Saturday, November 13, 2010

Frank Rich: Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

"The question of gender and patriarchy raises broader concerns.

Islamic educational institutions in the United States and elsewhere must create the mechanisms needed for producing Muslim women who are fully qualified Islamic scholars. Gender related questions including those mentioned above should not be delegated exclusively to male authority; more significantly, no question should be delegated to men alone. Muslim women must have opportunities equal to their male counterparts in all concerns. The disempowerment of Muslim women is a major reason for the retrogression of many Muslim societies. Degradation of the status of women has the same debilitating effect on Western Muslim communities that countenance it, and it must be corrected. Islam has a rich legacy of accomplished and actively engaged women. Great Muslim women excelled as political and military leaders, poets, scholars, philanthropists, spiritual guides, and in other capacities. Renewal of their legacy is essential for the future of Muslim communities everywhere. [43]

-from pg. 28 of "Living Islam With Purpose" by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah

Another quote from Jackson about tradition in the context of Sufism

New book: Wandering Lonely in a Crowd: Reflections on the Muslim Condition in the West by S.M. Atif Imtiaz

"Imtiaz is telling us to wake up to some tough global realities. Islam matters, more than anything else. Not just because it offers the most compelling and widely-followed alternative to turbo-capitalism, but because it does so on the basis of monotheism, history's most powerful idea. In these essays, spanning British and global Islamic issues of burning moment, Imtiaz reminds us that God has not gone away."

- Abdal Hakim Murad, Dean, Cambridge Muslim College

"From student radicalism in the nineties to Muslims at the centre of a national security policy in the 2000s, Atif Imtiaz's generation has had to confront issues of identity, belonging, loyalty, commitment and their faith in much harsher, more polaraised terms than most. A careful thinker, drawing inspiration from many different sources including, of course, his Islamic faith, Imtiaz is one of those who is exploring and articulating what a twenty first Western expression of his religion might mean."

- Madeleine Bunting, associate editor and columnist, The Guardian

"Atif Imtiaz's collection of talks and essays are theoretically informed, practically directed at improving the well-being of Muslims through their own learning and action as well as through the benefits of fully becoming part of British society. His wisdom is offered in a simple, direct, accessible prose, presented sometimes in the form of a talk, sometimes as conversational biography. His combination of experience and social concern makes him a thoughtful British Muslim figure who speaks to all concerned with the place of Muslims in the West."

- Professor Tariq Modood, University of Bristol and author of Multiculturalism: A Civic Idea (2007)

Wandering Lonely in a Crowd: Reflections on the Muslim Condition in the West is a timely collection of essays, articles, lectures, and short stories that reflect on the years between 9/11 and Barack Obama. They cover the themes of integration, community cohesion, terrorism, radicalization, cultural difference, multiculturalism, identity politics, and liberalism. Beginning with a raw and unedited response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and ending with Obama's election, S.M. Atif Imtiaz covers the numerous facets of the debate that surrounds Western Muslims today. The book sets out a narrative for these years and a response that argues that Western Muslims should move away from identity politics towards Islamic humanism.

S.M. Atif Imtiaz holds a doctorate in social psychology, is a longstanding community activist, and has worked in equalities for the Bradford and Airedale Primary Care Trust in England.

It looks like it's supposed to be available in the U.S., April 1, 2011 iA.

(There are 3 copies as of this post on Amazon UK)

 Wandering Lonely in a Crowd: Reflections on the Muslim Condition in the West

Thanks to Faisal Ghias for this!

The author has an article on the Cambridge Muslim College website: "Some Reflections on Principles of Islamic Education within a Western Context"

Friday, November 12, 2010

John Esposito: The Dark Side of American Politics and Religion

"Historian of religion William Graham has argued that 'traditionalism'

ought to be seen as a defining feature of Islamic thought. This traditionalism consists, he says, "not in some imagined atavism, regressivism, fatalism, or rejection of change and challenge," but rather in the conviction that "a personally guaranteed connection with a model past, and especially with model persons, offers the only sound basis...for forming and reforming one's society in any age." [13] The traditionalism Graham considers characteristic of Islam is rooted in styles of authenticating the statements attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (or statements about his conduct and teachings as reported by his companions) by affixing to each of these statements a chain of transmission that goes back to him or to one of the other early authorities. Western scholars have usually characterized these discrete statements (hadith) as "traditions" of Muhammad. But the traditionalism of which Graham speaks is something broader in scope and significance: it is the recurrent effort by Muslims to articulate authority and evaluate claims to such authority by positing and reaffirming a connectedness to the past. Graham acknowledges that anchoring authority in efforts to establish a link with the past is not unique to Muslims, but he argues that this effort is nowhere more pervasive than in Islam, and that it is institutionalized here to an unparalleled degree. For instance, the emphasis on "a personally guaranteed connection to a model past" has, for centuries, remained the fundamental principle of validating the transmission of religious knowledge; it underlies genealogical claims to social standing; it is at the heart of the Shi'i belief in the authority of the rightly guided and infallible imams; and it is the basis on which institutionalized Sufism, with its lineages of masters and disciples, rest. [14]
-The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change by Muhammad Qasim Zaman, pg. 3-4

"No categories require more careful handling these days,"

the ethicist Jeffrey Stout observes, "than tradition and modernity." [10] Not long ago, contrasts between "tradition" and "modernity" were a convenient shorthand way of explaining what particular societies had to get rid of in order to become part of the modern world. Increasingly, however, such dichotomous constructions have given way, in academic writing at any rate, to a recognition that "tradition" is not a monolithic entity any more than "modernity" is; that appeals to tradition are not necessarily a way of opposing change but can equally facilitate change; that what passes for tradition is, not infrequently, of recent vintage; and that definitions of what constitutes tradition are often the product of bitter and continuing conflicts within a culture. [11]
 -pg. 3 of The Ulama in Contemporary Islam: Custodians of Change by Muhammad Qasim Zaman [a phenomenal book that incidentally is one of Faiz Ahmed's top 5 favorite non-fiction books ever (fun fact) :)]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Justice as Sadaqa (Charity) - Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad via Allahcentric [via SeekersGuidance]

on islamophobic funding

The Anti-Muslim Machine

Very well written

Haroon Moghul: Oklahoma ban of Sharia deems Islam as un-American


As we move toward creating a society within which we can each flourish, ageism is another distortion of relationship which interferes without vision. By ignoring the past, we are encouraged to repeat its mistakes. The "generation gap" is an important social tool for any repressive society. If the younger members of a community view the older members as contemptible or suspect or excess, they will never be able to join hands and examine the living memories of the community, nor ask the all important question, "Why?" This gives rise to a historical amnesia that keeps us working to invent the wheel every time we have to go to the store for bread.
We find ourselves having to repeat and relearn the same old lessons over and over that our mothers did because we do not pass on what we have learned, or because we are unable to listen.
"Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" * Paper delivered at the Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College, April 1980.

-Audre Lorde, Sister Outsiders: Essays and Speeches, pg. 116-7

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Justice Stevens voices support for NYC mosque

via Lina

Quotes from Ebrahim Moosa on tradition

"Traditional Islam is not the replication of the positions of the ancients; it is to seek what they sought."

-Abdal-Hakim Murad, Contentions 13, # 93

Another definition of tradition

Tradition is not merely the inheritance of the past nor is it in opposition to modernity. In fact, tradition itself is a modern concept that emerges out of Englightenment (Scott 1999). Historical anthropologist Talal Asad best articulates the importance of resisting the binary opposition of tradition and modernity in the study of Islam in his now classic and oft-cited literature review "The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam" (1986). [...]

Following MacIntre, Asad defines the Islamic tradition as a set of discourses connected to an exemplary past and to interpretations of foundational texts that Muslims draw on in their ordinary lives.

A tradition consists essentially of discourses that seek to instruct practitioners regrading the correct form and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history. These discourses relate conceptually to a past (when the practice was instituted, and from which the knowledge of its point and proper performance has been transmitted) and a future (how the point of that practice can best be secured in the short or long term, or why it should be modified or abandoned), through a present (how it is linked to other practices, institutions, and social conditions). An Islamic discursive tradition is simply a tradition of Muslim discourse that addresses itself to conceptions of the Islamic past and future, with reference to a particular Islamic practice in the present...[Tradition is not] necessarily imitative of what was done in the past. For even where traditional practices appear to the anthropologist to be imitative of what has gone before, it will be the practitioners' concepts of what is apt performance, and of how the past is related to present practices, that will be crucial for tradition, not the apparent repetition of an old form. (Asad 1986: 14-5)
 -from pg. 24-29 of Zareena Grewal's "Imagined Cartographies: Crisis, Displacement, and Islam in America" (2006 University of Michigan PhD dissertation)

Sherman Jackson on tradition as a process

For me tradition is not an event, it is a process. And, I think that the one thing that militates against the essentializing of tradition is that the facts on the ground in tradition simply defy that. And so, for me, what is important is the process, that puts us all in a position to argue our perspective and then at the end of the day to be able to agree on multiple authenticities. That is the value of tradition to me, not to go back to the past and try the biases, perspectives, and specific socially and culturally informed notions of the ancients and superimpose them onto modern Muslim society. That's not the point of tradition.
Sherman A. Jackson
Islam(s) East and West: Clash of Imaginations? (audio)
Harvard Divinity School: Center for the Study of World Religions
March 12, 2007

Monday, November 8, 2010

Prof. Abou El Fadl on The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition, part 4

I do think that is is not possible, or even advisable, to try to regenerate or reproduce the dynamics of the pre-modern juristic tradition. However, this does not mean that the current juristic practice should be disjointed from its past. There is a difference between a slavish imitation of the past, and a creative developing of the past. One of the reviewers of The Authoritative and Authoritarian described the work as "a creative vision" of Islamic law in the modern age. I am satisfied with this description. I do not seek to resuscitate the body of traditional Islamic law so that it may live as a historical oddity in the modern age. Instead, I seek to derive inspiration and guidance from the pre-modern juristic heritage, and then to articulate a normative framework that would be more fitting for the modern age. [...] Furthermore, at times it is necessary to completely abandon a pre-modern juristic position. [...] In short, a careful and reflective synthesis must be worked out between modernity and tradition. But reactive or defensive clinging to either modernity or tradition is not coherent.
 -And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses by Khaled Abou El Fadl, pgs. 111-114

Prof. Abou El Fadl on The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition, part 3

What is Islamic law? Is it an amalgamation of positive rules or commandments (pl. ahkam, sing. hukm)? If Islamic law consists of a group of positive commandments saying "do this" and "do not do that," then one must conclude that Islamic law in the contemporary age is thriving. The mass production of ahkam (rules) goes on unhampered in the contemporary age. [12] Nevertheless, the ahkam are only the external manifestations of the law, but they are not the law. The law, which is the Shari'ah, consists of objectives (maqasid), principles (qawa`id), methodologies of analysis and understanding (usul al-fiqh), and positive commandments (ahkam). In a sense, the ahkam are the completed sentences of the language of Shar'iah, and the remainder is the vocabulary and grammar. In a sense, the contemporary writers are prolific in producing sentences, but because they lack proficiency in vocabulary and grammar, their discourse is incoherent. Seen differently, the pharmacists are writing the prescriptions. Yet this, by itself, is not the cause of the suffocating atmosphere. It is not only that the ahkam have become the focal point in Shari'ah discourses, and that there is a lack of competency in the usage of legal objectives and methodologies, but also that the objectives and methodologies of Shari'ah have not been developed to meet contemporary advances in epistemology, hermeneutics or social theory. In the contemporary age, Muslims end up with a rather ironic and painfully non-sensical paradigm. Modern inquiries in epistemology and hermeneutics are declared as contrary to the authentic classical methodologies and systems of knowledge, and therefore, are rejected out of hand. At the same time, the authentic classical methodologies are treated as too obscure, obsolete, or simply difficult and are, therefore, ignored or awarded the most cursory and superficial treatment. Having ignored the systems of juristic knowledge that prevailed in the past, and rejected those that exist in the modern age, what remains? What remains is a slavish and frantic adherence to the positive commandments as the vehicle for the salvation and perseverance of the Islamic identity.
-And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, pg. 110-111

Prof. Abou El Fadl on The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition, part 2

The pre-modern dynamic, and the normative values and understandings that informed the practice of Islamic law, do not exist today. Arguably, the state in Muslim countries has become too powerful and hegemonic to permit the autonomous existence of the Shari'ah. Furthermore, the Civil law system and the culture of legal codification have become pervasive in Islamic cultures. This has led to obsessive attempts to codify Islamic law, and to a compulsive tendency to focus all efforts on the implementation rather than the elucidation of the Divine law. Perhaps, considering the current circumstances, there is no real possibility of rekindling the Islamic juristic heritage.
The modern practice of Islamic law is, in a word, "suffocating" - a person with any respectable degree of intellectual curiosity or creativity will find very limited accommodations in the current intellectual climate. There are many complex reasons for this, but among the primary reasons is that Islamic discourses remain locked in the apologetic paradigms of the 1940s and 1950s or the pietistic regurgitations of the hadith hurlers. Classical Muslim jurists used to describe their own role as akin to the role of doctors, and the role of the hadith specialists as akin to the role of pharmacists. [11] In their view, pharmacy is a science while doctoring is an art, and an art without resourcefulness and creativeness is not worthy of the name. In the contemporary setting, it is clear the pharmacists of Islam have become the doctors, and have substantially dispensed with the need for any form of art, resourcefulness, or creativity. Part of the problem is the currently prevailing conception of Islamic law.
 And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses by Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, pg. 109-110

Prof. Abou El Fadl on The Modern Dynamics and the Islamic Legal Tradition, part 1

Contemporary Islamic debates often sound like a hadith-hurling competition. Opponents search for Prophetic traditions, or other anecdotal reports, which are then disembodied from any historical context or dynamic. These reports are used to wage a form of rhetorical combat over a presumed Islamic authenticity. But this authenticity is no more than an idealized and puritanical vision of either resistance or emulation of Western mores. Of course, the vision of Western mores that informs this process, like the Islamic vision, is not based in history or social context. Both the adopted Western vision, whether pro or con, and the Islamic vision are equally ahistorical and acontextual.
Although this book attempts to anchor the contemporary juristic discourses in the pre-modern heuristic tradition, I fear that the epistemology and methodology of that tradition is now dead and cannot be recovered. The pre-modern juristic tradition, like the Common law system, was always "a work in progress." The search for God's law was an act of worship that could never come to an end. This, in part, is why Islamic law exhibited such a remarkable degree of diversity and continued to resist codification despite the existence of strong centralized states in different periods of Islamic history. Muslim jurists never ruled directly, and so the Divine law remained protected from the vagaries of political shifts and social currents. Rather, Muslim jurists played an influential mediating role between the masses and the state - for both the ruled and ruled they performed a negotiative function. They restrained the excesses of the government against the masses. At times, they even led rebellions against despotic rulers, not to overthrow them, but to impress upon them the necessity of moderation and balance. [10] As the guardians of God's law, the jurists maintained the Shari'ah as an amorphous concept, an ideal construct, and a grundnorm that binds the ruler and ruled. But it does not do so simply through the institutions because it is too enormous and important to be encapsulated by a particular human institution. To essentialize or summarize the Shari'ah in order to fit it within a human institution was considered a corruption - a degradation and spoilation of God's mercy that allows for diversity exist. Consequently, the progress and implementations of Islamic law had an incremental and dialectical quality.
And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses, pg. 108-109

Yemen is not a terrorist factory

via Haroon

"To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up.

 Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don't mean me) or by despair (there's nothing we can do). Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. It means doing the unromantic and tedious work necessary to forge meaningful coalitions, and it means recognizing which coalitions are possible and which coalitions are not. It means that coalition, like unity, means the coming together of whole, self-actualized human beings, focused and believing, not fragmented automatons marching to a prescribed step. It means fighting despair. [...]

You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must to do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.

If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough. In order to be whole, we must recognize the despair oppression plants within each of us - that thin persistent voice that says our efforts are useless, it will never change, so why bother, accept it. And we must fight that inserted piece of self-destruction that lives and flourishes like a poison inside of us, unexamined until it makes us turn upon ourselves in each other. But we can put our finger down upon that loathing buried deep within each one of us and see who it encourages us to despise, and we can lessen its potency by the knowledge of our real connectedness, arching across our differences.

Hopefully, we can learn from the 60s that we cannot afford to do our enemies' work by destroying each other.

*Talk delivered at the Malcolm X Weekend, Harvard University, February 1982. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. 141-142

Chris Hedges - A Recipe for Fascism

Nicholas Kristof - Our Banana Republic

via Shaykh Abdallah