The defenders of the activist aristocracy tell us:
Stop treating celebrity faith leaders as if they’re infallible… instead, focus on the messages / ideas they present.
The defenders of the activist aristocracy tell us:
Stop treating celebrity faith leaders as if they’re infallible… instead, focus on the messages / ideas they present.
“Muslim converts,” declares yet another enlightened believer, “are the worst problem of Islam.” It seems to be a popular sentiment these days. There can be nothing worse than people choosing to believe in the faith you have inherited: damn their pursuit of truth! Ah, but rejoice in that certainty: blame that pesky, eccentric minority in your midst for all of your problems. In certainly won’t do to review mis-invested petro-dollars and the perpetuation of ignorance. Stop bringing religion into religion.
Couplets that keep on returning to mind:
To London Imam Faustus came to learn
The sciences of Islam and Iman.
But in his heart-of-hearts already burned
A darker and a more Satanic plan
— from The Demise of Imam Faustus
It is becoming every more apparent that the little people are being forced to choose sides in the clash between the two behemoths of Ikhwan ul Muslimeen and Salafiyah. To side with Turkey and Qatar, or UAE and Saudi. To believe in the gospel according to Al Jazeerah or the last testament of Al Arabiya. To side with one group of scholars against another. To filter our affairs through the prism of one or the other. Many an activist has already chosen their side, and we are supposed to follow suit. Dare we say that these are not our battles?
My thought for the day on 7 December 2015:
The delusional smug arrogance of the newly religious dissipates once apologetics have been tested and propaganda unveiled.
Beware of men who publicly spar and argue with famously hostile opponents — rousing passions on all sides — who in private are the best of friends. You might be surprised, but there are many like this. Men who seem to be the foremost vanguards against the rising tide of Islamophobia, adopting the most veracious stance against proponents of hatred, who, it turns out, laugh and joke with the very same folk when the cameras are off and the microphones have stopped recording.
It is true that I condemn in others what my own soul harbours. It seems to be a human trait that we vehemently rebuke those who hold up a mirror before us, showing us the demons that haunt us within. Many a man has been found guilty of sins he ascribed to others. It is good for the heart, I think, to articulate contempt for our own evils that we see in others. The difficult part is to avoid being blinded by the mirror and our own reflection, which prevents us from addressing our own inner demons. May the evils we see in others be our impetus to reform, rather than camouflage for the diseases we harbour within. May the mirror allow us to truly beautify ourselves, rather than increase us in conceit. For, indeed, it has just occurred to me that I condemn in others what I find within.
He rebukes us for not disappearing, as we rightfully must. He cannot stand bloggers who write unceasingly, he writes unceasingly on a public forum, granting himself permission to do the opposite of what he says, for his own sentiments are profound and important and true. If only we would just disappear, when we say we will, instead of continually swinging from pole to pole, like manic depressives shunning benzodiazepines. If you are going to go, he yells, just go. Don’t return to pen another epistle when backs are turned, deciding not to become a hermit after all. Leave the about-turns to wise sages, whose gold embossed volumes decorate the homes of the truly enlightened, with their spiritual quest and authentic faith, that we modernites could never comprehend. Go, he demands, and leave us in peace, and purify your heart, and vanquish your attention-seeking ego, and disappear for good, and don’t come back, and remember your place, and be silent. Yes, cease, he urges unceasingly, returning to the forum he promised to abandon once more, to rebuke the returning writers who cannot keep their promises when they say they will put down their pens. Cease.
It changes you, even if you think it won’t. A year ago, virtual intruders injected my website with a malicious script that defaced one thousand published and unpublished posts and caused them to redirect to a website filled with spam. It was upsetting, but nothing I could not fix with a little patience and perseverance. Sure enough, the momentary paranoia subsided and I moved on.
Dear leader of men: just last week you wrote a very long post, reminding us that your brother’s honour is sacrosanct: that we are required to give them the benefit of the doubt, to protect their reputation and not rush to judgement on claims about their actions or conduct. Is it not then strange that today you have utilised your public platform to write a new post, casting aspersions about the character and actions of an imam you consider an opponent? Why is it that you exhort us to caution only when it conforms to your agenda? Why do you petition us to self-restraint, warning us against the sin of slander, when your own posts constantly attack fellow believers, highlighting their shortcomings, supposed heresies and character? The honour of your brother, I have noticed, is a moveable feast. Useful for silencing critics, but otherwise completely ignored.
“There is no doubt of the existence of wars against Islam and conspiracies against it in more than one place on earth today. But the greatest war against Islam, and the most dangerous conspiracy against it, is to carry its banner by those who are spreading virtue whilst immersed in vice.” — Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti (translated)
It is that time of year when some Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet, peace be upon him, while others occupy themselves with condemning them. So enter Exhibit A. Some mischievous folk claim that the photo below shows Muslims following the Christians handspan by handspan, by setting up a Christmas Tree in their mosque to mark the mawlid. Continue reading “Blinded by contempt”
Three years ago, alone in a little house on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, I found myself in the midst of a tumultuous tempest. All night and all day, it rained without relent, but instead of falling down on my face to pray for reprieve, I listened to the inner voices that frequently petition me with their calls to evil, teasing nefarious plots and plans out from my soul. As the hammering rain on our steel roof grew ever louder, so too the rhythm of the scheming nafs, invoking malevolent contrivances within. And then…
The crucial element of this video begins at 12 mins and five seconds.
Confirms my conspiracy about the growing army of flat earth conspiracists too, who have turned it (and the associated cover up) into an an article of faith, which they speak about at every opportunity. Distraction therapy.
How easy it is to succumb to paranoia. On my return from lunch today, I found an alert on my phone and then my computer telling me that my Apple ID had been locked for security reasons. Apple says: “If you or someone else enters your password, security questions, or other account information incorrectly too many times, your Apple ID automatically locks to protect your security”. Continue reading “Paranoia”
A word of warning to the young demagogues who must forever berate the forlorn Mister Nawaz: when we knew him, he was just like you.
Indeed, over the years, we have watched many an unwavering firebrand come and go, each one vanishing into obscurity or infamy, after abandoning the harshest and hardest opinions that had once caused them to rebuke all others. Those of us who have lived a little longer can enumerate all of the stalwarts of community, once fierce in their defence of orthodoxy, nowadays but footnotes, long forgotten by the generation that came after them. Some of us even remember their names, and their own rallying calls against the backsliders and hypocrites they saw all around them.
So mark my words, dear young revolutionary — dazzled by your own brilliance, aroused by your own bold certainties, disdainful of your opponents, conceited in your dogmatic rightness — know that in another twenty years, you too, like the rest of us, will be but a footnote in the annals of community. Some may even remember your name, referencing you in a cautionary tale told to the next generation of immovable, unwavering activists, who believe themselves divinely guided, urgently speaking the truth to power, because they alone represent our mighty tradition, so misunderstood by all others. Yes, know that your Lord can do all this, for “Indeed, God does not like the conceited and boastful.”
A lesson encapsulated, from November 2015:
We are bound by the truth only. And it is the truth that we seek wherever it is.
Muslims are just like other people. Some of them are good people. Some are wicked. And there are all those in between. This applies to us at any point in our history.
In seeking the truth, struggle is of essence. It is not a rose that one just plucks with ease.
“A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own—that is, the written word. […] The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution…” — Jean-Paul Sartre
For our beloveds, we have successfully personalised, internalised and secularised our faith. “Who are you to judge?” we demand, whenever public sins are acknowledged in public. “Let him without sin cast the first stone,” we retort, whenever confronted by our misdeeds. “Have you never sinned?” we ask, whenever charged with holding our beloveds to account for their actions. In this new realm, the one who is mugged must never reproach the thief. The one who is wronged must never demand redress. All deeds, however they impact others, become personal, between the individual and his Lord alone, never to be tried or condemned.
Bizarrely, our activists — who claim to be despised because they speak the truth to power — are foremost in promoting this new dichotomy. Such is our spectacular failure to inculcate a morality that affects us in any meaningful way. Instead we have a generation that preaches forgiveness for the oppressor and demands the oppressed turns the other cheek. It is all back to front. We are supposed to be harshest on ourselves: as individuals, to forgive those that wrong us, not to forgive ourselves for wronging others. But in this age of identity politics, such a demand is impossible. Thus the one who has been wronged is told today: only the sinless has any right to complain. What a strange morality, indeed.
No, dear sir, it is not true: I am not your ideological opponent. In fact, from a theological perspective, we walk similar paths. Often I agree with the sentiments you profess in public. I have owned and read your works, and have always considered you a kindred spirit. But this isn’t about ideology or fraternity. It’s about something else entirely. As we have both always noted, we are not called to defend our brothers come what may, but rather the true, the just and the good. “Stand out clearly for justice, even against yourselves…”
One thing I’ve noticed recently is that a lot of Muslims really don’t like converts. Oh yes, there are the celebrity converts that they embrace for a little while, until they get mouthy and start saying, “I’m glad I became Muslim before I met the Muslims.” Celebrity converts, generally, are a good thing, because it helps assuage the doubters’ doubts, and give them a momentary iman boost. But generally speaking, Muslim converts are not really the flavour of the moment any more. White converts, especially, have gone out of fashion. Those who have lived as Muslims for generations are, frankly, sick and tired of white converts who think they know better than them. If a convert has their own opinions, we are told, it is only that they believe all other Muslim to be misguided savages. But fair enough. Society is growing ever more racist, and people who have lived as Muslims for generations need their own space to grow and express themselves. I don’t blame them for their open contempt for people like me. To them their space, to me mine.
You may assume, because I once wrote an article critical of a so-called islamist turned reformer whose path crossed with mine in my youth, that I am a champion of the ardent activists who stand against him. But you would be wrong. Continue reading “Dear friend”
Isn’t it vulgar that believers continuously minimise what we believe God in our religion severely censures? How many times must we hear believers say, “We all make mistakes,” as if to say that what has been described is the norm or trivial? Is it because we have made loyalty to men and community our judge, in place of God and His book? How peculiar. A woman who uncovers her hair must immediately feel the full force of the wrath of the digital ummah without relent. But the beloved sage who, it turns out, has abused his position, status and authority to engage in acts which our religion teaches are amongst the worst? How restrained our retort: “Who are we to judge?” Amr bi al-Maruf wa’l-Nahy an al-Munkar, all of a sudden no longer recalled. It is true that God is forgiving and merciful, and we have no idea who of those who return to Him in repentance He will forgive. Yes, none of us is without sin, and all of us seek His aid, desperately hoping for the forgiveness of our Lord. But our failings do not isolate us from the demands of our tradition. Our sins do not change what God praises and proscribes. Even if we ourselves fall short of the ideals we hold to, that is no reason to downplay those ideals. We have to do better than that. Our tradition is infinitely better than us.
Manly perfection, consisting in abstinence from things unlawful, or in chastity of manners, and having some art or trade, or in abstaining from doing secretly what one would be ashamed to do openly, or in the habit of doing what is approved, and shunning what is held base, or in preserving the soul from filthy actions, and what disgraces it in the estimation of men, or in good manners, and guarding the tongue, and shunning impudence, or in a quality of the mind by preserving which a man is made to preserve in good manners and habits, or manly virtue or moral goodness.
— Lane’s Lexicon 2/2702
I suppose I should remind myself not to confuse Islam online with faith itself. The rise of internet demagogues, with their mass followings growing a thousand week by week, is undoubtedly presenting a skewed portrait of the religious realm. Here, the environment is toxic, capable of driving many away if they take it too seriously. Perhaps that is why I am becoming a hermit, cutting myself off from the virtual ummah. If only I could recalibrate my compass, to rediscover like-minded travellers on the path, who might inject some sanity into our affairs. Until then, I must retreat.
“Why do the Men of God and the Men of Knowledge not forbid them from saying what is sinful and devouring what is unlawful? Evil indeed is what they have been working!” — Qur’an 5:63
I think I am reaching that stage in life of being apathetic towards religion. No, not becoming agnostic, or rejecting faith, or ceasing to practice it. But growing disinterested in the clamour of activists, in the competing visions of faith, in the demands of communitarianism. Yes, I think I am becoming an apathetic believer, like so many others. Repulsed by the odious characters that now claim to represent us, I think this is the only way to preserve our sanity. Yes, we are disengaging and dropping off. This is the age of apathy.
She recites words from the Qur’an: “…and do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it — his heart is indeed sinful, and God is Knowing of what you do.”
She recalls another verse: “O you who have believed, stand firmly for justice, witnesses for God, even if against yourselves or parents and relatives, whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not own inclinations, lest you not be just. And if you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then indeed God is ever, with what you do, acquainted.”
She recalls: “O you who have believed, persistently stand firm for God, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God; indeed, God is acquainted with what you do.”
And she reminds us that the servants of the Lord of Mercy are “those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.”
But hearing all of this, her brother in faith immediately responds: “Let him without sin cast the first stone!”
Thus do words first found in Codex Bezae’s rendering of the Gospel of John, dated to the 5th century, supersede the words of the Qur’an for those who claim to speak for the Muslims today.
Muslims, it seems, are intent on making our religion difficult to believe in. Many converts — who you would think would be foremost in smoothing the way for people — are now found trying to convince everyone they know that the earth is flat, and that an international cabal of Freemasons who control all things have taken it upon themselves to convince all people everywhere that the world is spherical, for unknown reasons.
Last weekend I met an elder-statesman of the convert community, a respected English gentleman who has been Muslim for over forty years — for more years than I have walked on the earth, in fact. He talked about his experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when English converts were small in number, and few and far between: eccentric aberrations in the space-time continuation of the Muslim community. Contrasting then and now, he recited Surah An Nasr from the Qur’an:
“When God’s help comes and He opens up your way, and you see people embracing God’s faith in crowds, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness: He is always ready to accept repentance.” — Qur’an 110