Friday, October 30, 2009

October 28, 2009: Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1 & 2

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Dr. Umar on the importance of the social sciences and humanities

Social sciences like psychology, sociology, and anthropology are often mistakenly regarded as less worthy because they are not as lucrative and do not afford elite status in our community. In reality, the social sciences play a critical role in modern society and constitute key priorities for American Muslims. They serve the community's essential interests in areas such as mental health, social welfare, and cultural development. Our ability to function effectively as Muslims in modern society requires a nuanced understanding of modernity. Such an understanding falls squarely within the competence of the social sciences. It is a primary societal obligation for American Muslims to develop sufficient cadres of well-trained social scientists whose research is not only of use to the Muslim community but is valuable to the greater society at large.

Specializations in the humanities like history, modern thought, philosophy, and literature are widely considered in our community as marginal, but they too are necessary and meet essential societal obligations similar to those of the social sciences. They impart a wider view of the world; how its past relates to its present and future; and the seminal ideas of our times. They give direct access to effective cross-cultural understanding and intellectual development and enable the community to take interpretive control of itself and its religion in a contemporary context.

-Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah in his most recent Nawawi paper called "Living Islam with Purpose:"

Iqbal via Fazlur Rahman

Perhaps its [Traditional Muslim education's] greatest trouble was that it had created the same dualism between the religious and the secular, between this-worldly and that-wordly, from which Christianity, for example, had suffered from its very beginnings. The "religious" scholar had become a "professional" in his own field, but he was ignorant of and unable to cope with the problems of the world he lived in. Now the test of true spirituality or religious life is that is should solve [e: or attempt to solve] these problems creatively; otherwise its claims to being spiritual or religious are untenable. And so Iqbal asks Rumi [in his poem Pir-i-Rumi wa Murid-i-Hindi]:

My lofty thoughts reach up to the heavens;
But on earth I am humilated, frustrated, and agonized.
I am unable to manage the affairs of this world,
And I constantly face stumbling-blocks in this path.
Why are the affairs of the world beyond my control?
Why is the learned in religion a fool in the affairs of the world?

and he gets the following shattering answer:

Anyone who [claims to be able to] walk on the heavens;
Why should it be difficult for him to stalk on the earth? (58)

Fazlur Rahman on "Islamic Intellectualism"

As the reader will see, by "Islamic education" I do not mean physical or quasi-physical paraphernalia and instruments of instruction such as the books taught or the external educational structure, but what I call "Islamic intellectualism"; for to me this is the essence of higher Islamic education. It is the growth of a genuine, original, and adequate Islamic thought that must provide the real criterion for judging the success or failure of an Islamic educational system. (1)

The FBI Raid and Shooting Death of Imam Luqman

Lexington, KY (10/29/09) - It is with deep sadness and concern that we announce the shooting death of Imam Luqman A. Abdullah, of Masjid Al-Haqq (Detroit, MI). Imam Luqman was a representative of the Detroit Muslim community to the “National Ummah” and the general assembly (Shura) of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that their agents shot and killed the Imam during a raid related to a criminal complaint alleging that members of the mosque were engaged in criminal, but “not terrorist activity.” This tragic shooting raises deep concerns regarding the use of lethal force by law enforcement agents.

Read MANA's complete statement here

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Allah make us from the sincere!
Being in the pulpit was like being in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion was worked. I knew the other ministers and knew the quality of their lives. And I don't mean to suggest by this the "Elmer Gantry" sort of hyprocrisy, concerning sensuality; it was a deeper, deadlier, and more subtle hypocrisy than that...I knew how to work on a congregation until the last dime was surrendered - it was not very hard to do - and I knew where the money for "the Lord's work" went. I knew, though, I did not wish to know it, that I had no respect for the people with whom I worked. I could not have said it then, but I also knew that if I continued I would soon have no respect for myself." (38)
From James Baldwin's "Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind" (1962) fromThe Fire Next Time

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jamillah Karim's American Muslim Women: Negotating Race, Class and Gender Within the Ummah

What a book! I just got it yesterday alhamdullilah. It came out this year (2009) from NYU Press :)

It just deeply moves me to see and begin to read something like this - something about us - our community, today - realities, struggles and challenges for us to first know and think about and grapple with (all the better equipped for that I think by informed analysis ma sha Allah from someone writing within the community, a professor of religious studies who studies race, ethnicity, immigration and transnational identity)

Here are some quotes from the introduction that I just read:

"American Muslim Women is a multilayered, ethnographic account of race relations in the American ummah, told through the voices of African American and South Asian Muslim women." (3)

"African Americans and South Asians are two of the largest ethnic Muslim groups in the United States. Drawing on interviews with a diverse group of women from these two communities, this book considers what it means for them to negotiate religious sisterhood in the face of America's race and class hierarchies. " (3-4)

"To be Muslim in America, therefore, means to claim a faith tradition marked by both African American and immigrant struggles." (4)

"The largely African American and immigrant makeup of the American ummah presents an important angle from which to analyze race relations, one that includes race, religion, and immigration. Immigration has broadened our analysis of race in the United States. In area radially altered by the influx of non-European immigrants, new forms of American racism have developed that extend beyond black-white color line while simultaneously reinforcing it." (5)

"This book, however, looks at how religious identity influences race relations and how race affects religious identity." (6)

"Independent of the American context, the concept of ummah has a double meaning of sisterhood and brotherhood and also justice...Given the inequalities resulting from the legacy of racism in the United States, it is this double commitment that makes ummah ideals also doubly relevant to the American context. [Quoting Robert Bach in Changing Relations: Newcomers and Established Residents in U.S. Communities (1993)] "The challenge of America may be less in harmonizing relations among groups than in mobilizing intergroup cooperation into strategies for economic and political advancement." (6-7)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ebrahim Moosa - Epistemic Openness & "Islamic Thought"

The idea of Muslims being open to knowledge from various sources (human or 'secular' knowledge or even ideas from thinkers in other religious traditions) instead of a narrow minded approach (quoting the verse "This day I have perfected for you your religion" and thus questioning what need do we have of anything else) is something I've come to really appreciate.

Recently the Zaytuna College website has a piece on "General Education: A Demystified Approach." I think Ebrahim Moosa in the following passage also writes eloquently on this:
One of the issues related to change that has exercised me for some time is an observation that stems from my reading of classical Islamic texts, whether they be law, theology, history, mysticism, or philosophy. When studying the ancients, I am struck the epistemic openness and the liberty with which many thinkers and authors energetically engaged with a wide variety of knowledge traditions. They did so without allowing the provenance of knowledge be a decisive veto factor. Hence, a good portion of early Muslim intellectuals were open to the spirit of knowledge, whether it came from Greek, Indian, Biblical, or other philosophical traditions. Some strains of thought did resist this intellectual orientation, but they were hardly successful in dampening it.

This picture contrasts radically with many strains of contemporary Muslim intellectual thought, especially religious discourse. The provenance of an idea or a practice is more significant in contemporary thought than the substance of the idea. The prevalence of this condition has not only resulted in the atrophy of knowledge, but the process of knowledge production itself has suffocated. Knowledge related to religious discourse, such as ethics, law, theology, and philosophy, is quarantined from intercourse with ideas that have a non-Islamic genealogy. Only in the realm of science and technology is knowledge of a non-Islamic provenance tolerated, since these are viewed as secular discourses.” –pg. 25-26 of Ghazali & The Poetics of Imagination
Addition 10/29/09 from Dr. Jackson:
"The spread of Islam outside the Arabian Peninsula brought into the fold of the Muslim empire a range of peoples, cultures, intellectual and religious traditions. In the early period, there was no such thing as 'Islamic thought,' like the usul al-fiqh, kalam, and usul al-din that would later be so designated. As such, conversion to Islam did not oblige individuals to convert to any particular tradition of thinking. Rather, converts would come to Islam with the intention of 'thinking' on the data of revelation in the best way they knew how, be that way grounded in a Greek, Manichean, or Arab nativist tradition. Over the course of the formative period, some of these traditions would be able to sustain themselves as legitimate while others would be rejected as alien or even antithetical to Islam. In the final analysis, however, all of them would share a common trait: they were all historically determined, ultimately external to revelation. Recognizing this fact would appear to be the sine qua non for the success of any religion with universalist claims. It is interesting, however, to see so many who champion the universalist claims of Islam unable or unwilling to recognize this fact."- pg. 16
from Dr. Jackson's introduction to his annotated translation of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's Faysal al-Tafriqa, On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam

"Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan defends his views"

I missed this interview with Dr. Tariq Ramadan in the LA Times September 22nd 2009.

"The Swiss-born thinker, who was denied a visa to teach in the U.S., says he is a reformist interested in a 'post-integration discourse' to explore the ways Muslims in the West can contribute."

"Calling for greater religious strife with Islam"

Great post at by Glenn Greenwald critiquing Ross Douthat's Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this Sunday.
The New York Times today, in the form of Ross Douthat's column, has published what could fairly be described as a call for a Christian religious war -- certainly metaphorical and perhaps literal -- against Islam. Douthat praises recent efforts by Pope Benedict to recruit disaffected Anglicans back into the Catholic Church by dispensing with the last half-century's practice of religions "being exquisitely polite to one another." Douthat claims -- approvingly -- that Benedict's current recruitment efforts are grounded in "Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam." Declaring Islam to be "Christianity's most enduring and impressive foe," Douthat says that many Christians want confrontation -- not accommodation, "conciliation," or "appeasement" -- with Islam, and thus may flock to the Catholic Church to get behind Benedict's forceful denunciations of the faith of 25% of the world's population:
Thanks to Wajahat Ali for this

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baldwin: if the word integration means anything...

And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must be. (9-10)

Deep Baldwin quote from Letter to Nephew

There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatsoever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their identity. (8-9)

From James Baldwin's "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation" (1962) fromThe Fire Next Time

Baldwin quote - Know whence you came

"Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go." (8)

James Baldwin quote - Love

From James Baldwin's "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation" (1962) from The Fire Next Time:
Well, you were born, here you came, something like fifteen years ago; and though your father and mother and grandmother, looking about the streets through which they were carrying you, staring at the walls into which they brought you, had every reason to be heavyhearted, yet they were not. For here you were, Big James, named for me - you were a big baby, I was not - here you were; to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard, at once, and forever, to strengthen you against the loveless world. Remember that: I know how black it looks today, for you. It looked bad that day, too, yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children's children. (6-7)

Israeli police raid Aqsa compound

Israeli police have raided al-Aqsa mosque's compound, clashing with Muslim worshippers and arresting Palestinian protesters.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Exciting Readings for Class!

Salaams everybody,

Ma sha Allah, this week for my 'Poverty of Literature' class we're reading Richard Wright's Black Boy, and for my 'The Faith Between Us' writing seminar, we're reading James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time! (And next week is Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of American History!) You can say that I'm very much enjoying my first semester at NYU!

In other news, I have to say - I really like this spoken word piece by Cornel West, "3M's" in the background of this slideshow from the "Martin & Malcolm: Implications of their Legacies for the Future" event where Imam Zaid spoke with Cornel West in December 2005.

Here are the lyrics from a part of it:

"brother Malcolm
truth teller about the night side of american democracy
tellin' america like it is,
its vicious legacy of white supremacy

we shall never forget the witness that you bore
we shall never forget the love that you laid bare

your fiery spirit is at work among the younger generation
they and us shall never forget you"

-Cornel West in 3Ms

Imam Zaid on the Educational Challenge for Our Religious Leaders

The challenge of exemplifying the prophetic virtues, coupled with the challenge of calling humanity to those virtues requires that we rise to the challenge of leadership. Meeting that challenge will require a vastly enhanced base of both religious and worldly knowledge in our communities. Collectively, our entire community, men, women, and youth, has to aspire to heightened levels of educational attainment. As John Kennedy, Malcolm X, and many others have said, "Knowledge is power." We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that we are in a position to even begin to lead humanity. To meet the challenge of leadership, we must meet the challenge of enhanced education and literacy.

This challenge is especially pressing for our religious leaders. Contributing to the solution to problems related to global development and population growth, medical crises such as AIDS and SARS, bioethical issues such as human stem cell research, cloning, and vivisection, and other contentious religious, philosophical, social, political, cultural, and economic issues will require scholars who are steeped in our intellectual tradition, conversant with contemporary intellectual currents, and capable of judiciously assessing controversial social issues and debates....(34-35) from "Abraham's Story" in Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim

Abdal Hakim Murad on traditional studies and the modern world context

A number of relevant quotes from an interview with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on the Cambridge Muslim College initative:

"There are plenty of young British Muslims studying all over the Muslim world and what they don’t learn in those places is how to relate their traditional wisdom to the reality on the streets in the city of Britain,” Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad, also known as Timothy J. Winter, told

What Muslims acknowledge, whether traditionalists or modernists, is that most of ulemaa (scholars) in the west really need to know what the modern world is,” he added.

“We are giving them the cultural ability to apply what they know to the modern western context in which they live,” explained Murad.

“If there is going to be a real tajdeed (renewal) in Islamic thought in this age, then you need to have leaders with a wide range of fields who can really speak with confidence. They need to have traditional Islamic knowledge and a good grasp of how it can be applied to deal with daily issues relevant to Muslim communities,” said Murad.