understanding of Islam is along the lines of his training, viewing the religion as merely a stationary cultural and historical phenomenon in need of academic dissection and dissemination. He began writing articles back in the late 1990s, which were posted on his comically titled “Global Eye” website with the accompanying tagline “ijtihad, a return to enlightenment.” Khan wasn’t taken very seriously as many of his poorly written articles lacked realism, depth, and maturity. Indeed it was hard to believe that an educator and self-styled spokesman for Islam could come up with lines like:

“This is Islam’s ruling, I am right, you are wrong, in fact I alone am right and you are a kafir (nonbeliever) because you disagree with me,"

“Their interpretations of what it means to live according to Islam (not some medieval Islamic scholars conception of Islam) will differ,”


“Islamic legal opinions of the past must be discarded and replaced with a more open and compassionate understanding of Islam.”

It's obvious Khan has little no idea what he talks about and is patronizingly pandering to the ignorant and malicious (anti-Muslim extremist websites were all too happy to post these words) in defacing centuries of Islamic scholarship, knowledge and wisdom. Who needs Imam Hanifa, and the rest of them when you have hyper-reductionists like these to “modernize” us ? The solution to our problems is to have 1.6 billion Muslims come up with 1.6 billion interpretations
each suiting one’s individual fancy. Problem solved, Islam “modernized!"

Fast forward to 911, a day of horror, sadness and grief but also opportunity, not just for Bush and his neocon masters but also for certain Muslims eager to market and sell themselves as “experts” on any and everything Islamic. Khan has been quite active the last 3 years to say the least. Busy on the lecture circuit, getting syndicated and making appearances on FOX, CNN etc seems to have gone to his head.

Like many in the Proggie movement Khan deceptively divides the Muslim community into benign Americanized liberals and conservative immigrant hardliners. Their line of reasoning being that Muslim organizations voted for Bush in 2000, hence their conservative credentials, clearly disregarding the hard fact that Muslim Americans voted overwhelmingly for Clinton twice. He sees a handful of wealthy Muslim American businessmen endorsing Bush as “conservative” not as people benefiting directly from Bush’s economic policies. This coming from a man who finds the Patriot Act "Islamic" compared to similar draconian measures in pro-American Muslim dictatorships. Confusion is not the only diagnosis which comes to mind. Such rhetoric is standard amongst the Muqtedar Khans, Irshad Manjis and all their generic permutations.

Why does it seem that individuals with no background in Islamic studies have a megaphone placed in front of them? Simply because they serve the wider purpose of demonizing Islam from within the Muslim community. It's also a veritable cash cow for every third rate failed academic and ideologue eager to get a slice of the pie whether it's book deals, media appearances, or personal narcissim. Its striking how close the neocons and Muslim “modernists” are in their aim of “reforming” Islam, no doubt to domesticate and dismantle its tenets to suit their designs.

What the “progressives” fail to realize is that ultimately, their efforts will fail despite the publicity and self-deception of their fitna. They are not the first to try and regrettably won't be the last. Muslims who aren’t misled and who hold steadfastly to this deen need but remember the following verses of the Holy Quran :

And Allah most certainly knows those who believe, and as certainly those who are Hypocrites. (29:11)

And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners. (3:54)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Traditional Muslim’s look at “Progressive” Sexual Ethics

Are Muslims too prudish? Do we raise our hands to cover our ears and say “Astagfirullah” at the very mention of the word “sex?” Have we really become the Muslim equivalent of Victorian England complete with repressed sexual impulses? Well according to the self styled Progressive Muslim Movement, we need to loosen up. According to them, our righteous predecessors and our Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam), were not afraid of talking about sex and sexuality. As we all know, classical Arabic literature contains many works of erotic love and romance such as Sheikh Nafzawi’s The Perfumed Garden. Historically, Muslims have always sought the advice of scholars as to what sexual practices were in accordance with Islam. But what the PM’s are bringing to the Muslim masses would make even a secularist blush. On their website, there’s quite an interesting display of stories such as placing a Quran commentator in a humiliating sexual fantasy, a Muslim embracing his desire to become a transvestite, another Muslima seducing her lover to fornicate and a lesbian checking out the scantily dressed sisters at a Muslim bridal shower. According to them, we have been living in the sexual Dark Ages and now we must do as our Western brethren have done. We must embrace Western contemporary norms of sexuality where every expression is justified, even if those expressions go against the commandments given to us by Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

So much of what we are seeing in America and other Western nations is actually the result of a revolt against Victorianism. The Victorians believed that all sexual activity, even that between a husband and a wife, were potentially evil. They ruled out the idea of recreational pleasure and foreplay between married couples. Even the act of procreation itself was seen quite negatively becaused they believe that it removed at least a year of a man’s life. But that began to change with Freudian psychology and his theory of infantile sexuality. Also with the advent of the Birth Control pill, gender relations in the West would never be the same. During the 1960s, women were urged by feminists to “own their sexuality” by saying that they should be just as sexually active as men (or at least how they thought ALL men behaved). While the Victorians skewed all sexual curiosity as Satanic vice, our generation would become obsessed by the sexual impulse. You know the phrase, “If it feels good, do it!” We were all on the highway of sexual enlightenment that would bring about healthier, happier human beings and equality between the genders.

Or so they thought.

It is our generation that is surveying the war torn landscape of sexual chaos here in America. How many of us went to public schools where girls who were not old enough to vote were on their way to becoming mothers? Or the famous “easy” girls who earned that reputation well after their years in high school? What about the fatherless families or the rising divorce rate? The writing is on the wall and all the goals of the “Sexual Devolution” have not been fulfilled. When women decided to be as sexually available as promiscuous men, they found themselves abandoned when their lovers did not reciprocate their affections. And even though we have every STD and birth control preventative available to us, we still have high rates of STD infection and the plague of AIDS looming over our heads. Which is why I think, in all honesty, that it’s irresponsible (and yes, judgmental) to criticize Muslims who still hold on to traditional sexual norms. You can write as much soft-core porn as you want but the fact remains that chaste people don’t have as much to worry about as their unchaste counter parts. Oh, I can now hear the snickers of disgust at my “prudishness” and “closed-minded” attitudes. But I read an article recently in AIDS Weekly that Muslim countries tend to have lower rates of STD infection. The reason for this, as the article stated, is our religious practices. Traditional Muslims still hold on to the idea of chastity, marital fidelity and courtship. We believe that sex is a gift from Allah subhana wa ta ‘ala and just like His other blessings, it deserves respect and responsible behavior. Every part of the human body is a precious creation of our Lord and it doesn’t deserved to be referred to with language that often objectifies and disrespects human beings—particularly women.

You would have to be insane not to see the toll that all this “sexual freedom” is taking on Western culture. In fact, sexual modesty is quite revolutionary in a time when the act has been boiled down to a mere exchange of bodily fluids and a quick release of a passing desire. And it’s not just the religious folk who are singing this tune. Writers like Wendy Shalit, though secular in their outlook, condemn the misogyny that is the current sexual environment. Women are allowed to be “sluts,” vixens, riot grrrls and sex toys but they are not allowed to BE women—respectable, caring (and cared for) intelligent women.

As Muslims, we should be proud that most people in our umma have not faced the difficulties that so many “liberated” people are facing. We are prudish, moralistic, “Astagfirullah”- saying and traditional—but we have longer marriages, happier children, happier families and less rates of STD infection. We should not feel bad when people criticize us for being sexuality modest while they themselves can not maintain a successful monogamous relationship for three months.

So don’t fall victim to the extremist agendas. The extreme right that denies all sexual impulses while the men sleep with whomever they want or the extreme left that says anything goes even if that means you are going straight to the free clinic or the abortion doctor (insert obligatory Astagfirullah). Chastity, restraint and moderation are very radical ideas these days. Even radical feminist Germaine Greer once stated that sexual display is pure conformism and what better way to “conform” then to write pornography on a supposedly Muslim website. The idea of women sharing their fantasies with the public is old, clichéd and predictable and when a Muslim woman does it, it sustains some novelty but then it soon wears off. It seems the really radical or “progressive” thing to do is to suggest an alternative to standard norms. Try suggesting abstinence and watch as they recoil in horror at the thought of practicing self control. Western society is slowly learning its lessons and insha’allah, no matter what society conforms to, may we always conform to what Allah subhana wa ta’ala wants for us.

And only Allah subhana wa ta’ala knows best.

Comments: Newsday Article

Salaam 'Alaikum

Today's New York Newsday featured an article on the "Progressive Muslim Union" (PMU). There are a few (cough) interesting statements I'd like to call attention to. Quotes from the article are in bold print, my response in regular next to LT:
(note: the progressive movement, as a whole, organized and otherwise, is referred to as PMM here. Because I'm lazy, that's why)

Ahmed Nassef: "For the first time, you have Muslims who are not afraid to say they disagree with the conservative, dogmatic, literalistic view of Islam propounded by many Muslim groups in this country."

LT: Really? Because most Muslims in America aren't members of those organizations, and I think most Muslims don't sit around waiting for them to give us their views on Islam or how and what to believe. Honestly, I don't.

There are plenty of folks who aren't even aware of their existence, and there are plenty of us who do know about them that have been capable of saying why we don't belong to them. Most of us don't need organizations, whether it's ISCNACAIRMASPAC or PMU, in order to have our faith and Muslim identity (what Nassef is claiming they are "reclaiming.")

The group's goals are ambitious: nothing less than the redefinition of what it means to be Muslim in the modern world, emphasizing values of social justice and gender equality, and calling for a fresh reading of Islam's 1,400-year-old texts.

LT: This might mean something but for a few key factors.

(1) PMU basically wants to step in where ISCNACAIRMASPAC have been for the last few decades and purport to represent American Muslims. In other words, they want to assume the mantle of self-declared authority. But they're not telling us why their self-declared authority will be any more valid than the groups they purport to challenge.

(2) Most of us don't have trouble living in the modern world and being Muslim. The problem PMU seem to have is trying to have the best of both worlds. That is, trying to be "progressives" in a secular culture while at the same time, wanting to hold on to Islam or a Muslim identity for whatever reason. Because they have difficulty with this syncretization, it is assumed that everyone else has a problem following an ancient religion in a modern culture.

(3) While Islam does place value on social justice and gender equality, they aren't emphasized. And this is the heart of the Regressive Muslim movement -- to take the emphasis off of "mystical" things like the emphasis on prayer, fasting, hajj, dhikr, and put it on values more in line with the above mentioned modern secular culture.

(4) A "fresh reading" of our Sacred Texts is only possible when pre-requisites are filled. When they are not, people who attempt "fresh readings" end up stepping beyond the boundaries of Islam. The modernist Wahabi and Selafi movements have demonstrated this amply -- from their mixed up ideas to terrorist bombings. So have the "Submitters" and other anti-Sunnah groups. Regressives are just the latest in a long line of folks who purport to "reform" the deen. (See also: Mutazili) I can guarantee you that almost no one, if even one individual, among the Regressive Muslim movement has the prerequisites of ijtihad, or even to be a mufasir. Ijtihad goes a lot further than being a buzz-word in the media.

With just weeks to go until the launch, Nassef and other organizers are lining up a board that is a global Who's Who of Muslim leaders, from former Pakistani ambassador to Britain Akbar Ahmed to Muslim Public Affairs Council director Salem Al-Marayati.

LT: In other words, after slamming the American Muslim establishment, they have gone to them for the "big names" to sit on their board and add a patina of legitimacy. MPAC is one of those very same groups who have purported to speak for American Muslims for years, especially on matters of politics. In fact, they are among the same groups that endorsed Bush in 2000 and launched a massive campaign to pressure Muslims into voting for him. When the endorsement was announced by the hybrid AMPCC-PAC (which includes at least one organization that Nassef & Co. regularly slam), Salam al Marayati himself was present to endorse bush. (To his credit, Mr. Marayati admits that his endorsement of Bush was a huge blunder. Apparently, though, he does not regret his repeated attempts to influence the Muslim vote).

At the same time, MPAC is not a transparent organization; there is no listing of their chapter presidents or who sits on their board of directors on their website, although there is a list of staff members. However, MPAC is now the self declared "Progressive Voice" for American Muslims. How many "the voices" are we going to have?

So PMU wants to present itself as an alternative to these groups, while at the same time seeking out their directors, board, and staff members to sit on their own board. It's a contradiction, to say the least.

Plans for a conference at Harvard Divinity School in March to kick off the movement also are under way with seed money provided by Harvard's Pluralism Project.

LT: If anyone needed a bigger clue as to the legitimacy of this group within the Muslim community they purport to speak for and represent, here it is. The last conference on Islam held at HDS didn't feature more than one or two Muslims among the panelists. The fact that PMU is getting money for this from Harvard is also telling, in my opinion. The organized Regressive Muslim movement haven't even bothered to seek support within our masajid and our communities, the ones that they slag off so much in the press and on their websites. Yet they are able to perpetuate the idea that they are somehow speaking for a "silent majority" of us.

If the only time the regular Muslims hear about you is when they open the paper to read an attack on their masjid, or their general way of life in a non-Muslim newspaper, who is it that you're holding dialogue with? If your conference is sponsored and paid for (in part or in whole) by a secular university and held at a secular university, who are you educating? Is this really aimed at Muslims for the benefit of Muslims?

No one gets to judge who is and is not Islamic, they say. If you identify yourself as Muslim, then you are Muslim - without having to pass litmus tests about your beliefs and practices. Many participants are, in fact, devout; others are not religious at all but identify as cultural Muslims.

LT: Unfortunately for PMU, this is (surprise) contrary to Islam. Our beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) stated that he was sent to judge by outward appearances. It is God Most High who does not judge by appearances but by the heart. And that pertains to matters of intention, 'iman, and the heart. It does not pertain to things that directly contradict the Qur'an, Sunnah, and Shari'a. I'm not talking about making takfir on people, by the way, I'm talking about analyzing them according to what they present to you.

In a hadith from Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, we read that 'Umar ibn al Khattab narrated that a man who was unknown to them, yet bore no trace of traveling appeared...

"He sat down before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bracing his knees against his, resting his hands on his legs, and said: "Muhammad, tell me about Islam." The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way."

So it is on the word of the Messenger -- you must say "La illaha il Allah, Muhammadur Rasul'Allah" and believe in and perform the other four things in order to be considered Islamic (sic). That is a litmus test, and it's directly from the Primary Sources. Further, there are many stipulations in the books of Shari'ah that there are actions and statements that push one beyond the pale of Islam. These are things that have been agreed upon unanimously for 1400 years. Only from an arrogant, iconoclastic culture such as my own could such a movement arise whose members believe they know more and are better than previous generations. Audhu billah.

"It's as if everyone expected Jewish Americans to have forelocks and dress in black cloaks and to practice their faith like the Hasidim," said Hussein Ibish...

LT: Herein lies the issue. The PMM sees Islam as being no different from Judaism or any other religion. And that, my dear sisters and brothers, is a major divide between us . We believe by the Qur'an that Islam is unique and the capital-t Truth. They believe it is no different from any other deen, and that we should therefore follow the same course of reformation, destruction, assimilation, and secularization that they have. What is good and valid in Judaism is not necessarily good and valid in Islam.

Ibish, who describes himself as an "arch-secularist," said he, nonetheless, sees himself as "an organic part" of the Muslim community who takes pride in his heritage. For that reason, he agreed to serve as the new group's vice chairman.

LT: Islam isn't a heritage, it's a way of life. This is not something where we say "we follow what our fathers followed." You choose it or you don't, and if you don't, you forgo the claim of culture and heritage and community. In any case, it's just another indicator as to what this group is about and whose attention they want: an "arch-secularist" as the vice chairman of an official arm of a movement that purports to be the "real" authority for American Muslims.

Ibish: The acceptable range of Muslim beliefs and activities has shrunk considerably over the last 25 years, and we need to expand that,"

LT: I don't perceive much difference between what I believe and what the Sahaba believed. I'm not aware of some major shift in Islamic 'aqida (the formal creed) in the last 25 years. Nor do I particularly see myself doing less than they did or than someone of my mother's generation. Quite the opposite. I would say that the opportunities and activities considered acceptable have expanded.

But folks, this is just another indication of the uppy-downy contrary world of the Regressives. On the one hand, they like to say that we haven't changed our beliefs and outlooks for 1425 years, but on the other, they say we have shrunk the "acceptable range."

Farid Esack, a South African theologian and a champion of progressive Islam, stunned some organizers when he turned down an invitation to join the board.

LT: I'll confess to being surprised myself. Although I think Esack has a good reason, and I commend his sticking by his principles. Surely, the formation of the PMU and the opportunities it might give him are important to Esack, and yet he didn't compromise.

The reason Esack turned down the position is, "he said he was dismayed that Malik Hasan, a former HMO mogul who is an outspoken supporter of President George W. Bush, also had been chosen. "You're entitled to have a big tent, but Muslims for Bush as a founding member?" Esack asked, referring to the group organized by Hasan's son and wife."

Nassef defends the choice, saying that organizers made a deliberate decision to have a diverse board. "This will not get anywhere if we're just a few dozen people talking to each other," he said.

LT: In actuality, though, that is exactly what the Regressive Muslim movement is. Oh sure, it's more than a few dozen people, but what it is is like minded folks. Malik Hasan may be a toe-the-line Republican, but as far as social concerns, he and his family (including Asma Gull Hasan) are fairly liberal. For those who do not know, Dr. Hasan is the founder and ex-CEO of the nation's fourth largest HMO, Foundations Health Systems, Inc. He is also a strong advocate of for-profit medicine and insurance, and has publicly ridiculed the idea of non-profit healthcare. He's also been singled out by others in his field for putting profits above patient care.

What's interesting, though, is that the PMU and their official mouthpiece (I can call it that now) purport to be in favor of social justice and politically progressive values. Is there anything more regressive, politically and socially, than the Bush regime? Yet PMU hasn't hesitated to line up with one of their biggest financial supporters. Further, HMOs have wreaked havoc with the American health care system, and left approximately 35 million Americans without health insurance or the ability to afford health care procedures, whether basic or complex, and Dr. Hasan is widely believed to have been one of the main architects of this system.

MWU is well known for promoting the acceptance of homosexual sex and fornication amongst Muslims, and the movement as a whole is well known for mocking and jeering those Muslims who disagree with them. Yet they invite and accept a man who is a prominent financial supporter for the very party whose platform calls for an amendment to our Constitution based on the grounds that marriage is between a man and a woman only. So it's one standard for some Muslims, and another for the rest of us?

Dr. Hasan is also the founder and chair of a little known group called CAMU: Council for American Muslim Understanding, a group whose funding was "encouraged" by the State Department. At the same time, the Hasans have almost no visible involvement in the American Muslim community whether on a local (Colorado) level or national level (that is, until his wife and son appeared at the ISNA convention this year as "Muslims for Bush"). They do, however, support Daniel Pipes. To learn more about Dr. Malik Hasan and his family please read this. I had a jolly good time researching it.

These are the values that PMU aligns itself with? Is the removal of the hijab and the promotion of homosexuality so important that we can ignore the damage done to all Americans, especially Muslims, by the Bush regime? Or the pain caused to millions of Americans by the HMO system? (In fact, Dr. Hasan has been singled out as acting in the best interest of the dollar instead of the patient on several occasions.)

The PMM as a whole place a lot of emphasis on women's issues and homosexuality, while calling themselves progressive in values and politics. So where do the uninsured and low-income rate? How about the Muslims overseas who are being bombed in their homes? Is the headscarf really that much more important than these issues? I don't think so; apparently, PMU and the rest do.

To be sure, we should encourage and support diversity of public opinion within our community. But Dr. Hasan has, by all appearances, contributed nothing to the Muslim community in this country (I'm not speaking of his zakat or sadaqa that he has kept to himself and God). He promotes a business that has hurt the American people, and has given hundreds of thosuands of dollars to a party and candidate that have caused untold damage to Muslims world wide and Americans here at home. On the other hand, though, Dr. Hasan is, like, really, really rich. So draw your own conclusions.

PMU doesn't want a diversity of opinion, despite Nassef's claim. If they did, they would not ban dissenters from posting on their official mouth piece, or encourage the foul, obscene attacks against individuals who try to question them among the reader forums. If they did, they could have found someone with more intellectual and moral authority and Islamic credibility to sit on their board than someone like Dr. Hasan.

PMU is not about the deen. It is not about religion. It is not about changing ourselves so that we can change our community. It is not about deeper spiritual awareness. It is about coercing the Muslim American community to play by a secular progressivist agenda or risk being labeled as a fundamentalist, fanatic, and so on. If they did, they'd have someone like Imam Zaid or Imam Siraj on the board. But they don't. And we all know why.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Let us fight the good fight!

As Muslims in North America we are confronted with unique challenges.On the one hand, we have to live in an increasingly inimical atmosphere where our beliefs are ridiculed and one who wishes to abide by the tenets of our Deen is viewed with contempt and suspicion. But more dangerous is the insidious attempts by a group of self styled "progressive muslims"to change the face of Islam and rework its principles to gain the acceptability of other communities here.

Traditional Muslims are proud of Islam and all that it represents.We believe that the Quran and the Sunnah as also the lives of our pious predecessors contain enough wisdom and guidance for us to tread firm on The Straight Path.While we bear no animosity to other religions or their adherents,we are convinced that Islam is the one true religion for Allah himself has told us that He has perfected our Deen for us and given to it the name Islam.At the same time we recognize that the Quran has clearly stated that there is no compulsion in matters of religion while reserving the right to call others to this wonderful way of life in a manner consistent with that of our beloved Messenger(peace be upon him).To promote the concept that all religions are equal clearly contradicts the Quran which tells us that truth can never be confused with falsehood.

The beauty and the underlying strength of Islam lies in its ability to mould itself according to changing circumstances.But this cannot be misconstrued as licence to change its basic principles nor to allow what Allah has forbidden.There are those who state that a Muslim is one who simply describes himself as such but that is mere wishful thinking!Can one who justifies homosexuality,same sex marriages,fornication etc be called a Muslim?Inspite of clear warnings from our Creator?I leave it to you to decide.

We have come to a stage that the forbidding of wrong and the enjoining of good has come to be regarded as interference and uncalled for sanctimony. Those of us who adduce proofs from the Shariah are dismissed as cranks,obscurantists and bigots. And therein lies the danger for these progressives have managed to create a myth that there is nothing sacrosanct anymore and that the Deen can be changed to suit one's whims and fancies.

The fault also lies within ourselves for we have allowed complacency to get the better of us.Some of the issues raised by the progressives touch a chord in the Ummah but the solutions propounded are unacceptable.To be able to counter them and their pernicious ideology,it is imperative that Traditionalists like us first recognise what ails our North American Ummah.As I see it the main issues are

1. The treatment of Women-while there is no doubt that Muslim women in this continent are in a much better position than their counterparts in Asia there is still a lot left to be desired. As a start we must ensure that any new mosque constructed has enough space for the sisters and that they must be afforded an opportunity to learn the Deen.It would also be a good idea to ensure that our associations allow women to serve in positions of responsibility.I am glad that ISNA(which along with CAIR has been the object of vilification by these progressives) has set an example in this matter.

2. The alienation of our youth- This is the generation that we should be most concerned with as they are the most vulnerable to the vile propoganda being directed. Our leadership continues to be in the hands of older Muslims ,many of whom came to this continent as immigrants.While we can never forget the tremendous sacrifices made by them it is time we trained the next generation to take over. This generation consists of people born here,who understand the system and who are not apologetic about who they are.Just the kind of people we need to take this community further.

3. Infighting-The sad truth is that many of us expend our energy on fighting amongst ourselves or questioning the sincerity of other organizations.Let us realize that each one of us can contribute in his own way. At the same time we need to be vigilant about exposing the charlatans and the deviants in our midst.On this there can be no compromise for we are not here to be held hostage by the the demands of political expediency.

This blog and the others on this site constitute the first attempt to take the fight to the enemy.And the enemy they are for they have chosen to mock our Deen,systematically attack its established principles and spread canards about our scholars.Fitna must be countered with all the moral,intellectual and economic force we can muster.It is a duty incumbent on all of us. Let us reject the False Messiahs and the poisoned nectar they offer.

The time for despair and despondency is past as is any excuse for sloth and indifference. As Muslims we are not here to sacrifice our principles at the altar of political correctness for we are secure in the belief that we will one day answer to a Higher Power.

A Living Tradition of Progress

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Salaam 'Alaikum

Welcome to Living Tradition.

The American Heritage dictionary defines tradition, in part, as "a time-honored practice or set of such practices." The verb honor means to hold in or show respect or esteem for something; to give it consideration, veneration, or reverence.

To be a traditionalist, then, is to be a person who shows respect and reverence for those ancient practices. It is to be faithful to them. Unfortunately, many people in our culture, including some Muslims, define a traditionalist as someone who is "narrow minded," "rigid," or "out of touch" with the world. How is it that tradition is something time-honored, but those who follow it are considered to be less than honorable?

The same American Heritage dictionary defines progress as, "steady improvement, as of a society or civilization," and "movement, to a goal." A progressive, then, is someone who advocates or works for a steady improvement of his or her society, or who makes movement towards a goal, personal or otherwise.

An iconoclast is, according to the American Heritage, "one who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions." Webster's Revised Unabridged takes it a step further, and defines an iconoclast as one who "attacks cherished beliefs" and is "a radical." In various thesaurii, synonyms for the word include apostate, betrayer, defector, reactionary, fascist, insurrectionist, individualist, subversive, demagogue, mutineer, malcontent, and many, many other words that most people consider negative traits. Only Roget's Thesaurus gives progressive as an alternative to the word iconoclast.

This blog was started by request as a response to the growing clamor of voices in the media and on the internet coming from several self-styled official (and unofficial) organizations of Muslims known as "Progressive Muslims." As mainstream Muslims, we do not believe that the Tradition of Islam is inherently opposed to progress, whether it is for society or for the individual. Quite the contrary. The Tradition of Islam's purpose is progress.

"These are Allah's limits, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will cause him to enter gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them; and this
is the great success." (4:13)

The Qur'an, which we believe to be the direct and inerrant Word of God, and the Sunnah of His Last Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, are guidelines for the progress of the individual and the society, in this world and in the next. Every instruction, every command, and yes, every prohibition is given so that we might improve our inner and outer lives, from the way we deal with one another, to our business transactions, to matters of state, to the way we conduct our relationship with God Almighty. The goal that we as Muslims hope to progress to is Jennah, or Paradise, and the bliss of Everlasting Life in His Presence.

The mainstream body of the Ummah, Ahl us Sunnah wa'l Jama'at, has long been under ideological attack from two fronts: the Western Orientalists and the followers of Abdul Wahhab, Abduh, al Afghani, and other modernists, some of whom are known as the "Selafi" and / or "Wahhabi" movements. Today we find our entire Ummah being held to account for the horrific actions of a tiny minority of politicized and militarized Wahhabists, known as "Islamists." From these two fronts, every matter of our being, from our dress to our forms of worship to the sovreignty of Muslim nations, is under attack.

Within the past 100 years, a tiny, albeit vocal group has emerged from both sides. Weaned on the ideas of liberation theology and left-wing radicalism from the West, and cutting their teeth on the DIY scholarship of the Selafi and Wahhabi movements, this very media savvy movement is now poised to cause a great deal of damage and confusion regarding the beliefs, ideas, and image of Islam and Muslims in the West, particularly in the United States. They call upon Islam to "change" or "reform."

They call for the acceptance of homosexual sex and fornication. They encourage the removal of niqab and hijab amongst women. One particular group has begun to promote soft-core pornography written by Muslim women that contain sexual intimations about great 'ulema and stories of lesbianism. They encourage ignorant lay people to make their own ijtihad, thereby ignoring the Qur'anic command to seek knowledge from the poeple who know. At a recent national Islamic convention, a particular follower of this movement mocked Islamic prohibitions on alcohol and fornication. Others call for the scrapping of Shari'a all together, while still others say that we should reject ahadith that do not conform to the values and norms of N. American society. And still others insist that we should accept as Muslim those who get their sense of "Muslimness" from a political or cultural experience, instead of "limiting" it to those who say "There is nothing worthy of worship but God and Muhammad is His Messenger."

This is not progress, it is iconoclasm, in the truest sense of the word.

Generally speaking, so-called "Progressive Muslims" seek to "re-interpret" Islam so that it adheres to standards of human rights set down by previously vicious colonial states such as England and France, or to the societal norms of places like the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. A quick reading of the reaction of Asian and African Anglican bishops to recent American Episcopalian resolutions on homosexual clergy would inform one that social standards are not the same the world over, and that even non European and American followers of a religion established by the English state do not feel at all bound to accept the mores of the West. So why, should Muslims, who follow a religion established by God, feel obligated or pressured to accept predominant Western societal values that are in conflict with what God Wants?

To be sure, there are people who use the mantle of "Progressive Islam" to push neo-conservative political agendas, just as there are followers of the Rashid Khalifa movement ("Submitters") who have begun to use the term "Progressive Muslims" in order to trick more people into following their religion. For the most part, however, it appears that self-identifying "Progressive Muslims" are sincere and truthful regarding their goals and who they are.

God has Said in His Majestic Qur'an that the Christians and Jews will not be happy with us until we follow their millah, their religion or collective reality. When we see Christians and Jews, whose religious inheritance has been the main force shaping Western culture for centuries, scrapping ancient prohibitions, commands, and laws in favor of "reform," and "liberation," it then follows suit that we are expected to do the same. And that is what "Progressive Muslims" seem to so eagerly want.

Around the globe we find Muslims desperate to latch onto Western political ideas and philosophies, from socialism to communism to materialism to democratism, yet with every year that passes, the situation for Muslims seems to be bleaker and bleaker. In other places, Muslims fight to install political groups that have been given the veneer of the turban and the beard: Islamism or "the Islamic state." The only thing that hasn't been tried on a state level is Islam itself. Without the sloganeering and posters or the compromise with 19th century German or French legal codes.

Followers of this movement claim that Islam needs to be reformed. We beg to differ. It is Muslims, not Islam, that needs to be reformed.

"Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people if they
do not change themselves
." (13:11)

So we have established that success, according to God Most High, is admittance to Jennah, to Paradise. And we have established, by His Word, that the method of achieving this goal is to follow Him and His Messenger, in their commands and prohibitions. Finally, we have established, again, by His Word, that the earthly condition of a people will not change until they change themselves.

Sisters and brothers, it is clear by the Words of God Most High Himself that going against His prohibtions or attempting to change His Diyn will not help us progress towards our goals, whether they are dunya or akhira goals.

Alhamdulillah, a non-movement begun to be more visible in the West. This is the "Traditional" or "Classical" Islam non-movement. I say non-movement because there is, as of yet, no organized group, no formal agenda, no leader, no official website.

Traditional Islam is about the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It is about establishing and upholding the chains of isnad (transmission) that represent the core of Sacred Knowledge. Traditional Islam is the study of fiqh, 'aqida, hadith, tasawwuf, tafsir, and all of the other traditional sciences. Traditional Islam is not the product of Western University degrees, or political rhetoric, or philosophical discourse. It is the product of direct chains of transmission back to the great scholars and figures of this Ummah, including the Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him. While modernists and reactionaries within the Muslim world have become the squeaky wheels, dominating societal, political, and media discussions of Islam, Traditional Muslims, have been busy tending to the blossom of Traditional Islam, teaching the deen in settings great and humble from Damascus to Detroit.

In the mid-1990's, Mas'ud Ahmed Khan established what is believed to be the first (and best) website for traditional Islamic knowledge. Since then, we have seen the birth and growth of websites, learning organizations, gatherings, books, and magazines on the topic in the English language.

Critics both inside and outside the Muslim Ummah, including "Progressives" charge that Traditional Islam is moribund. We believe otherwise. Islamic Tradition is vibrant. It is multi-faceted, multi-layered, and accomodating. It is built on the tolerance of differences in opinion. It welcomes, nurtures, esteems, and sustains women as well as men. It encourages intellectual growth, as well as spiritual, mental, emotional, and financial growth, while requiring its adherents to act within a framework that guarantees justice and compassion for all.

In these days, both non-Muslims and Muslims are being presented by the squeaky wheels with two options: reactionism, in the form of Wahabism / Salafism and Islamism, or religious iconoclasm, in the form of "Progressivism." Both sides throw up a smoke screen when it comes to the sources of Shari'ah, the methodolgies of fiqh, the 'aqida of Islam, and more in an attempt to sway their listeners to their particular approach to Islam.

"Progressives" tend to be media savvy and articulate. They approach, and in turn are then approached by journalists who wish to hear or portray a picture of Islam that "feels good" to the average person, the authenticity of this portrait not withstanding. Until now, there has been little public response to the movement and its claims.

Welcome to Living Tradition.