The so-called crisis in Muslim leadership is nothing new. It is cyclical. Ten years ago it was the turn of the followers of the celebrity sheikhs of the Levant. A decade earlier witnessed the demise of the Salafi mission in North America. The characters change, but the same broad storyline recurs: charismatic figures are granted status far beyond their due, and in turn begin to abuse and exploit those that put them there, preying on the weakest amongst them, until ultimately a schism occurs between the most fanatical followers and those whose sincerity has been severely tested by the conduct of those they had believed were their guides. So don’t be alarmed by the latests crisis: they come around like clockwork. 1997, 2007, 2017. Mark my words, we’ll be here again in 2027 too, lamenting the fall of another great sage from amongst us, jolting the next generation out of their complacency, and hopefully creating that necessary inner inertia for renewed repentance and reform.

2 thoughts on “Clockwork

    1. Hello again Mr McCaw,

      I haven’t disappeared. I’ve just been extremely busy… family, work, illness, travels.

      The straight answer to your question is no, I wouldn’t sign the so-called declaration of peaceful intent in its current form, because I just don’t agree with its very simplistic premise.

      The signatory is asked to agree with a statement that Mr Richardson has formulated, based on his understanding that there are “commands” which “compel” Muslims to commit “unprovoked” violence. And while this understanding may very well be based on the understanding of some scholars within the Islamic tradition, it does not necessarily follow that either his or their interpretation is the right one.

      Take surah al-Maida 5:33, for example. Yes, without a doubt, it is true that many classical jurists derived legal injunctions from part of this verse, perhaps because they took the same approach as Mr Richardson, in reading verses in isolation, completely divorced of their context. But consider how Muhammad Assad interprets the same verse in his notes on page 216-7 of his interpretation of the Qur’an:

      Now I know that your response, whenever I present scholars who hold an alternative viewpoint, is to describe them as odd outliers. That’s fair enough, but you will eventually find that the Islamic tradition is stuffed full with these so-called odd outliers.

      You may well ask yourself why it is that Salafist fighters in Mali were so intent on destroying the ancient Islamic manuscripts in the libraries of Timbuktu in 2013, behaviour as it happens replicated all over the Muslim world. My view is that they want to homogenise Islam upon their understanding of it and wipe out all other interpretations. Ironically an approach which you seem to share.

      Anyway, I wrote a post on the so-called declaration of peaceful intent a while back, but admittedly it is more focused on the hypocrisy of the proposition, than an analysis of the declaration itself. It does, however, include my own declaration of peaceful intent.

      The Quran requires some effort to understand its meanings… any scholar of the Quran, Muslim or non-Muslim, will tell you that. I have been walking this path for 20 years and have barely scratched the surface. If this is truly your passion, why don’t you follow in the footsteps of the like of the non-muslim Arabist, Arthur J. Arberry, who devoted his life to understanding this book? You will find him much more a scholar than Mr Richardson and, I am sure, find your endeavours much more fruitful.


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