Halal Holidays

These “Halal Holidays” sound great, but look, if you’re going as a family, the last thing you want is your wife disappearing off to the ladies-only beach and pool for the whole week, while you sit on your lonesome pretending to be Islamic. Let him, her and the kids go to the beach together, for some quality family time. Like, um, you would in real life.

Viral vigilantes

Is it ethical to share on social media a photo of an alleged attacker without first verifying the facts?

And is this habit Shariah-compliant with regards to the manners of bearing witness, taking evidence and judging equitably?

It seems that in these troubled times, the politics of identity have completely replaced the moral framework which underpins our faith.

What if, after the photo has been shared 30,000 times, it turns out that the alleged attacker was innocent?

Does anyone have regrets and repent, or do we just write it off as a case of collateral damage? Mere fallout of the new vigilante religion we have made?

Pray tell.

Perceptions

How you self-identify dictates how you interpret the actions and behaviour of others towards you.

For example, you may an idiot and a Muslim, but if you self-identify more as a Muslim, than as an idiot, you might naturally assume that other people are interacting with you on the basis of that identity.

However, they might just as well believe that your idiocy is your dominant character trait and may in fact be exhibiting idiophobia towards you.

Therefore if you’re a bit of an idiot, you may find that your encounter with anti-idiot hatred is in fact completely justified.

Note that having a beard, wearing a headscarf or believing your Muslimness to be self-evident, does not render idiocy benign. So try not to be an idiot.

Nicotine

Quite why my socialist companions willingly subjugate themselves to this imperialist yoke is a mystery, believing that their consumption of an addictive product of no value or benefit which will ultimately kill them is an act of rebellion, where in fact true rebellion would be to refuse to become slaves to the global multinationals who sell these products solely because they are extremely addictive, guaranteeing a constant and unceasing revenue stream, to endlessly fill up their coffers. But who am I to argue with my socialist companions?

Questionable facts

Why do you present something as certain fact, that you only believe to be true? Today, online, you began the day circulating the claim far and wide that St. Mary’s hospital has amassed over 100 dead bodies from Grenfell Tower fire and that Chelsea and Westminster hospital has even more. The actual death toll, you told us, is not being released to prevent public furore and outcry.

For reasons known only to yourself, you chose not to preface your claims that you had heard reports that this was the case. You chose not to tell us who you had heard the reports from, or explain how they knew, or whether you had heard it directly from the source, or via the friend of a friend of a friend. Instead you presented it as certain fact, allowing your claims to be shared hundreds of times and be viewed by thousands.

Nobody, nobody, nobody denies that the final death toll of this heartbreaking tragedy will likely be much, much higher than the figures released so far, as the emergency services go through the painstaking and horrific process of recovering bodies from the charred carcass of the tower block. Everybody is fearing the worst.

But in this, I am with the Commander of the Metropolitan Police when he says:

“What is important for me is I will only say something that I know to be true. I know at least 30 people who have died and sadly I do believe those numbers who have died will increase.”

Circulating claims of a massive cover up, of hundreds of bodies already recovered, but officially denied, which would demand the collusion of thousands of health and emergency staff, is of no benefit to anyone, least of all the survivors, families, relatives, loved ones, neighbours and friends, who at this time need comfort, compassion, support, hope and, above all, certainty. Won’t you have mercy on their souls?

Nobody is claiming that the death toll is unimportant. Nobody is downplaying the horror of this catastrophic tragedy. An in-depth criminal investigation must be carried out in full. People must be held to account for this disaster.

But I write all this to you, my esteemed old friend, because you are a man with great influence in your community. You are followed by hundreds on social media alone. Through your work in the media and in community activism you have a reach of thousands. When you say something it matters: people listen to you, believe in you, trust you and respect what you say. You’re not an insignificant nobody, like me, penning a blog that nobody reads.

When you have influence of that kind, the onus is on you to tell the truth all the more. To be clear about the nature of the report you are sharing with others. People believe everything the pious ones tell them (though, to be sure, I hardly believe anything any more).

So tell me: did you obtain this information first hand, from someone whose reliability you can vouch for, who is who they say they are, and has first hand knowledge of the information you have now shared far and wide without a moment’s pause, and which has now been shared repeatedly by others on the basis that you’re the trustworthy soul we’ve always known you to be? And do you think it matters?

Reports

There is a clear difference between “it is reported that such and such happened” and “such and such happened”, let alone, “I believe it happened”.

We are familiar with this concept in the science of hadith, where we learn, “It is reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said…” The learned draw this distinction for good reason: to attribute words to him, while allowing for the possibility that he did not in fact say them.

We did not hear those words from him directly and verbatim — they are a report — so it is entirely possible that it is not what he said. It could be part of what he said; something somebody else said attributed to him in error; his words paraphrased or misinterpreted; or even an outright fabrication. If there was no possibility of error or ill-intent, the science of hadith would never have developed.

Mindful of our heritage of verification then, it is both surprising and depressing that in our daily lives and dealings with others we jettison these principles almost entirely.

Just watch what happens when a totally unverified claim is published on Facebook. How many pause to ask where the information came from, who reported it, how it was communicated? Instead it is treated as certain fact and immediately shared far and wide as “the truth”, even if it contradicts all other reports.

Ask those questions at your peril, and prepare to be lambasted as an uncaring oaf, who must be browbeaten into submission under the weight of emotional arguments nobody in fact deny. Circular reason will be employed to obfuscate what you were saying.

Truth, in short, is of no concern here.

Partial truths, contingent truths, half-truths: all are acceptable if they help enforce the wider point and achieve the ultimate end. Although, of course, the Qur’an begs to differ:

“And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know it.”

We are called upon to witness to truth, even against ourselves (as painful and difficult as that is). To verify information when it comes to us. To be patient in the face of uncertainty and adversity. To act on the basis of information that is certain and true.

Double-Speak

And so, once more, society demands that you forget all that passed before the latest reboot of our narrative. Wipe clean your memory; reset your cache. Whatever you observed in the past is no longer of any consequence. Only the discourse of today need trouble you. Acquiesce to the demands of the moment, where history, however recent, is and will always be irrelevant.

From our perspective, what happened fives years ago is ancient history, let alone the Cold War, two world wars and European colonialism: those were an epoch ago, close to the dawn of time, where the Battle of Hastings, the Roman Conquests and the construction of the Pyramids all blur together as a hazy recollection of our pre-existence, before our birth. Continue reading Double-Speak