Islamic Studies

A Call For Integrity And Introspection: Revival, Responsibility And Education

Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad (h) said:

“In the twentieth century, however, the traditional pragmatism of Sunnism seemed to generate an ulema ethos that was certainly not quietist, but had nothing in common with Qutbian Islamism either.

Hence the Deobandi movement in India, and its Tablighi offshoot, supported the Congress party, and generally opposed Partition.

Arab religious leaders sometimes resorted to force, as with the Naqshbandi shaykh Izz al-Din al-Qassam in mandate Palestine; but the independence movements were overwhelmingly directed by secular modernists.

The ancient universities, al-Qarawiyyin, al-Zaytuna, al-Azhar and the rest, regarded the modern period as a mandate for doctrinal retrenchment and the piecemeal ijtihad-based reassessment of aspects of Islamic law.

In other words, mainstream Islam’s response to the startling novelty of a modernity that was forced on its societies at the point of an imperial or postcolonial bayonet was self-scrutinising and cautious, not militant.”

Dr. Tariq Ramadan (h) said something which works well to bring refinement to our thinking about groups (Abul-Hussein):

Whether one agrees or not with the theses of these movements, systematic study and a serious effort to understand the forces at work within political Islam require a triple approach:

A study of the theological and legal underpinnings of the movements (literalist, reformist, mystical or other).
Knowledge of the historical depth of these manifestations; numerous movements and/or leaders, such as Erdogan in Turkey and Ghanoushi in Tunisia, have changed their positions in the course of their political involvement.
A detailed study of the national realities that have impinged on the growth and evolution of Islamist movements.

Only this kind of three-pronged examination can provide us with a proper framework for understanding the phenomenon of political Islam, far from ignorant reductionism or ideological manipulation of “the Islamist threat.” This inquiry is not about agreement or disagreement with this or that political-religious thesis, but of dealing scientifically with the matter under study.

Abul-Hussein’ comments:

In the post 911 scramble for legitimacy we are witnessing the rise of a multiplicity of claims for authority and authenticity in the community of Muslims in the West. The cacophony of voices that we hear at times is akin to an aching screaming mule, at others one gets the feeling of being before angry, frustrated teenagers and at times the cacophony is a mark of promise and hope.

It is interesting to see amid this scramble for power and to be more specific, scramble for interpretative power some claim for themselves the keys to excommunication and or declarative power to pronounce anathema such as untraditional or modernist. Western Traditionalism in its attempt to gain interpretative authority over Islam in the West and to attain control over the soul and intellect has given itself license for critique (ijaza) after what Ustadh Umar Lee entitled the fall of the Salafi Da’wah. Of late in this phase of Islamic Revival we have seen a semblance of coordination in demonizing the other within the House of Islam and we have to admit that all are guilt of such sin if we are to be honest with each other.

What is strangely fascinating is that before 911 we heard from within traditionalism itself a demonization of the West, in fact, we have on record the claim of traditionalism that the West is the Dajjal and its rule is a New World Order. A claim that was enough to disturb law and order in a post 911 world –possibly a reason for its retraction. The emergence of the traditionalist discourse early on was a cross between a da’wah to seek knowledge and to drop out of society with smatterings of Chomskyian analysis of the West (the espousal of Anarchy as a critique of the West).

I remember observing the psychological state of youth who subscribed to such a rhetoric 8-10years ago and what I found was disgruntlement and disenchantment with the world and confusion of how to live in the world after their outing in the desert of rhetoric and knowledge seeking. If one is to say that the Saudis pumped money and established institutes of intellectual militancy via Wahabism in the West then why not employ a trusted Sufi principle while making such claims and aim toward objectivity in describing our plight. Criticism can be constructive under certain conditions unto date most of our criticism in the West is destructive, deconstructive but in yet we claim to represent another tradition.

Let us make Muhasiba ( a self critique principle used in Sufism) of the school of traditionalism and then also the Salafi da’wah and in point of fact all da’wah efforts in the West and let us come honestly to the table and say many did not have a real clue as to how to make da’wah in the West early on. A lack of knowledge on the part of many led to confusion and spiritual disorder.

I do not find that our community became so enlightened and refined by Dr. Abdul Hakim Murad’s critiques nor those of Dr. Gibril Haddaad (h) just as I did not benefit much from Shaikh Hamza Yusuf’s (h) claim that the West was the Dajjal. Likewise, I must say that the fallout of the Salafi da’wah in the West hurt a good many people nor did a sound knowledge of the Sunnah spread despite so much talk of the Sunnah.

It is true that people were undermined in their development by the introduction of works such as Milestones to the youth. The scathing critiques of Shaikh Muqbil (r) and others alienated a good many despite sincerity our community was ripped apart. In addition, the early efforts of the Black Mosque and the rhetoric of liberation and lack of access to knowledge limited growth in a world which demanded literacy of Islam leaving many open to any claim to authenticity that referred to tradition, or the Book and the Sunnah or other da’wah efforts. Tablighi Jamaat from Asia and Sufi Tareeqas that came from Turkey divorced the American community (African) from really building community and integrating into life in the West. Groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir despite their sharp program in political literacy served to alienate more than educate. The da’wah of the blind Shaikh Umar Abdur-Rahman to take to the sword to the world as a means for restoration of Muslim dignity bypassed the ethics of Islam and did little to educate and cultivate on fundamentals pushing the Muslim to frustration and takfeer and transgression.

We Muslims are all at fault for the failures of da’wah in the West. Maturity demands that we stand to take responsibility for our faults. The fact that we fail to authentically interface with one another is of great astonishment and the fact that despite living in the West we have difficulty in communicating with the Other (non-muslims) is only a sign of the greater problem an indication of a greater illness that demands cure. So little has been invested in the Islamic education of Muslims in the West and to be frank all can be accused of ideological positions. I find perrenialism and its loathing of modernity to be problematic as are some of the ideas of Said Qutb (r ) as well the critiques of traditionalism of modernity especially since it entails that the Muslim world remain backwards and poised against everything Western and open to its vices. Why can’t we have an honest discussion and admit that we the community of Muslims in the West did not really understand what Islam demands of us today and that we are still struggling to understand in the light of tasting the bitterness of qadar are trying to figure out what Allah (swt) is asking today.

Our crisis today is one of intellect and spirit as well as one of ignorance, poverty and repression (political) and in some cases it is one of indifference and ungratefulness. We live in a world that is overshadowed by the West (globalization) and there are positives and negatives to that. We must ask what is the dalil that holds Islam can not use positive experiences from culture? Western culture is like any other culture and historical experience it has deficiencies and strengths. Shar’iah teaches us to build on human civilization (experience) and perfect as long as a matter of culture, experience does not conflict with Shar’iah principles or the aims of Shar’iah we have no problem in utilizing these to further the betterment of the quality of life and living.

We must ask ourselves if it is the case that the Qur’an came to guide and cultivate why is it the case that we have so few schools or programs to teach the Book of Allah (swt)? We argue over the Sunnah but what is out there so that we can really learn and have a good understanding of the Sunnah? We debate Aqeeda but how are we becoming qualified in knowledge and character to do so? We speak about madhabs and fiqh and other matters of law but how many of us are really learning how to read fiqh works, understand dalil or give relevant fatwa? We yearn for spirituality but how many of us have emptied our hearts of our ego? We speak about tradition but so little has been invested into its preservation and its publishing, to make it comprehensible and to undertake an impartial reading of it.

We are in need of self criticism, tauba and humility. We are need of building character, ibadah, and “education (adab and ilm). We are all at fault and integrity demands that we end the blame game and begin to blame ourselves (attain to the degree of nafs al-lawwama) and then we work together to help the world be a better place and work to better a place for ourselves in the hereafter.

Oh Muslim be compassionate and stand for justice and speak out against yourself if need be, be truthful. The fact is we are in a decline as a Muslim empire but we do not have to be retarded as a Muslim Ummah. At the end of the day despite the claims made by this one and that one we have been left with no educational structure capable of meeting the challenges we face this century and we have little to none qualified in the Muslim community in the West from the indigenous that have the ability to form a fatwa council that interfaces with the top scholars of the world or to guide others through their problems? Where are the servant-leaders?

Western Muslims at times illustrate arrogance and hatred for foreign Muslims but have not done much to build a community that is functional no to mention that we have had to and still depend on assistance from overseas for education and investment. It is our attitude that is holding us back.
One might say: is it not the case that analysis under certain conditions leads to paralysis? The answer to that is indeed it does. We are not in need of casting blame, making claims or justification for ideological stances we need people who give a damn enough to build a community of educated Muslims possessed of wisdom and understanding, people who love each other and stand as a model of character and refined etiquette, intellect, unity and Iman.

The Prophet (saw) joined the hearts of those that differed in color tongue and temperment he did not sit back and critique others, deconstruct the world round him he build men and women and forged a community engaged in the world. Orthodoxy if we are to talk about pragmatism is determined by results on the ground, the building of people. And to the cause of building people the Prophet (saw) made an effort to speak to people in a language they understood and at their level, he spoke to their intellect and heart without engaging pedantic discourse –a man for all seasons (saw).

The Prophet (saw) joined hearts and his message calls to that as well as literacy and character (education) in all times and places, modernity, post-modernity and beyond. Islam is neither of the East or the West it is Nur for all.

Abul al-Hussien Amriki thuma al-maliki

About the author

Yusuf Rios (Abul Hussein)

Yusuf Rios (Abul Hussein)

Yusuf Rios was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While becoming a Catholic priest, Yusuf discovered the path to Islam. He studied Islamic sciences for a period of seven years, studying with scholars in Cleveland, Ohio before receiving a work-study contract with the Islamic American University. At the Islamic American University, he read Arabic and a limited number of Islamic sciences intensively for one year. He then traveled to Cairo, Egypt where he resided for five years. There, he attended a number of intensive courses at Arabic learning centers. After these courses, he joined various scholarly circles, reading Islamic sciences with a host of scholars of diverse expertise and orientations. Yusuf takes particular pride in having studied intimately with a number of scholars from al-Azhar University. Likewise, he has great love and attachment to Egypt and especially al-Azhar Mosque where he studied for the major portion of his residence in Egypt. Yusuf has a Bachelors in Western Philosophy and Sociology and is working on a Masters in Education. He serves as an instructor in Islamic Sciences with Islamic American University and in local mosques in Dearborn, Michigan and Cleveland, Ohio. His four main research areas in Islamic sciences are in the areas of Usul al-Fiqh, Maqasid ash Shar’ia, Hadith Sciences, and Fiqh.

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  • “We are in need of self criticism, tauba and humility. We are need of building character, ibadah, and “education (adab and ilm). We are all at fault and integrity demands that we end the blame game and begin to blame ourselves (attain to the degree of nafs al-lawwama) and then we work together to help the world be a better place and work to better a place for ourselves in the hereafter.”

    Well said.

  • Asalamualaikum wa rahmatallah,

    I think one thing we should always try to keep in mind is that we are all brothers in this deen, and we all follow the Prophet, peace be upon him.

    “Western Muslims at times illustrate arrogance and hatred for foreign Muslims but have not done much to build a community that is functional.”

    Akhi, this is so true, we should not treat our brothers this way. I have been in a state of shock ever since Imam Suhaib mentioned there are only 5 American students in al-Azhar University. 5? We expect to have a future in the West with such pathetic numbers? Where are all the future imams, teachers, scholars, and thinkers who are going to lead the 7-10 million Muslims in America? We are heading for disaster unless we change course and start prioritizing Islamic knowledge and begin training imams and scholars for our future. It is nearly impossible now to bring in ulema from overseas.

    And Allah knows best.

  • salaam aleykum.
    mr. abul hussein with all due respect the central premise of your thesis is baseless because you dont attempt to explain, define, explore what traditionalism means to you. in what can only be described as fallacious is your assertion that traditonalists were demonising the west and have retracted post 9-11. lets cut the facade and speak honestly. you quote shaykh abdal haim murad and then you talk about this demonising the west situation. well abdal hakim murad has always maintained a consistent position regarding the west. we all know you are reffering to shaykh Hamza, that being the case dont conflate the two scholars position, not least because it is a dishonest tactic to use to make your argument, maybe then you wont be strangely fascinated. there is no monolithic group called traditionalists whose scholars all agree on everything, who hold the same political views, who agree in the same ways forward etc, therefore all that you say ends up being baseless………
    secondly, maybe part of the problem was that you were looking for a final analysis that is the answer to all answers. maybe that approach by its nature will always fail. maybe trying to truly understand the critque of shaykh abdal hakim murad as not merely wahhabi bashing, or the prennielist critique as not merely modernity bashing, etc. but seeing that all critiques contribute in some ways to enhance our understanding, and allow us to formulate our own comment and critique for a way forward.

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