between normative and novel renderings may be a step in the process of reform but alone does not constitute reform itself. For reform, unlike schism or revolution, is typically an internal, incremental consensus building. After all, it defeats the whole purpose of reform to lose or alienate the very constituency that one is seeking to redirect. Thus, like the tingling in one's nose before a sneeze, a novel view may be a step on the road to reform, and it may not, depending on the direction in which the various tensions involved are resolved. In any event, reform itself will always be a matter of time, circumstances, and players, not simply of an individual interpreter putting forth a novel view - however valid, sophisticated, or even substantively superior that view may be.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
seeing it as too deferential to the status quo and too openly inimical to reform. This is fair and understandable but perhaps not fully appreciative of my point. To say that a particular interpretation is not esteemed by the generality of religiously literate Muslims is not at all to deny its proponent the right to embrace or even promote it. It is simply to say that this alone is not enough to render it "normative Islam" with which the generality of Muslims should be identified or with which we may expect them to identify, any more than it would be appropriate to shoulder (or credit) the proponent of a novel rendering with a view of a coreligionist with which he or she disagrees.
and promote unmediated interpretations of scripture or even his or her own renderings of Tradition, his or her efforts may be convincing, linguistically justifiable, and even substantively correct. But unless they are immediately accepted as faithful renderings or he or she commands enough authority to convert them immediately into normative understandings, it may be years or even generations before these deductions acquire such a status, if they acquire it at all. In the interim, it would be misleading and perhaps disingenuous to refer to these renderings as "Islam," in the sense of representing the normative phenomenon that is lived, practiced, and esteemed by the generality or even critical masses of Muslims. My point here is that ultimately, unless we commit to the principle that Islam is essentially the sustained conclusions of those whom critical masses of Muslims recognize as authorities,  any non-Muslim or "extremist" Muslim interpretation (of, e.g., jihad or female circumcision) that grounds itself in Western or Eastern understandings of Qur'an and Sunna must be recognized as having an equal claim to represent "Islam."
and is the source of significant consternation and confusion. Islam, as the phenomenon that is actually practiced, esteemed, and identified by Muslims as their religious ideal, is the understanding, prioritization, and even appropriation of the Qur'an and Sunna sustained over a long enough period of time to acquire an indeterminate but requisite degree of normative status among a critical mass of religiously literate Muslims. A verse - for example, "And We created human beings" (wa la qad khalaqna l-insan") may be pointed to as proof that there are multiple gods or even that the Qur'an endorses the Trinity. Such renderings, however, not matter how "grounded" in Qur'anic passages they may appear to be, only become a part of "Islam" when those whom critical masses of Muslims recognize as authorities understand, defend, and endorse them as such, and this long enough to confer upon them the status of normative understandings. This, in fact, is the very meaning, function, and significance of Tradition.
Friday, February 26, 2010
obtained their Korans reveal not only an extremely strong attachment to their religion and willingness to preserve their intellectual skills but also an extraordinary spirit of abnegation, enterprise, and organization, in the worst possible circumstances. Their tenacity and ultimate success in their endeavor also demonstrate a large degree of autonomy, a fact that has not received enough attention from scholars of slavery. Evidence shows that despite the limits that slaveholders imposed, slaves were able, through their own resourcefulness and strong will, to develop autonomous communities. The Muslims were particularly apt at doing so. They made decisions, planned, gathered information, tried different avenues, built networks, and tested alternatives, all unbeknownst to white society; and they met with success.
and drew on their memories to fill the void left by their removal from their traditional sources of continuing education. During his stay in England, Job ben Solomon, to the general astonishment, wrote three identical copies of the Koran, each time without ever looking at the preceding version.  Job was in a much better position than Larten: he was given time, paper, and ink. But his accomplishment shows that Larten's feat was not an isolated case, the work of an exceptional man. Not all Muslims were capable of producing their own Koran, but as is the case today in West Africa, many could if they had the required raw materials.
the Americas had a potentially large source of supply of Korans: the Muslim themselves. Benjamin Larten, a Mandingo enslaved in Jamaica, had written his own copy and showed it to Richard Madden.  At the end of a basic Koranic education, a student must be able to recite the Koran by rote, and the best can also write it. Larten's work, produced in the most difficult circumstances, is an extraordinary testimony of piety, an indication of the degree of education reached by the scribe, and, as if such were needed, another example of the immense waste caused by the slave trade. To accomplish such an endeavor Larten needed patience, time, and will and, more prosaically, ink and paper, which were expensive items. That he was willing and able to get these materials in such quantity points to an achievement that meant months or maybe years of savings. Benjamin Larten personified the dedicated Muslim at his best, sure of his faith and willing to go to great lengths to preserve it. Yet he, too, had to repudiate Islam publicly and state in front of Madden that he had written his Koran before he became a Christian. The Muslims' fake professions of fake must have broken their hearts.
- those, at least, whose voices are most often heard - seek scapegoats for the fact that Islam never developed the means of destroying the world and dehumanizing man. They have been maimed by their sense of inferiority vis-a-vis Western technological achievements. Some blame the rigidity of the 'ulama; some blame Sufism and others Ash'arism. Islam, they point out, gave science to Europe and then fell asleep, while Europe picked the ball up and raced with it towards the goal of power and imperial domination.
The Great Father says he is good and kind to us. I don't think so....I come here to tell my Great Father what I do not like in my country. You are all close to my Great Father, and are a great many chiefs. The men the Great Father sends to us have no sense - no heart. What has been done in my country I did not want, did not ask for it; white people going through my country. Father, have you, or any of your friends here, got children? Do you want to raise them? Look at me; I come here with all these young men. All of them have children and want to raise them. The white children have surrounded me and have left me nothing but an island. When we first had this land we were strong, now are melting like snow on the hillside, while you are grown like spring grass. Now I have come a long distance to my Great Father's house - see if I have left any blood in his land when I go. When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him. Tell the Great Father to move Fort Fetterman away and we will have no more trouble. I have two mountains in that country - the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the Great Father to make no roads through them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them the fourth time....Source: First Annual Report of the Board of Indian Commissioners for 1870 (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Government, Printing Office, 1871), 41.
"The Black Revolution and its Effect Upon the Negroes of the Western Hemisphere," was given February 18, 1965, to a capacity audience in the Barnard Gymnasium at Columbia University.Malcolm: We are living in an era of revolution, and the revolt of the American Negro is part of the rebellion against the oppression and colonialism which has characterized this era...It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of black against white, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.The Negro revolution is not a racial revolt. We are interested in practicing brotherhood with anyone really interested in living according to it. But the white man has long preached an empty doctrine of brotherhood which means little more than a passive acceptance of his fate by the Negro....[The Western industrial nations have been] deliberately subjugating the Negro for economic reasons. These international criminals raped the African continent to feed their factories, and are themselves responsible for the low standards of living prevalent throughout Africa.From Columbia Daily Spectator. February 19, 1965
But they should not become involved actively in politics until we have gotten a much better understanding than we now have of the gains to be made from politics in this country. We go into politics in a sort of gullible way, an emotional way, whereas politics, especially in this country, is cold-blooded and heartless. We have to be given a better understanding of the science of politics as well as becoming registered voters.
it is the system. And this system is not only ruling us in America, it is ruling the world. Nowadays, when a man is running for president of the United States, he is not running for president of the United States alone; he has to be acceptable to other areas of the world where American influence rules.If Johnson had been running all by himself, he would not have been acceptable to anyone. The only that made him acceptable to the world was that the shrew capitalists, the shrewd imperialists, knew that the only way people would run toward the fox would be if you showed them a wolf. So they created a ghastly alternative. And it had the whole world - including people who call themselves Marxists - hoping that Johnson would beat Goldwater.I have to say this: Those who claim to be enemies of the system were on their hands and knees waiting for Johnson to get elected - because he is supposed to be a man of peace. And at that moment he had troops invading the Congo and South Vietnam! He even has troops in areas where other imperialists have already withdrawn. Peace Corps to Nigeria, mercenaries to the Congo!-Answer to question, Presence Africaine meeting. Paris, November 23, 1964.
Let's say I'm going to create an awareness of what has been done to them. This awareness will produce an energy, both negative and positive, than can then be channeled constructively...The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first, then you'll get action.Miss Nadie: Wake them up to their exploitation?Malcolm: No, to their humanity, to their own worth, and to their heritage. The biggest difference between the parallel oppression of the Jew and the Negro is that the Jew never lost his pride in being a Jew. He never ceased to be a man. He knew he had made a significant contribution to the world, and his sense of his own value gave him the courage to fight back. It enabled him to act and think independently, unlike our people and our leaders.From Marlene Nadie's article, Village Voice, February 25, 1965
with people like you - like you - you should put forth more effort to keep him out of jail. You should put forth more effort to protect him. And you should put forth more effort to protect the people who go along with him and display this love and this patience. If you would do more for those people and spend some of your time trying to help those people instead of trying to attack me, probably this country would be a much better place in which to live.
We are anti or against what America is doing wrong in other parts of the world as well as here. And what she did in the Congo in 1964 is wrong. It's criminal, criminal. And what she did to the American public, to get the American public to go along with it, is criminal. What she's doing in South Vietnam is criminal. She's causing American soldiers to be murdered every day, killed every day, die every day, for no reason at all. That's wrong. Now, you're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it...
on Sunday nights during the past two or three weeks, and for a a couple more weeks. It is not so much to spell out any program; you can't give a people a program until they realize they need one, and until they realize that all existing programs aren't programs that are going to produce productive results. So what we would like to do on Sunday nights to go into our problem, and just analyze and analyze and analyze; and question things that you don't understand, so we can at least try and get a better picture of what faces us.I, for one, believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what it is that confronts them, and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program;
Shaykh Abdallah sheds insight on how the divine love of our most beloved changed and shaped Medinan society through the unforgettable examples of a young girl to even his mimbar. Shaykh Abdallah also expands upon the propriety entailed upon the ummah to the family of our most beloved and his companions (radhi Allahu anhum).
Talk by Abdal Hakim Murad - 8 February 2010 - London School of Economics - 45 mins 20 secs
It's a triple header of talks this week, linked by the theme of Muslims living in the West. We start with this one by Sheikh Abdal Hakim, entitled 'Can Liberalism Tolerate Islam?', given at LSE Discover Islam Week, and kindly recorded and sent in by LSE ISoc. In it Sheikh Abdal Hakim inverts the usual framework of the debate about the relationship between Islam and liberalism, defined by the implicit or explicit suspicion of Muslims' ability to accept liberal values and the demand that they should do so. He unpicks this submerged 'intolerance of intolerance' in order to interrogate the significance of the secular orthodoxies liberal Europe has created, and considers how Muslims can and should respond to them.
Later in the week inshaAllah we will post a talk given in Cambridge recently by Prof. Tariq Ramadan on 'Hostility, Loyalty and Change: the Future of Muslims in the West', and in part three another recent talk by Sheikh Abdal Hakim with the intriguing title 'Can Non-Muslims Be Indigenous? Reflections on the Paradox of British Islam'.
according to the Qur'an, to take this life seriously and to recognize fully that no matter how much one may hide one's negative intentions and one's failings, God "is well ware of them," as the Qur'an often puts it. Hence one must develop that inner torch which can enable one to distinguish between right and wrong, between justice and injustice, which the Qur'an calls taqwa - a crucial term, indeed one of the three or four most crucial terms. Although the final judgment upon man's conduct does lie outside him, as does the final criterion by which he is to be judged - and recognition of this fact is an essential part of the meaning of taqwa - such recognition already implies a certain development of the conscience of man to a point where this inner torch is lit. Like torchlight, taqwa is undoubtedly capable of gradations, from a zero-point of naive self-righteousness to a high point where one can almost completely X-ray one's state of mind and conscience.The kind of being "made public" of the inner self so poignantly portrayed as occurring on the Day of Judgment is what the Qur'an really desires to take place here in this life; for a man [e: person] who can X-ray himself effectively and hence diagnose his inner state has nothing to be afraid of if his inner being goes public. It is only those who hide their inner being here - largely unsuccessfully, of course, for they really succeed not so much in hiding themselves from others as from themselves - who have every reason to fear the Day of Accounting. This is why the Qur'an says in sura 50, "You were sunk in heedlessness of this [accounting, X-raying], but now that We lifted the veil from you, your sight today is keen!" The central endeavor of the Qur'an is for man to develop this "keen sight" here and now, when there is opportunity for action and progress, for at the Hour of Judgment it will be too late to remedy the state of affairs; there one will be repeating, now sowing or nurturing. Hence one can speak there only of eternal success or failure, of everlasting Fire or Garden - that is to say, for the fate of the individual. As Jalal al-Din al-Rumi puts it:If you wish to witness Resurrection, become it!For this is the condition for witnessing anything!
QAFRevealed at MakkahIn the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Compassionate.1. Qaf. By the glorious Qur'an.2. But they marvel that a warner of their own has come to them and the disbelievers say: "This is a strange thing,3. "When we are dead and have become dust [shall we be brought back again]? That would be a remote return!"4. We know what the earth consumes of [their bodies], and with Us is a recording Book.5. But they denied the Truth when it came to them. That is why they are confused.6. Have they never observed the sky above them? How We built it up and furnished it with ornaments, leaving no crack [in its expanse]?7. We spread out the earth and set upon it immovable mountains. We brought forth in it all kinds of delightful plants.8. A lesson and reminder for every penitent slave.9. And We sent down from the sky blessed water with which We brought forth gardens and the harvest grain.10. And lofty date-palms with ranged clusters;11. Provision for men [e: or for Our servants]; and We thereby gave new life to a dead land. Even so shall be the Resurrection.12. Before them, the people of Noah and the people of Rass denied [the Truth]; and so did Thamud.13. And [the tribe of] 'Ad, and Pharaoh, and the brethren of Lot.14. And the Dwellers of the Wood and the people of Tubba': all disbelieved their messengers and thus My threat came true.15. Were We then worn out by the first creation? Yet they are in doubt about a new creation.16. We created man, and We know the promptings of his soul, and We are neared to him than his jugular vein.17. [And beside this direct knowledge of Ours,] two scribes, sitting on his right and on his left, are recording [everything].18. Each word he utters is noted down by a vigilant guardian.19. And when the agony of death comes with the truth: "This is what you have striven to avoid."20. And the Horn is blown. This is the threatened Day.21. Every soul will come, a driver with it and a witness.22. "You were heedless of this. Now We have removed your veil from you, so your sight this day is sharp."23. And his companion will say: "My testimony is ready."24. [And it is said:] "Cast into hell every stubborn disbeliever,25. "Hindered of good, transgressor, doubter,26. "Who has set up another god besides Allah. Cast him into severe torment."27. His companion [the devil] will say: "Our Lord! I did not mislead him. He was already gone far away."28. Allah will say" "Do not dispute in My presence. I gave you warning.29. "My word cannot be changed, nor am I unjust to My servants."30. On that day We shall ask Hell: "Are you full?" and it will answer: "Is there any more?"31. And the Garden is brought close to the God-fearing, not afar.32. It will be said: "Here is all that you were promised; it is for every penitent and heedful one,33. Who feared the All-Merciful in secret and came with a contrite heart.34. Enter it in Peace. It is the Day of Immortality!"35. There they have all that they desire, and there is more with Us.36. How many a generation We destroyed before them, who were mightier than them in prowess. They searched about in the lands! Was there any place of refuge!37. In this is a lesson for every man [e: everyone] who has a heart or gives ear with full attention.38. And We created the heavens and the earth' and all that is between them, in six days, and were not touched by fatigue.39. Therefore [O Muhammad] bear with what they say, and extol the praises of your Lord before sunrise and before sunset.40. And in the night-time, extol His praise, and after the [prescribed] prostrations.41. And listen on the day when the crier will call from nearby;42. The Day when they will hear the Cry in truth. On that day they will come out [of their graves].43. It is We Who ordain life and death, and to Us is the return.44. On that day when the earth will be rent asunder, [and they shall rush forth] in haste. That is a gathering which is easy for Us.45. We best know what they say, and you [O Muhammad] are not a compeller over them. But warn by the Qur'an whoever fears My warning.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Muslim Tradition can both validate and insulate doctrines and confer on them a degree of longevity or even permanence, by identifying them as the legitimate offspring of al-naql and al-'aql with genetic links that validate their pedigree and protect them from being communally disowned. Moreover, unmediated interpretations often fail to tell us why we should abandon the view of, say Abu Hanifa, Thomas Aquinas, or the Founding Fathers in favor of a novel rendering. While the implication is that the contemporary view is superior, this can be difficult to prove and may even backfire, as the person, memory, or "image" of Abu Hanifa or Thomas Aquinas may be dearer to the public than the substance of efficiency of their views. Reliance on Tradition, meanwhile, overcomes much of this signaling that one is willing to play by the same rules as those of the great masters, implying that the view that one is advocating is little more than what Abu Hanifa, Thomas Aquinas, or the Founding Fathers themselves might advocate (or at least recognize) were they confronted with contemporary reality. (25)
including Kecia Ali, Khaled Abou El Fadl, and Sherman Jackson, encourage contemporary Muslims to engage the juridical legacies of traditional Islam. (21) Young American Muslims in the DIP [Deen Intensive Program] community already claim this commitment to fiqh, as they see it linking them to authentic sites of knowledge in the ummah. However, compared with academic scholars like Ali, most scholars and students in the DIP community are hesitant to challenge "the assumptions and [time] constraints" of classical fiqh. (22) At the same time, however, because they are located at the America-ummah borders, DIP students are increasingly urged to reconsider majority fiqh rulings, given their contemporary American social context. Dr. Umar is among the leaders making this challenge, and his training in the classical Islamic sciences allows him to present this undertaking in a context that honors traditional Islamic epistemologies."In modern days, we have questions that we didn't have before. Learn the tradition," he told us, "but don't stay there. Go on. Move. You have to be up to date. Is our tradition compatible with where we are going?" Dr. Umar encouraged us to make our tradition culturally relevant to contemporary life, emphasizing how Muslim jurists have always regarded 'urf (cultural custom) when deriving fiqh. Contemporary fuqaha' (Muslim jurists) must "understand the [legal] judgments of the imams, early and late, in the cultural context in which they lived. These judgments cannot be [seen as] set in stone. If the imams were living today, they would give different judgments."
that nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Muslim modernists utilized the discourse of modernity differently. Vis-a`-vis those outside the Muslim community, they used the modern discourse to demonstrate that Islam was very much in tune with progress and social evolution. A few of them, for instance, justified women’s rights and justified the study of science and technology on modern grounds when traditionalists resisted these ideas. However, when it came to applying the intellectual harvest of modernity, namely the phenomenal developments in knowledge, to the study of religion itself, this elicited a different response. At that point modern knowledge was viewed with skepticism accompanied by a fear that it would undermine the canonical knowledge of Islam.With some exceptions, the critical light of modern knowledge developed in the humanities did not illuminate the Muslim modernists’ theories, as applied to the interpretation of scriptures, history and society, the understanding of law, and theology. What they did not undertake or in some instances refused to undertake was to subject the entire corpus of historical Islamic learning to the critical gaze of the knowledge-making process (episteme) of modernity. They of course correctly suspected that a complete embrace of modernity as a philosophical tradition would result in an Islam that they would not be able to recognize. They still felt that the pre-modern Muslim epistemology as rooted in dialectical theology (‘ilm al-kalam) and legal theory (usul al-fiqh) was sufficiently tenacious, if not compatible with the best in modern epistemology. With a few exceptions, this expedient attitude towards modernity is an indication of both the good faith as well as the naivete´ of some of the modernist Muslim reformers.
but even orthodox traditionalists and revivalist groups are becoming expert in such apologetics. The real problem with these kinds of arguments is a more acute one. For one thing, they are apologetic and try to justify the past by today’s standards. In the process, they inevitably distort history. Since modern Muslim sensibilities are offended by the rules regulating women, such as corporal punishment or the minimum marriageable age for women in Muslim antiquity, they try either to wish them away or to argue them away. There is of course the misplaced belief that the past is embarrassing. For, surely, closer scrutiny shows that in all patriarchal cultures – Christian, Jewish, and Hindu – during antiquity, women were married off at a very early age, in some cases even before they showed their first signs of menstruation.
If we have changed these practices in our world, then we have done so for our own reasons: our sense of justice, equality, and reasons consistent with our political-economy. For a whole set of reasons, we no longer consider marriage to what our modern culture deems minors, corporal punishment, and the death penalty to be acceptable practices. But surely in changing our practices we are not condemning millions of people before us and judging them as reprobate for being different from us? So why should we debate the past as if it is the present? The predisposition among many Muslim apologists is not to understand history, but rather to try to fix or correct it, with the enormous condescension of posterity.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
"When the great cataclysm comes, that day man will recall what he had been striving for" (79:34-35) is a typical statement of this phenomenon. It is an Hour when all veils between the mental preoccupations of man and the objective moral reality will be rent: "You were in a deep heedlessness about this [Hour of self-awareness], but now We have rent your veil, so your sight today is keen!" (50:22). Every person will find there his deepest self, fully excavated from the debris of extrinsic and immediate concerns wherein the means is substituted for ends and even pseudo-means for real means, where falsehood is not only substituted for truth but really becomes truth, and even more attractive and beautiful than truth. Man's conscience itself becomes so perverted that, through long habituation with particularized interests and persistent worship of false gods, the holy seems unholy, and vice versa. This is what the Qur'an terms ghurur, multi-layered self-deception. If man is to be free from this grave-within-a-grave structure, nothing short of a cataclysm, a complete turning side-out of the moral personality, is needed.-pg. 106-107 of The Major Themes of the Qur'an by Fazlur Rahman
is in terms of the joys of the Garden and the punishments of Hell. The Qur'an does frequently talk about these, as about reward and punishment in general, including "God's pleasure and anger" - something which we shall have to elaborate in detail. But the basic idea underlying the Qur'an teaching on the hereafter is that there will come a moment, "The Hour [al-sa'a] when every human will be shaken into a unique and unprecedented self-awareness of his deeds: he will squarely and starkly face his own doings, not-doings, and misdoings and accept the judgment upon them as a "necessary" sequel (necessary within quotes because God's mercy is unlimited.) That man is generally so absorbed in his immediate concerns, particularly selfish, narrow, and material concerns, that he does not heed the "ends" of life [al-akhira] and constantly violates moral law, we have had occasion to point out. We stressed in Chapter III that for the Qur'an the goal of man-in-society is to build an ethically-based order on the earth but that cultivation of taqwa or a true sense of responsibility is absolutely necessary for man-as-individual if such an order is to be built. The Qur'an repeatedly complains that man has not yet come up to this task.-pg. 106 of The Major Themes of the Qur'an by Fazlur Rahman
than in nature as a whole, Ibn 'Abbad is nonetheless highly sensitive to God's creation, the world of time and space, as a theater of His "signs." From effects one can learn of the Cause. Ibn 'Abbad's view of this world has been formed by the Qur'an's frequent summons to discover God's traces everywhere:Behold, in the heavens and the earth are signs for those who believe. And in your creation, and all the wild creatures He has scattered over the earth, are signs for a people of firm faith. And the alternation of night and day, and the sustenance that God sends down from the sky, quickening thereby the earth after her death, and the ordering of the winds - these are signs for a people who understand [45:3-5]He believes that if it is on this earth one must journey, it is here also that God will show the way; and that "those who reject Our signs are deaf and dumb and in profound darkness. God allows to go astray whom He will, and He places on the Straight Path whom He will" [Qur'an 6:39].Ibn 'Abbad surely did not look forward to staying on this earth forever, nor would he have liked to do so. The words "this world and the next" appear frequently and formulaically in his letters, and "the next" has a decided edge. But the Sufi would, I suspect, not have been entirely at a loss to understand Robert Frost's "Earth's the right place for love. I can't imagine where it's likely to go better" ["Birches"]. One has to begin with what one is given, and in that sense, this is the best of all possible worlds. This world was made for God's purposes and that is ultimately the way things will work out. In the meantime, it is precisely in and through this time and this space that God speaks to this individual person.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Get her book! It's a treasure and brilliant!
Oscar-winning actor and screen legend Sir Ben Kingsley has taken the starring role in a short feature film about the scientific heritage of Muslim civilisation. The mini-movie, entitled 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets, accompanies a global touring exhibition that this currently open to the public at the Science Museum in London. The exhibition runs till 30th June 2010 and then goes on an international tour.
In the movie, Sir Ben takes on the role of a mysterious and cantankerous librarian who takes a group of school children on an enlightening journey to meet pioneering scientists and engineers from the history of Muslim civilization. The librarian is then revealed to be 12th century engineering genius Al-Jazari.
Also thanks to Ayse!
Islam was a screen onto which Europeans could and did project their anxieties and conflicts about who and what they were or were not, a mirror in which Europeans could discern the traits that seemed to make them unique by highlighting how different, defective and inferior Islam was. As we will see in subsequent chapters, it was in part by differentiating themselves from Islam (and the various characteristics they saw as part of Islam's essential and unchanging nature) that European Christians, and later their nominally secular descendants, defined their own identity. These representations persisted for centuries in popular and high culture and in scholarship, and some of them continue to circulate today. In movies, in television programs, in newspaper and magazine articles and in books, in children's comic books, indeed across the popular imagination of western Europe and the United States, images of the Muslim as other, as profoundly different from ourselves, as fanatical, violent, lusty and threatening - images that as we have seen have very old roots - still have emotional resonance for many people and can be drawn on and deployed for political purposes.-Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism, p. 37
from Arab learning (which for our purposes also encompasses writings in the Arabic language by non-Muslims) has generally been recognized by scholars, but the Arab influence on medieval western European popular and high culture more broadly has been less fully explored or acknowledged. In Spain and Sicily, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side for centuries, and through contract between Europe (especially southern Europe) and the Muslim lands of western Asia and northern Africa by means of trade and pilgrimage, there was, despite the Crusades and continuing religious hostility, a great deal of cultural interaction and borrowing, especially around the Mediterranean basin. The extent to which, at a crucial stage in its development, western Europe drew heavily on Arab-Muslim culture would be largely forgotten or obscured when, during the Renaissance and after, European thinkers and scholars began to denigrate medieval learning and culture and instead claimed a more or less unbroken cultural continuity between ancient Greece (now seen as the source of the quasi-secular humanism which many Renaissance thinkers espoused) and their own times. Yet as the author of a pioneering 1977 study on the influence of "Araby" on medieval English literature put it, "the migration of literary works, as well as concepts, images, themes, and motifs, was a natural by-product" of the process whereby "the Arabs did not only transmit and interpret the knowledge and ideas of classical antiquity, but became the teachers and inspirers of the West at the very heart of its cultural life: its attitude to reason and faith..." This literary material "brought Islamic modes of thought within the reach of a far wider circle of readers than the intellectual elite, for it was widely translated into the vernacular." -Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism, p. 32-33
European scholars began in this period to grasp that the Muslim world (including its Jewish communities) possessed great intellectual riches from which their own comparatively impoverished culture might benefit. In Toledo, a great center of learning in Muslim Spain and since 1085 in Christian hands, as well as elsewhere in Spain, Christian scholars, aided by Spanish Muslims, Christians and Jews, began to translate, study and disseminate the voluminous Arabic-language writings on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy they found in the libraries of Spanish mosques and courts. This was a treasure-trove of knowledge, well in advance of anything available in Europe at the time. It was by this means that western Europeans first gained access to many works of Greek antiquity which had been lost in the West but were preserved in Arabic translations; but in the process they also encountered the Arabic-language writings of Muslim and Jewish thinkers who had absorbed the work of the Greeks but had gone well beyond them to blaze new paths in medicine, philosophy, the sciences, mathematics and literature.-Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism, p. 31-32
Engagement with these texts had a profound impact on many arenas of western European intellectual life. Translated Arabic writings on medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences were for centuries used as textbooks in medieval Europe, while the writings of Muslim philosophers like Ibn Sina' (980-1037, known in the West as Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (1126-1198, known as Averroes), and Jewish philosophers who wrote mainly in Arabic like Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, 1135-1204), were eagerly read and discussed and influenced several gernations of medieval Christian philosophers and theologians....The powerful impact of Arabic learned is suggested by the large number of scientific and mathematical terms in western languages which derive from Arabic terms or names, including alchemy, (from which chemistry comes), alcohol, algebra, algorithm, and alkali, as well as the names of many stars.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Pan-American signifies two critical tasks, one internal and one external to the American ummah: (1) to "create a culture that speaks to us all: black, white, Hispanic, Arab immigrant, Indian immigrant, Pakistani immigrant" and (2) to "make ourselves known [in America] and ... to make friends [in America]." In other words, "an identity that [both] fits here [in America] and brings us all together." Speaking to a DIP audience consisting of second-generation desis, some Arabs, a few African Americans (of the one hundred women attending, seven were African American), fewer Anglos, and one Latino, Dr. Umar talked about how black, white, and Latino converts often feel forced to give up their ethnic American cultural identity in order to be Muslim. He opposed this, insisting that we make "Islam a home and open doors for the black and the white and the Hispanic and the Native American." -Jamillah Karim, American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender Within the Ummah, p. 140
"We are New World Muslims," Dr. Umar told the group. The diversity of the American indicates an array of "treasures and knowledge" that can collectively produce "a creative [Muslim] minority," modeling "justice, equality, and good." If "we bring together the best of what is here [in American society] and the best of what we have [in the American ummah], we can create something beautiful."
stems from her respect for Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, a white American Muslim scholar, who advocates the creation of an American Muslim culture that reflects both the Islamic tradition and an American cultural outlook. He works towards this ideal as a scholar in residence at the Nawawi Foundation (founded in 2001), an organization founded to support Dr. Umar's "vision of building a successful American Muslim cultural identity."  Many in the DIP [Deen Intensive Program] community admire Dr. Umar for his credentials as both an American-trained academic (a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago) and a scholar of traditional Islamic sciences.
"Dr. Umar is always saying it is your responsibility to do it for the people here," stated Rashidah. "You should help first the people you are surrounded by, that you see on a daily basis in your own community." While Rashidad continues to send most of her money to Muslims abroad through Islamic Relief, a reputable international relief and development charity, Dr. Umar's advice has influenced her to give to the local poor more than before, particularly through IMAN. Rashidah's decision to shift part of her sadaqah (almsgiving beyond the obligatory zakat) from international to local projects characterizes the dilemma of many second-generation South Asian youth whose religious leaders are increasingly urging them to align more of their sadaqah and sentiments with domestic issues.-Jamillah Karim, American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender Within the Ummah, p. 137
Yo Imam D, your rhyme was sweet
Race to do good deeds, shall we compete?
Put the word on the street
It's chilly outside, so let's bring some heat
Homes of the Hearts
They say home is where the heart is
But that's just a part of it
The Qur'an is the start of it
Where hearts go when they're homesick
Oh Flipper of the Hearts
Keep mine firm
So every day I can learn what I earn
And at every turn I won't slip
And over my own ego I don't trip
Some travels put distance between me and my brothers
So even if we're not around to help one another
When two people love each other for the sake of Allah
They can overlook every flaw
Their bond stays tight and their love don't fall
Even if they can't find time to write or call
'Cause our connection is not one that goes over the phone
So even if we're afraid to stand alone
We connect to the One that holds the soul
Of every sis and bro from the North to South Pole
I want to remind us all and put myself first
What started in the cradle ends in the hearse
With that in mind let's reflect on the verse
Those who forget Allah truely are the worst
And if I forget, Lord guide me to what's better
So I can count the blessings on each and every letter
Through my struggle, my sins please forgive
Through my supplication another day I might live
If I live, I want to live to the fullest
Because Hell is hot so I want to stay coolest
And the coolest are the real true lovers
Who love Allah, their families and the others
We have so many brothers that aren't from our mothers
Of the blessings of this world is that Islam suffices
Oh friends and family overlook my vices
To get to the goal I make sacrifices
Everyday I'm away I pray that we stay
Close like the dock to the bay
Close like the blue to the Jay
Or the earth to the clay
This life has its sweetness, but it's so fleeting
I'll just say what I think's worth repeating
If I can roam home to visit, it'd be nice
If not, I hope we catch up in the Paradise
Bi Tawfiq, in sha Allah
An American Salman
Sunday, February 21, 2010
how much he has been an inspiration to me and so many others. But I also realized that now the burden is on me and my generation. Can we discharge the covenant and inspire those who follow us? Do we possess a similar fundamental sense of decency and morality? Part of this decency and morality is that we turn to those who taught and inspired us, to those who permitted us the privilege of finding much that is decent in life, and to those who became the symbolic representation of living human beauty, and say thank you. Thank you.
I think it's important to show the importance of keeping an open mind. You'll be surprised how fast, how easy it is for someone to steal your and my mind. You don't think so? We never like to think in terms of being dumb enough to let someone put something over on us in a very deceitful and tricky way. But you and I are living in a very deceitful and tricky society, in a very deceitful and tricky country, which has a very deceitful and tricky government. All of them in it aren't tricky and deceitful, but most of them are. And any time, you have a government in which most of them are deceitful and tricky, you have to be on guard at all times. You have to know how they work this deceit and how they work these tricks. Otherwise you'll find yourself in a bind.One of the best ways to safeguard yourself from being deceived is always to form the habit of looking at things yourself, listening to things for yourself, thinking for yourself, before you try and come to any judgment. Never base your impression of someone on what someone else has said. Or upon what someone else has written. Or upon what someone else has written. Or wrote. Never base your judgment on things like that. Especially in this kind of country and in this kind of society which has mastered the art of very deceitfully painting people whom they don't like in an image that they know you won't like. So you end up hating your friends and loving their enemies.An example I was flying from Algiers to Geneva about three or four weeks ago, and seated beside me on the airplane were a couple of Americans, both white, one a male and the other a female. One was an interpreter who worked in Geneva for the United Nations, the other was a girl who worked in one of the embassies in some part of Algeria. We conversed for about forty or forty-five minutes and then the lady, who had been looking at my briefcase, said, "May I ask you a personal question?" And I said, "Yes." Because they always do anyway. She said, "What kind of last name do you have that begins with X?" I said, "That's it, X." So she said, "X?" "Yes." "Well, what is your first name?" I said, "Malcolm." So, she waited for about ten minutes and then she said, "You're not Malcolm X." And I said, "Yes, I'm Malcolm X. Why, what's the matter?" And she said, "Well, you're not what I was looking for."What she was looking for was what the newspapers, the press, had created. She was looking for the image that the press had created. Somebody with some horns, you know, about to kill all the white people - as if he could kill all of them, or as if he shouldn't. She was looking for someone who was a rabble-rouser, who couldn't even converse with people with blue eyes, you know, someone who was irrational, and things of that sort. I take time to point this out, because it shows how skillfully someone can take a newspaper and build an image of someone so that before you even meet them, you'll run. You don't even want to hear what they have to say, you don't even know them, all you know is what the press has had to say....
Peace and blessings from the heart of this pitiful delinquent, and if you turn me away, I have no grounds to complain. I know that I am a man who is frivolous, malevolent, and trivial; I deem myself entirely contemptible. So if you ignore me, I understand; in fact, perhaps that is exactly what you should do. Yet, you never turned a single soul away especially when this soul, with your love, is entirely at peace. Truly, God and God's angels extol their blessings upon you. "O ye who believe, invoke blessings upon him, and give him greetings of peace" (33:56).
She stood up and picked up the empty glasses of tea as she said, "You men do what you want. My tool is my heart - I feel the Prophet in my bones. When I read something, I know if I am in the company of the Prophet or some devil."The Shaykh smiled and touched her hand while proclaiming, "May Allah bless you Umm...If all of us had a heart likes yours, we would not have a problem. But when the heart wanes, the intellect must come to its aid."She smiled as she prepared to leave the room and said, "Ya Shaykh 'Id, when the intellect wanes, the heart must come to its aid."I knew that both of them were right. Both the heart and the intellect needed to be developed and strengthened, and both the heart and intellect needed to become allies. I also knew that both my heart and intellect were not sufficiently developed or strong. So I went home and picked up a green notebook, and called it the "Book of Ignorance." I would diligently write in it all the things I wanted to know but could not know. In two days, I was writing too frequently and so I changed the title to "The Book of Suspended Judgement." I recorded every report or thought or piece of information I puzzled over but did not feel equipped to properly evaluate. I resolved in my mind and heart to return to all the listed issues and scrutinize them as the Shaykh had said. Over the years, I found that I would go to the notebook and scratch off an item as resolved, only to come back to rewrite it in again in the following week. That poor notebook had become plagued by pencil and ink marks on nearly every page. Eventually, I learned that to suspend patience is the earmark of piety and humility. Now, I write my judgments in my mind, and suspend judgement in my heart, of perhaps I write my judgments in my heart and suspend the m in my mind. I t did not matter, and does not matter, as long as my heart and intellect are balanced and allied, I aid one with the other, and I live in a state of equanimity. I patiently endure the thorns, but I invariably enjoy the flowers.July 2000
I have yet to complete a book and to re-open it the next day without finding I might have included this, or deleted that, or considered a different thought, or I might have polished my words, or modified some others or transposed yet others. In short, a human being's work, his thinking, his revisions and changes are never perfect or complete. Such is the unwavering fact about the nature of humankind.Bless the souls of those who have joined the Conference, and doubted the equity of those who have the answers. Yes, such are the affairs of human beings - their thinking is never complete. Praise be to God Who decreed that we perfect the questions, and entrust the answers to the One Who is complete. But we are plagued in this age by those who only want to learn what they think they already know. Islam to them is no more than a band that is tailored to fit on their sleeves. They fashion Islam tightly and snugly, in order to cuddle them and nurse their pathetic insecurities. It doesn't matter what the evidence or indicators are, what matters is that the entire world is deaf and God whispers in their ears. They impersonate the Prophet, and speak for God, and if you tell them let's look into the evidence, they say, "I know what I know. Don't bother me with complexities." In truth, what they demand is that God submits Himself to their comforts, and not disturb their pedantic simplicity. I quoted the jurist Qadi Khan al-Farghani (d. 592/1196) before, and I will quote him again:Know that a man becomes restless and bored, and is overcome by insecurities, ignorance, and a defective brain. This man's affliction only increases when he becomes surrounded by idiots who sing his praise. Then this man fills his mouth with the words of scholars, and spews out phrase after phrase. Neither does he understand nor do his followers understand the implications of what he says. It is better for the rational man to guard his mouth, for the ignorant only fall flat on their faces.
Can we find the scent, the fragrance, the redolence of his trace? Can we seek the fragments of memory, the smiles, the laughs, and the kind gestures? Can we locate the beauty over fourteen hundred years too late? I agonize over these questions, struggle with the promises, and I refuse to despair.I agonize over the questions, and so I run to the Conference - I run to the books. I run to the papers and the ink. I run to the transmissions and reports - to so and so reported from so and so. I pursue the evidence in the books, in the testimonials and quotes, and in the layers of words. I pursue it with the relish of reverence, with the fervor of zeal, and the rapture of love. What I want is not to find him, for the Prophet is dead, but to find the perfume of his soul, the radiance of his beautiful face, and the magnanimous bliss of his hands. Yes, I search the hadith, the sunan, and the masanid, I even search the imagination and dreams. Those who love him will understand, and the others will only be interested in the archeology of his footprints in the sand. But the perfume of the beloved travels in the soul - not in the burdened winds or the antiquities of the land.
I suffer confusion, and fear becoming an intellectual refugee. Here, there is a wealth of words because everyone speaks, but between the thought and speech there is an appalling lack of proportionality. Muslims in the United States reject words like fireworks - they dissipate the minute they explode. Knowledge is considered unnecessary for words, and thought is an optional superfluity. In fact, in our Muslim community, the preachers are considered the teachers, and Shar'ia is their monopoly. The qualifications of a jurist is not the knowledge of jurisprudence, for the pursuit of evidence and proof is an unnecessary luxury. In the world of preachers, books, study, and methodology are entirely unnecessary, and analytical and critical insight, and the use of reason have all been declared a heresy. In our Muslim community, the experts are dietitians, nurses, medical doctors, herbalists, computer scientists, and countless engineers and sociologists who mutate the Shar'ia into a faddish curiosity. The anthropologists and sociologists will say this is just a synthesis and a synchronistic tradition, but when does synchronism become an outright deformity?
We have excelled in conferences, symposiums, and retreats handsomely staffed by cheerleaders. The cheerleaders raise the banners, claim our superiority, and assert our manifest destiny. They aim to praise and adulate our intellectual defeat by singing, "Who needs an intellect, all we need is a handsome and luscious beard!" The cheerleaders live on euphoria and are as pretty as can be. But they have no knowledge of the score, nor the rules, and they seem to have forgotten that there is no game and no team. They seem to have forgotten that cheerleading is a brainless idiocy. Cheerleading is not a form of testimony before God - it is tribalism and perjury. What a sad state when a people come to rely on cheerleaders to lead their search for God's beauty, and for their measure of honesty.
what would he say? Which of our numerous vanities would he choose to praise? I think Satan would have to express his profuse gratitude for our emotions, whims, and fears that induce us to submit to ourselves rather than to our Lord. Satan would be jubilant that our Lord told us to "read," and instead, we excelled in the hysteria of activism and irrationality. In the eyes of the devil, is there a better nation than that which celebrates stupidity, and declares the use of reason to be sophistry and heresy? Is there a better gift to depravity than a nation that treats knowledge as if it is an ornament or decoration, and not the gateway to the truth of our being? Isn't Satan ecstatic when he finds a nation that refuses to learn from its past and constantly tries to reinvest wisdom's wheel? Is there a greater evil than a people who testify against a knowledge they don't know, and excel at testifying on the basis of hearsay? Isn't speaking and testifying without knowledge an act of lying and an act of deceit and perjury? What would the devil say about a people who stuff their pulpits with despots and nominate the most ignorant to lead? How would the devil praise a people who treat their religion as an extra-curricular activity and a "feel-good" hobby? Isn't the devil simply elated with our esteemed sages, puerile kids who think that Islam is a fashion show, and whose egos are their reference points? They have no need for books or knowledge - they simply act the role of the wise and pious as soon as they grow the sprucely beard and find the dapper wardrobe.
and I pray that I will be deemed worthy enough to be permitted to transform or, at least, that I will be invited again. This Conference had become the bridge to many repressed memories, and the rediscovery of my sense of balance and dignity. Now, I pounce in the streets with a smile on my face telling everyone who finds me: "I have foundations. I have roots, I have a history, I have a homeland on this earth, I have my own intellectual space. I have delved into the depth of my brain, cleansed the dust and cobwebs of forgetfulness, and chased so many ghosts away. I now know who I am, and my attention is turned to who I want to be."