A people easily led

We are a people easily led. We trust in our wise ones, like idolators bowing down to stones, believing in them without a moment’s thought. Simply because they appear to be our esteemed superiors, steeped as they are in apparent knowledge, we hang on their every word, believing in whatever they tell us.

Who dares challenge the respected teacher with their 200,000 Facebook followers and 40,000 Twitter subscribers? Rather, we amplify them, sharing and retweeting their posts ad infinitum. Yes, who in their right mind would challenge that pious leader of opinion, with their 2 million Facebook followers and 700,000 Twitter subscribers? Only an imbecile and a fool, surely? And that leader of men, with 20 million followers on social media? Only the suicidal!

But it pays to be cynical. Not for the sake of it, but to get closer to the truth. Not to forever be a doubter, but to be just inquisitive enough to avoid being manipulated in the service of a unjust causes. Beware of manufactured controversies: probe and investigate what may lie behind them, and avoid being taken for a ride. Beware of smokescreens capitalising on populist causes and mass sentiment. Open your search engine, filter results by time, region and language — look for the story behind the story. Sometimes you will be surprised.

Don’t be so easily led by these leaders of men. Don’t just take their calculated words on face value. Be prepared to ask difficult questions, and walk alone.


How strange. Men who claim to be leaders of the faithful, vying with one another to see who can outdo others with displays of mysoginy and racism. These seasoned students of knowledge have lost the plot. Or maybe I have.

A narrative defined

The leaders of opinion in our community have framed our narrative for us. So no need to engage the intellect or think for yourself. Just follow their lead. When they condemn, condemn, and when they choose not to, follow suit. Do not investigate for yourself. Do not come to your own conclusions. Do not challenge their wisdom. Do not correct them when they make an error. Do not speak up or out about a wrong, unless specifically instructed to do so by the leaders of opinion in our community. Do not take a stand. Do not pursue justice. Do not seek truth. Do not adopt a counter-narrative, which challenges the narrative predefined.


Traditionalists and new believers everywhere love eschatology: it is the promise of the end times which keeps their faith alive. Whatever the Qur’an says about knowledge of the Hour being with Allah alone, the allegedly clear signs described in a multitude of others sources apparently being fulfilled before our very eyes are just too beguiling to ignore. So in circles of knowledge it is the chatter of students, as their teachers become animated with such tales. These are certainly the end times, they preach, oblivious to the same preaching of their predecessors in every generation for the past thousand years. Certainly the Hour will come — about that there is no doubt — but its timing is with God alone:

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly.” They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, “Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know.” — Qur’an 7:187

Continue reading “Dajaal”

On fair trials

Should Dr Tariq Ramadan be afforded a fair trial, the presumption of innocence and equitable treatment before the law? Of course he should.

My question to the 100 intellectuals who have signed an open letter demanding due process and 150,000 others who have signed a petition calling for his immediate release, is whether in the context of the French judicial system, his detention is either unique or unusual.  Continue reading “On fair trials”


I don’t know if these activists and imams, with their tens of thousands of online followers, are truly serious. Everywhere, without fail, they see a grand conspiracy, ordinary men and women deprived of all agency to affect their own destiny. Continue reading “Accountability”

The attack on our scholars

It is an attack on the sanctity of our scholars, comes the inevitable rebuttal, articulated over and over. But does it never occur to these defenders of the sanctity of knowledge that these influential folk are themselves the root of this problem, having set themselves up as the high priests of our communities, pursuing vast followings online and appearances before voluminous audiences? Perhaps you will find the true scholar in a humble terraced house, with a circle of students of five, shunning the limelight and all this glitter and gold. Perhaps you will find the true scholar in a one-room house in a side street of a rundown neighbourhood of a city of light. Perhaps you will find the scholar where you least expect to. Perhaps the sanctity of our scholars has been preserved by scholars themselves, by their humble living and quiet influence, transmitting knowledge patiently away from the swell of mass movements and populist sentiment. Perhaps the true scholars who swim against the tide, who refuse to say only what we want to hear, who articulate a better way: perhaps it is the sanctity of those scholars that we attack, and it is this circus that is killing them.

When they come to you

This peculiar community that I find myself a vague and increasingly alienated part of teaches that when a Muslim woman raises concerns about spiritual, physical or sexual abuse on the part of influential men in our midst, it is the right and duty of every Muslim to spread the accusation far and wide that she is definitely a liar, a fantasist, a political pawn and heretic, and conversely in the case of the alleged abuser to restrain their tongues, giving them seventy excuses, support and unbridled benefit of doubt.   Continue reading “When they come to you”


As a Muslim, I do not care what the media says, but I do care what the Qur’an and our religion teaches. National laws may be silent on certain ethical matters, but our religion is not. The major sins are well codified and, furthermore, well known. This sudden redefinition of ethics in defence of a purveyor of religion fool no one. Justice does not work that way. If in doubt, just consult what our Prophet — peace be upon him — is reported to have said, when relatives of a noble woman appealed on her behalf in a case of theft: “The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict punishments on the poor and forgive the rich.” If journalists are hypocrites for reporting the questioning of magistrates, that is none of my concern. But as for our own hypocrisy, in redefining the major sins in defence of a loved one? That is something else entirely.


Taking a stand

What message do our community leaders and activists send to the young by refusing to condemn what is wrong? And when will they ask themselves this question? Speak the truth, even against yourselves.