Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Muntasir Zaman: Ḥadīth Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī and the First Print of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

James Traub: The Middle East’s Age of Innocence Is Over (March 20, 2018)

Brookings Institute: "Islam as statecraft: How Governments Use Religion in Foreign Policy" by Peter Mandaville & Shadi Hamid (Nov 2018)

Letters by Prof. Sherman Jackson, Rashid Dar, Ismail Royer & Charles Glenn re: Paul Rowan Brian (“Muslims in American Politics,” November)

Paul Rowan Brian seems to think that Muslim “orthodoxy” is uncompromisingly anti-liberal, but this is demonstrably not the case. Muslim orthodoxy, even in pre-modern times, has always recognized the right of non-Muslims to do things Islam deems morally repugnant, from consuming wine to marrying ­incestuously. Such “tolerance” in an American context falls perfectly in line with the “liberalism” of the left.
Meanwhile, contrary to Brian, “conservative” Muslims do not necessarily betray their religious convictions every time they compromise on a pre-modern position. Islam has a palpable prudential element, and its fundamental “conservative” commitment is not to the substance of past positions per se, but to the authority of the texts, precedents, and time-honored interpretive principles by which these are ratified. In its best tradition, Muslim “conservatism” has always been a negotiated ­enterprise.
Brian would be right to see Islam’s conservative impulse as clashing with liberalism were liberalism understood as an epistemology instead of a concrete battery of moral positions. For one can oppose liberal epistemology, for example, in the form of liberal versions of “freedom,” “consent,” “reason,” and the like, without necessarily negating liberal positions, such as allowing non-Muslims to eat pork or have abortions. Even the most assiduous commitment to the texts, precedents, and interpretive principles enshrined in Muslim tradition can yield “liberal” positions, just as it can yield “conservative” ones.
In this light, we might revisit ­Brian’s reference to Hamza Yusuf, Omar Suleiman, Zaid Shakir, and myself. Leaving aside whether these men are in full agreement, are their views on race, foreign policy, the environment, and workers’ rights liberal or Islamic? Are Shakir’s views on feminism conservative or Islamic? In short, given Muslim tradition’s interpretive ambidextrousness, why should these scholars’ espousal of the views Brian cites be seen as an intentional act of siding with “the left”?
I agree with Brian that many Muslim activists and organizations have thrown their lot in with liberal allies, presumably as quid pro quo for defending Muslims. Personally (and I claim no monopoly on truth here), I believe this is a mistake; I do not believe we can preserve Islam in America without preserving religion. And I see the left as supporting only domesticated forms of religion that applaud the state and the dominant culture while never ­seriously challenging either. Yet religious conservatives—not just Evangelicals—tend to look the elephant right in the face but only curse his shadow. They act as if they can protect Christianity and America by keeping Islam and other non-­Christian religions at bay, while liberalism, secularism, and ­scientism continue to degrade religion’s plausibility structure to the point of ­threatening Christianity’s health and viability. In this context, one must wonder what opportunities actually exist for Muslims to ally with Christian conservatives and what advantage Muslims might actually gain from such a relationship.
All of this begs Brian’s ultimate question of whether “American Muslims [will] define a place for themselves in American political culture.” Of course, we should avoid the temptation to see Muslims as a monolith. There will be Muslims whose views are motivated by liberalism, Muslims who are inspired by American conservatism, and Muslims whose highest priority is that their political views not run afoul of Muslim tradition. As long as all remain American citizens, all will have a place in American political culture. Perhaps the real ­question, however, is ­whether Muslims must accept the existing political culture in America as an ­unassailable given to which they must simply “adjust.” Might not the tradition of Islam (the optics of the ­contemporary Muslim world notwithstanding) provide insights, experience, and lessons that enrich America’s political culture and expand its possibilities beyond the present paralysis of the liberal-conservative, secular-religious divide? God knows best. 
Sherman A. Jackson
university of southern 
los angeles, california

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Foreign Policy: Saudi Arabia Declares War on America’s Muslim Congresswomen (Dec 11 2018)

Gulf Arab monarchies are using racism, bigotry, and fake news to denounce Washington's newest history-making politicians.

Shaykh Bin Bayyah on Terrorism, Governance & Justice

It is the first of these -- matters of governance -- that relate to the issue of terrorism. The United States government believes that bringing democracy to Muslim nations will, in general, solve many ills affecting Muslim societies and, in particular, resolve the problem of terrorism. Lost in this emphasis on democracy is the value of justice. Islam insists that justice is at the heart of good governance. The Qur'an says: God commands you to repay pledges to the people due them; and to judge with justice when you judge between people. Excellent is what God instructs you; for God is all-knowing, all seeing (4:58) It is narrated that when 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Azīz was informed by his deputy about the Khawārij, he wrote back saying: "Extinguish their sedition with justice."
Justice is a cure, but inherent in it is the preservation of life, property, human dignity, and fulfilling the rights of others. This is what 'Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb meant in his letter to Abū Mūsā, when he wrote, "It is enough for an impoverished Muslim that he is treated justly in government and has his fair share in the distribution of wealth." Leaders are accountable before God even in how they respond to natural disasters, let alone how they redress any wrongs.

 --Dr. 'Abd Allāh Bin al-Sheikh Mahfūẓ Bin Bayyah, The Culture of Terrorism: Tenets and Treatments, tr. by Hamza Yusuf, (Sandala & Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, 2014), p. 10.

"This publication is based upon a lecture deliver by Shaykh 'Abd Allāh bin Bayyah at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, 2007." 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Problem of “Political Sufism”

The dilemma these so-called political Sufis face today, (many of whom I still respect and love) is one of moral and ethical consistency with their spiritual forefathers and listening to their detractors with more empathy and humility.  Polemical critiques of misguided Muslims/extremists cannot come at the expense of turning a blind eye to injustices wrought by state-sponsored autocracy and military pillaging. The problem with “political Sufism” today therefore, is not that such a phenomenon exists, it is how it manifests. In these politically precarious times, perhaps it is more characteristically Sufi to first listen to the calling of the soul of those “whose hair are disheveled and bodies covered with dust and who are pushed away from the door due to their apparent wretchedness” (Hadith) rather than vying for the approval of those spinning webs of tyranny, sitting in their gold-clad mansions.

Muntasir Zaman: Ḥadīth Scholarship in the Indian Subcontinent: Mawlānā Aḥmad ʿAlī al-Sahāranpūrī and the First Print of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Guenon on modernity and humanity's descent

To the standard European conviction of the possibility and the desirability of progress, Guenon replied that progress was an illusion masking regression. Changes that most Europeans saw as improvements were actually degeneration. The growth of individualism, for example, did not bring any real freedom, but rather the atomization and homogenization of society, and so the reduction of real freedom (Guenon 1945). The decline that Guenon saw everywhere was, he argued, inevitable. The true direction of humanity's movement was not ascent but descent. Modernity constituted the last and lowest stage of this descent. [8]
-Mark Sedgwick, "Guenonian Traditionalism and European Islam," in Producing Islamic Knowledge: Transmission and dissemination in Western Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), ed. Martin van Bruinessen and Stefano Allievi, p. 172.

the "local" and "global" re: Guenon, "Traditionalism" & contemporary Islamic discourse

An examination of Traditionalism also shows quite how global contemporary Islamic discourse has become, and thus warns of the possible dangers of examining Islam in a purely European context. Although Islam is surely becoming localized in Europe today, and although examining Islam in a purely European context permits many valuable insights, the twenty-first century promises to be a century of ever increasing globalization. The Islamic discourse currently taking place in languages such as English is not limited to any particular region of the world.

-Mark Sedgwick, "Guenonian Traditionalism and European Islam," in Producing Islamic Knowledge: Transmission and dissemination in Western Europe (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), ed. Martin van Bruinessen and Stefano Allievi, p. 169.