Thursday, March 17, 2005

An afternoon with the progressives, observations and conclusions

Taking a much needed break from clinical rotations in Chicago, I visited friends and family in California last week. One night while surfing the internet, a devious thought crossed my mind, why not check if there’s any local “progressive” meetups ? Sure enough, there was a such a meeting planned a few miles from the suburbs. I wasn’t holding my breath though, my experience in Chicago clearly demonstrated that “meetups” were simply not happening.
Come Saturday afternoon, I drove to the local Starbucks where the meeting was scheduled, you’d think a gathering of Muslims talking about Islam would be held at a more formal, if not appropriate place, like the masjid.
I met two guys who introduced themselves as Fallah, and Harris, both born to Pakistani parents. Roughly 15 minutes later we were joined by two young ladies Nazia, and Noor, Indian and Lebanese respectively. All four were enrolled in college. There was some chit chat about subjects ranging from gas prices to the latest celebrity gossip, but nothing remotely related to Islam. I fielded questions about medical school and the board certification process, but had to break for Asr, which I performed alone in the parking lot.
Upon returning, there was already talk of politics underway. Noor happily declared the withdrawal of Syrian troops would usher in a new era of democracy for Lebanon. Fallah interrupted her saying that it was an orchestrated sham designed to expand Israeli influence in the region. Noor simply dismissed this as far fetched. This 22 year political science major was not aware that Israel had invaded Lebanon in the past, nor was she privy to Israel’s designs on water in the region. What must they be teaching in colleges these days, I thought to myself.
The topic then shifted to marriage, a subject everybody has an opinion on. Being the oldest, the attention shifted to me when Nazia asked how old I was. At the ripe old age of 29 I was told that I would look much younger and attractive if I shaved off that “scruffy beard.” Somewhat amused, I replied “Its Sunnah, and that’s good enough for me.” Then came the usual fard vs sunnah argument.

Nazia : Its not fard though, its just sunnah.

Fallah : Yeah, its not obligatory.

DrM : Is 5 times salah obligatory ?

Fallah : Uh yes it is..

DrM : Do any of you perform 5 times salah ?

Nobody was eager to answer this question, hence I assumed their answer was a no. I explained what the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w) was and how it is inseparable from the Holy Quran. There was some acknowledgement of this, but overall there was little interest in the fine details.

Then came the topic of “inclusion,” a word much used in proggie circles. I brought up the fact that Islam states that all newborns are Muslims, hence the concept of fitrah, being born in a state of purity in stark contrast to Christianity’s doctrine of “born sinner.” What could possibly be more inclusive than this? Once again, I got blank stares confirming that these would-be reformers didn’t know what I was talking about. Noor did confess that this was news to her, while the others were discussing which type of coffee to order. The rest of the afternoon was unremarkable except when Harris called me a wahabi for pointing out that Ahmedis are not Muslims. You see, Harris himself is an Ahmedi, a member of pseudo-Islamic cult not unlike the “Nation of Islam,” with its own prophet and totally divergent belief system. I could tell Harris had never read Ahmedi literature, much of which remains untranslated from the urdu language. Sure enough, he has totally unfamiliar with the sources of Ahmedism, and I would debate him no further until he would read the relevant texts in their original language. He said he would, but I doubt he ever will.

The afternoon had come to an end, and we parted on good terms. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, sort of like purchasing an item after watching a commercial only to find out the advertising was false and misleading. If this little coffee session was indicative of other “meetups” real or imagined, it certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps this is why meetups are slowly being discarded in favor of high profile PR stunts performed by the likes of Amina Wadud, Tarek Fatah etc. My advice to anyone who wishes to go these meetups is “expect the expected,” people who are barely familiar with the basics of the deen they want to reform. Why tackle the task of learning and reflecting on authentic Islamic knowledge when you can go by the clean slate approach and make up your own religion with its own hazy and vaguely defined spirituality cloaked as Islam ? For these people worshipping Allah has now been replaced with bowing before one’s own nafs. I wonder if they’ve ever read the following paragraph from Prophet Muhammed’s (s.a.w) final sermon…

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur'an and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

11 Comments:

Blogger blagdiblah said...

Israel just left Lebanon 5 years ago. Noor the Lebanese girl, the political science major who saw fit to cheer Syrian withdrawl didn't know that up until she was 17 that her native land was occupied! I'm soooo floored. What a frightening experience.

3:03 AM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

There were some details I left out. Did you know that its ok to drink red wine b/c it causes vasodilation ?
I asked them if they ever heard of aspirin, or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

4:57 PM  
Blogger blagdiblah said...

This is just so sad.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

" Why tackle the task of learning and reflecting on authentic Islamic knowledge when you can go by the clean slate approach and make up your own religion with its own hazy and vaguely defined spirituality cloaked as Islam ?"

Reminds me of the ending lines of Abdal Hakim Murad's "Understanding the Four Madhabs:"

"With every Muslim now a proud mujtahid, and with taqlid dismissed as a sin rather than a humble and necessary virtue, the divergent views which caused such pain in our early history will surely break surface again. Instead of four madhhabs in harmony, we will have a billion madhhabs in bitter and self-righteous conflict. No more brilliant scheme for the destruction of Islam could ever have been devised."

1:16 PM  
Blogger Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

The "Ahmedis" (really Qadianis) are notorious for pretending to be other than what they are, and for concealing aspects of their "scripture" from even cult members. They used to have a "da'wah" scene in Croydon, and I had three separate encounters with their members (two of them converts, and I thought they were Wahhabis when I got talking), and they didn't let on about being Qadianis until near the end of the conversation (in two out of three cases, it was the end because I ended it as soon as I found out). I wrote a piece about them here.

3:13 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Salaam alaikum everyone!

Now Dr. Max, you know the best way for a person to shut down dialogue is to call someone a degrading name. Instead of challenging your statement, he called you a Wahabi, which has become the swear word of the PMUNA. But this meeting you had, quite pathetic.

How could the POLITICAL SCIENCE major not know what was going on in the country of her ethnic background?

It's things like which drive me bonkers. If you want to change Islam, would it make sense to study it first so that you could at least sound like you know what you are talking about.

It seems that these meetings are there for the sole purpose of hooking up. Nazim Baskh stated that a lot of these people are second or third generation Muslims from well-to-do or rich families so you know some arrogant, know-it-all elitism is in play. Not that all rich people are like but I am not the only one who has noticed that only certain classes or people are invited into this movement.

I'll stop here and post later.

5:26 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

It's great to hear from you, Sister Ninhajaba.

5:28 PM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Yes Yusuf, unfortunetly theres plenty of Ahmedis holed up in England. Did you know its an ARTICLE OF FAITH for them to be loyal to the British Empire ?
Makes sense to me, given that the Brits formed their group over a century ago.

8:14 PM  
Blogger ابدلرحیم said...

It's good to hear from first hand experience. ANd by good, i mean bad, if you understand what i'm saying.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Just because one group of "progressive muslims" was like that does not necessarily mean all are the same. Have you been to any other groups to see what they are like? This sounds to me like a group of young muslim students who want to be able to meet other muslims without the meeting being hijacked by fundos, rather than a religious group. And thus they use "progressive muslim" to keep radicals out. Perhaps they should start up some sort of social group instead?

4:05 PM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Give it a break Anony. THe real extremists here are the mwu hacks.

2:11 AM  

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