Reopen the books

It is always astonishing to encounter people who describe themselves as libertarians advocating for a final solution to deal with a group of people they have convinced themselves are a threat to us all. Remarkable all the more when they present themselves as historians, well versed in apparently obscured narratives of the distant past. If you can’t recall recent European history — horrors witnessed by our grandparents’ generation — how can you possibly judge tales of the ancients and claim yourself an undisputed expert, with the solution to all our problems? Open those books and read your history all over again.

Strange advocates

I don’t have a problem with ordinary people campaigning for the release of a charged suspect held in pre-trial detention. However I do find it peculiar when the campaign is taken up by the news channel of the public broadcaster of a country which is holding 50,000 people in pre-trial detention for alleged membership of a banned organisation and which, furthermore, recently passed a law allowing the period of pre-trial detention to be increased to seven years. Does the accused really need advocates such as these?


Not for nought was all of this created

I will be the first to admit that I have not blasted into space on a rocket to see first hand, with my very own eyes, that the earth is spherical. However I have walked by the sea and seen the gentle curvature of the horizon far off in the distance.  Continue reading “Not for nought was all of this created”

Our problem

Is the problem this: that we don’t do our own research? That we just parrot whatever we are told? That we don’t study history, so can’t put things in context? That we don’t look into things deeply, to probe and reflect? That we repeat what we are told without verifying it for ourselves? That we choose to trust those who tell us what to think, without asking whether they are trustworthy at all? Is this our problem?


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.

Caution in an age of fakery

It is of course true that in modern times absolutely everything can be faked. Photos can be faked, video can be faked, audio can be faked, testimony can be faked, hmm, probably even memories can be faked. And while advances in forensic investigation techniques enable experts to detect and highlight fakery, the masses are still easily fooled. So, yes, exercise caution when news comes to you. It is okay to be suspicious and to probe. But better to adopt a position of “I don’t know” than an absolute, “I am convinced” one way or the other. There is always a possibility that a mass of evidence has been fabricated in its entirety; on the other hand, it may be absolutely legitimate. Caution is a good thing, but we must exercise it equally on all sides and not just when it favours our friends.

The shepherd and his flock

Our scholars, imams and community leaders really need to stop saying that a man accused of multiple rapes by now three women give him their unconditional support. There should be a condition: that he’s innocent. Naturally, until guilt has been established (be it of rape, zina or adultery) he has the right to be presumed innocent. Even so, this term “unconditional support” is extremely problematic. Make truth and justice your condition, and be guided by that. The nations before us were destroyed when the poor were held to account while the rich were let off. Our leaders seriously need to reflect on what they are saying.

If nothing else, in order to protect women from potential harm, these leaders ought to have made clear that extremely serious unproved accusations of impropriety have been made in four countries by several women and therefore, as a preventative safeguarding measure, sincerely advised sisters that they should be extremely cautious in approaching this individual in particular, and any non-Mahram man more generally in private, whether in person or online, no matter how famously pious or brilliant. A shepherd, after all, is supposed to protect his flock, even from the possibility of a wolf attack when no wolf is known to exist. That is the nature of safeguarding.


It is true that they attack our faith because of our stupidity. Normal people would respond: “Then I shall stop being stupid!” But not us; we say: “Because they attack us, we must continue being stupid and never give up our resolve to be stupid.” Because, somehow, we have stupidly convinced ourselves that stupidity is part of faith, and that our stubborn attachment to stupidity is a measure of piety. Where, in fact, our faith calls on us to reform ourselves of all that stupefies us and makes us stupid. But we are too stupid to realise this.

The faith of the masses

They say, ‘This is a clear attack on our scholars, designed to undermine the faith of the masses.’ But in reality, most of these men and women who apparently represent us are simply people who have put themselves forward for the role. Continue reading “The faith of the masses”