Imam Yusuf Rios
[Self-determination theory (SDT) is a macro-theory of human motivation concerned with the development and functioning of personality within social contexts. The theory focuses on the degree to which human behaviors are volitional or self-determined – that is, the degree to which people endorse their actions at the highest level of reflection and engage in the actions with a full sense of choice.]
Deliberation over the notions of “continuity” and “forward movement” as corner stones of Islamic American thought demands on our part a high level of literacy in a number of fields of these are: Islamic sciences and the tradition and history of Islam in America. Indigenous Muslims in the “post-Malcolm X” phase of Islam in America have more often than not depended upon the immigrant community to provide intellectual and scholastic leadership and models of orthodoxy. This has been to the detriment of the community. Unfortunately, integration into the immigrant community has come at an inflated price. In effect, the needs of the Muslim indigenous community are in a state of dereliction. There is no need here to cast blame upon anyone but what is necessitated is to carry responsibility for the way the future of Islam will be managed and to ensure that indigenous Muslims play a significant role in the leadership of the community of Muslims in the West.
In re-reading the history of Islam in America we must re-visit the institution of the Black Mosque (TBM). TBM no perfect model of Islam nor did it represent a means to greater social integration except in the case of the Warith Deen Muhammad community. What the TBM did was carry over traditions inherited from the Nation of Islam and of those traditions was the practice of discipline, self determination and self reliance.
These values are less manifest as communal values taught to all in the immigrant community in the sense that they are not virtues taught in a universal common curriculum as they were in the Black Mosque. Rather, in the new Mosque these are individual values and he who does not embody them in the community is left behind. An example of the problem of addressing the needs of the indigenous community is best illustrated in an event that I witnessed and will narrate here for embellishment of the main thesis of this post. A seminar was carried out in a Mosque which I attended it included Arabic speakers and English speakers. Two separate seminars were carried out for each of the two language groups. The Arabic language seminar was geared towards economic empowerment of the Arabic speaking community by facilitatinglegal responsa (fatawa). In the case of the English speaking seminar the students were being schooled on the world of the haram.
This problem that the indigenous face started early and is best represented in the rise of Shaikh Hamza Yusuf (h) and his disassociation with the African American Imams who were born out of the Nationalist movement and or the Nation of Islam. It was here that the struggle for defining Orthodoxy begun to some extent. Hence, we fail to see Siraj Wa Hajj function in a leadership platform with Hamza Yusuf. To be fair Dr. Jackson chronicles it to be at an earlier date within the African American community itself and that is to be seen in his struggles with defining Orthodoxy (see: The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance). But to be more exact we can situate the struggle to define orthodoxy with with El-Hajj Malik ash-Shabazz (r) when he declared himself free of the Nation of Islam.
I would have to agree with the popular contention that Blacks have been sidelined by immigrant progress much which has been part and parcel of being an immgrant and entering American society at the middle class based on the privilege of an education sponsored by foreign governments or rich families. This is no real matter in itself except that sociologically it is a factor to be considered for its explanatory potential. Many of the indigenous Muslims outside the Warith Deen community are not economically mobile. So we have two problems in the indigenous community and that is deficiency in islamic education and lower income status. Hence, the need for the value of self determination.
“Continuity” for the indigenous means learning to look back to the positive aspects of what the African American community contributed to the establishment of Islam in America and to Islamic tradition. The idea of “looking forward” signifies building community on the basis of learning and upon the premise of self-determination and an interdependence permeated by the values of brotherhood, equality and justice. The indigenous community is charged by the immigrant community with not having established Islam in America. In other words, the indigenous are not working for the growth and presence of Islam institutionally and this charge is partially false as well as true addressing this matter it is best done in a separate post.
Moving beyond the crisis of indigenous and immigrant relations demands orientation and vision on part of the indigenous, coupled with knowledge, character, and cooperation. Reliance upon the notion of “the brother-hood” of Islam” at this stage is an unsustainable position given the politics of decision making and allocation of funds in the Muslim community overall (95% of funds which are invested in overseas charity projects). What we knew as indigenous Muslims was discipline and self-determination two virtues we forgot when we became concerned with defining orthodoxy. Continuity and looking forward demands that we cultivate these virtues and continue to build on our knowledge base of Qur’an, Sunnah and Islamic sciences working towards a practical viable model for community in America as conscious Muslim-Americans. Plus, as indigenous Muslims we are faced with working with diversity as the notion of indigenous has grown out of the sense of African American to include European Americans and Latin Americans and second generation immigrant children. On the other hand, we the people, must work to empower ourselves through proper management of our affaird and wealth and investing in education. We must tend to our homes lest they implode due to neglect we are being taxed without representation in the immigrant community and this matter needs redress and balance so that we can pursue happiness (Islam in America) in the spirit of the brotherhood of Islam. We do not need a blame game but a game plan-strategy.
I'm not sure I understand your assessment of Hamza Yusuf's disassociation from AA Imams. He has worked very well with Imam Zaid?
I would just like to echo Shiekh Webb's sentiment politely. I think there is a video even of a meeting; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVqcpeXAOH4&feat… (5:05 minutes).
May Allah increase you in good.
brother imam yusuf's concerns are broadly the plight of the indigenous muslims and their continued marginalization in the immigrant muslim discourse that is largely shaped by economic and social forces in america. i feel the question sits largely along the anti-capitalist literature of dependency theory (Biel, 2002) where underdevelopment can only be understood in relation to the language of development, progress and way forward, at the exclusion of those on whose behalf development is normalized. I want to steer clear from the theological debate on orthodoxy as that is not my field of interest, however I find the inadequacy of indigenous culture and identity in the dominant memory of immigrant sub-culture similar to what anti-colonial writers call an untenable task to complete outside of indigenous experience (Smith, 2001). it is true that a lot of scholars are emphasizing on mixing the math teaching education curriculum with black history as the achievement of one cannot be done without a knowledge of the other. three hundred years of eonomic exploitation cannot be overcome by blaming on lack of discipline. the indigenous population which has come to represent a broad spectrum of non-immigrant muslims largely being dispersed at the periphery by means of cultural and economic exclusion, due to the nature of how continuity and progress has been defined in the mosque and islamic academe. the tools of exploitation such as racism, division of labour and the science of underdevelopment has come to be understood in the anti-imperialist literature (Rodney, 1974) as an economic means to neutralize the threat to the system of discrimination. i would not argue on the point if another world inside the world of islam is possible for indigenous muslims in america, as the social cohesion of muslims depend on the weakest links amongst us. the discourse on whose islam and who defines it cannot be separate from the extra-economic and economic bases of the political entity we are in. the economic and social inclusion of our fragmented identites will be shaped by the larger forces of race relations, financial markets and mobility of the consumers of political islam. The immigrant groups use of selective islam to forge partnership that fosters their long term settlement has to be seen in the light of their exclusion from the center of their power in traditional societies. self-determination by proxy of a colonial experience that keeps the conditions of change both opaque and precise at the same time so as to control the discourse of empowerment is suspect with pauperization both spiritual and economic.
Isn't it possible that some of the indigenous have done more to support an immigrant understanding that undermines local articulation than even the immigrants? I would hold that the traditionalist doctrine expounded by Hamza Yusuf, Nuh Keller and Timothy Winter [Karim Sarin] in the late 90's contributed to:
1. Distancing of the masses from a personal relationship with Allah [Being told that that requires an ijaza]
2. Undermined mobility and vision for living in the West because scholarship was only to be found outside of the USA. While attaining a functional literacy is possible with programs like the IAU, al-Maghrib, Alim and the Zaytuna College, or just studying with local Imams.
3. Supported the very set of anti Western ideals that Sh. Abul Hussein is addressing in his thesis (Portable Pc's were denounced, modern methods of education where criticized and the West was gutted). Of course, after 9-11 that suddenly changed and now we see positions articulated by people like Faisal Rauf and his wife Daisy and people working with non-Muslim entities created to “Shape a discourse” such as One Nation and its film competition. I was told by a person asking me to join that organization that, “If you don’t work with us, your risk being isolated.” I responded, “Like who?” The response was chilling, “Like Siraj Wahaj. He’s not invited anywhere any more.”.
4. injected Eastern arguments (why are recent converts discussing issues like Allah’s essence?) and polemics into the veins of an innocent community. This created division, because it was countered by extreme Salafisim which, oddly enough, achieved some of the same things noted above.
At the same time organizations like ICNA and people like Dr. Altaf Hussein, although made up of a large group of immigrants, got on the ground, spread the message and built organizations for functionality.
Traditionalism as “ideology” had positive and negative effects. As for the positive effects it demonstrated to the West a notion of scholarship beyond the literalism and stretched interpretations at times found in TBM. On the other hand, there were excesses this is an issue that needs more analysis. One of the main breaking points was a focus on the speculative to the exclusion of the pragmatism we found in Imam Siraj Wa Haj (h). This is not to say we need to do away with theory and rationality but without running the risk of bashing we need to figure out how to take from the positive pulses that were present pre 9-11 and pre immigrant dominance.
On the practical level there are three things you mentioned, Shaikh Suhaib that are important for our growth in the West and they are:
1.) encouraging people to have a spiritual connection with Allah in a neutral way
2.) service oriented organizations.
3.) excluding the majority of Muslims from partisan debates transported from the East and scholarly debates that are not related to action but matters of theory
On another plane we have to figure out what does being a scholar in the West mean that has yet to be defined or rather articulated and this involves helping people navigate through their studies in the East so that they can function in the West and not drop out of life and society.
The early generation of converts you mentioned contributed greatly to the identity of Muslims and that contribution in hindsight can be read from varying perspectives. What one hopes is for more fluidity in the way we plan and more qualitative management of the growth of the Community. Traditionalism is adapting hence University programs in the UK and US for teaching tradition this is a major shift.
What we hope is to get beyond ideological matters and towards functionality as indigenous and with immigrants. And this for the sake of the future of Islam in the US and the West overall. Now there is a point you mentioned which is one which demands responsibility and that is the notion of local articulation of Islamic practice this is where we have to focus in relation to being part of the Ummah.
The elders of the past both from TBM, the salafis, the traditionalists and the Islamic movement and others really had trouble in developing a vision for functioning in the West which is inclusive, plural and yet draws on the unity of the Muslims. To be honest I do not hold them to blame but rather to account for the future. A lot of mistakes were made and these serve as lessons to be studied, thought about and learned and used to construct a better future.
So, the Traditionalists alone are not to blame. TBM, did not provide a means to functionality and for this reason a large percentage of the TBM went Salafi. What bothers me most and scares me is a potential color divide we see a large portion of Blacks and now Latinos who are Salafi and a large portion of whites that are traditional and there are conflicts between the two groups albeit less today than yesterday. One of the things the Salafi da'wah did was kill the notion of self determination which the Black and Latino community in the inner city is in desperate need of as well as Whites in rural communities. These are generalizations of course but we need to target our populations according to need and aid them with discourses of empowerment and cooperation, brotherhood that is practical.
Personally and I may be wrong I have not seen any discourse we imported from overseas that is not in need of modification and re-evaluation in light of time and place and principles from Islamic sciences. We need to have a da'wah with targets and aims addressed to the people in the West both Muslim (immigrant and indigenous) and non-Muslim and a fiqh that is firm but fluid and practical principled and blue-toothed with a clear dawah. Our leaders need to come together at a functional level they do not need to agree they can accept a pluralism as the basis of their relationship but be united on an action plan that is multi-layered and coincides with the greater goals of building functional community.
A major issue in our community is education over-seas studies alone have been proven not to be sufficient credentials to guide the community neither a degree nor an ijaza and this is a major issue. On another level the psychology of the convert needs to be addressed we do not want our people alienated and lost this is happening. People in the past came to the Muslims because the Muslims showed discipline and promise an alternative at the moment we are showing signs of social breakdown. So there is a problem or set of problems.
An important part of cultivating functionality is understanding where we failed. Traditionalism is adjusting so it is clear it is becoming of its own excesses. The Salafi da'wah too went through a phase of reformulation and the Islamic Movement too is in the crucible. As Muslims we are loosing ground is being relevant to people the current phase of Islam in America is serious the question is will we address the needs of the community now. It is clear people are imploding and many want nothing to do with the Muslims given what they have suffered at the hands of the self declared pious from all groups and orientations of Muslims. This is where you keyed on to something. We can be indigenous Muslims but have an intellectual framework and perception which is alien and alienating. Immigrants historically are shown to possess the potential of dynamicity at we can expect this to be their with a percentage of the Muslim community in America. The question is the indigenous is he or she capable of being dynamic and rise to tend to the needs of the community. The 90's was a time of flux and experiment most of the projects of this age have grown into what we see today in 2009 but it took the effects of 9-11 to push the community in another direction that of being more relevant to American society the fear is that we are not relevant to ourselves (alienated). This is why we need to try to look to the good of that era and re-chart our course(s) of action. The struggle to define Orthodoxy is confusing the masses as is the implosion of immigrant organizations and the infighting of the Muslim community. If we target the people, the indigenous and immigrant children we will begin to unlock a host of social problems as well as potential (da- wa- daw'ai) .
@Abul Hussein and SW
I would like to add, from my limited experience in this world, that when we look deeper, I say that the divide is not necessarily race, but is perceived as such. What I mean is because of a clash of class (with sub-cultures), and a particular class is sometimes of a specific race, then it is perceived as race.
These were just observations.
For the future?
I'm from the midwest, but now live in DC (proper). It is interesting that we talk about “community” because at a particular masjid in the area (suburbs), making a functioning “community” is the MOTTO. From having newspapers, full time schools, restaurants, radio station, etc. I do believe that these visions MUST be in place for our success here in America.
Instead we are all curled up in lil balls in the corner, meeting the demands of those we fear (whether it's people of a race, class, culture, or govt), taking everything day by day without a formulated plan.
What to do?
Point is we need organic leaders to follow, and get advice from. There are few with authentic knowledge that the “masses” would respect. I suggest, starting in a community, and building it up from ground zero, making it a Medina. Then spreading out. (weak suggestion I know…)
Does any conference in America exist for brothers like yourselves, and other Daees that can come together on this issue? If not…that’s a start in formulating a future plan.
Forgive me if I have offended anybody. it was not my intention.
As salamu alaikum to all,
I have been following this thread with much interest. Some great points have been made. However, I feel this discussion is too academic and 1-2 generations would pass before any real benefit would be obtained. I would like to propose something that could be implemented in a couple of years time.
First, minimize the number of venues for salatul jumuah and salatal eid in any one area. For example, in my town (pop. ~ 45,000) we have three separate venues with two of them holding the salatal jumuah at the same time. I do not think we are going to be able to consolidate the various communities in super masajid. However, when the time for salatul jumuah comes we should close the smaller masajid and islamic centers and come together in the most appropriate masjid. In large cities, there is more of a necessity of having multiple venues for the salatul jumuah, but we can still cut down on the number of places and have them strategically located to lessen the burden of brothers and sisters operating with time constraints on Friday. To accomodate people we could have the salatul jumuah at different times in the same venue as is done in many large cities.
I admit it may be more difficult to consolidate the venues for salatul eid since we will have to first agree on the day. However, I think this goal is achievable if the masses become used to coming together as a large body on Fridays.
Second, in the case where a community does not have an imam (or multiple imams are present), the khatib responsibilities should be rotated amongst the qualified in the different communities. This ensures that the different communities (i.e. masajid and islamic centers) will come together on Friday and provides different perspectives and approaches for achieving the objective of the khutba.
Third, masajid/islamic centers should not be established based on an individual's personality or disagreements with other individuals. Here in the USA, we have too many examples of a community that began small and cohesive and because of arguments that are very trivial in retrospect, becomes large and fractured with many non-interacting masajid and islamic centers. One of my greatest fears is that we will adopt the attitude prevalent in Christianity where it is alright to have multiple empty houses of worship within the same area. The opening of new masajid/islamic centers should be dictated mainly by the population needs of the community (i.e. making worship easier). I have no idea how to enforce this step.
If a community of Muslims knows each other, then we will begin to try to meet each other's needs. We will have more respect for each other and I believe we will be less harsh and some of the issues highlighted in the original post can be dealt with.
These are all good ideas brother Jeremiah and brother Yus. I hope this type of thinking continues and we look for ways to build community.
thanks for asking, i will surely be interested to expand on the relations among the muslims as globalization, new identities and past experience impact their economic choices both politically and culturally. there has been many memory driven studies done in the black, muslim and indigenous scholars studying the way dominant discourses create its 'blind spots' towards development and progress that presupposes only one way to resist or change. i think since we are talking about a construction of an alternative stewardship that is both intellectual and practical, we have to train our ears and eyes to what the 'other' is. instead of bringing a lot of the colonial experience to the table we can define our discourse from analysing the readings of modernity, being muslim and textual interpretation from some indigenous western scholarships such as tariq ramadan, ibrahim moosa, abdelkarim soroush ( the list is not exhaustive). however it would be even more useful when we can also compare their ideas with the traditionalists of another time such as ahmadou bamba, ben badis and said nursi who resisted the same ideas of capitalist consumption, commodification and imperial domination of our spiritual and physical dimensions. i will wait for a suitable time in my phd journey to write some of my reflections on them.
I'm taking a humanities class about world religions. I just had an assignment to write about and indigenous religion and how it has changed over time, if it has changed, and how has western civilization impacted the religion. I chose to write about Islam as an indigenous religion. My teacher failed my assignment stating that Islam is not an indigenous religion. Is that true? Why or Why not?
it all depends on the definitions you fix on indigenous and western. murad hoffman and tariq ramadan would argue that islam is a western civilizing force that had created the political and literary west as we have come to understand through the works of ilyad, dante or henry VIII. however if you consider the way paganism in rome was absorbed into the christian fray to resist the fragmentation of its theological and political currency, its treatment of the indigenous religions which transformed the middle east into vassal kingdoms of various eastern orthodoxy could be interpreted as the true 'east' as opposed to the legal status islam was able to provide the practioners of other indigenous faiths. the true east being the intollerant, homogenous and irrational where the true west being organic, rational and tollerant. however maimonedes, an andalusian jewish philosopher first proved that it is not possible to arrive at absolute truths through human rationale. his contemporary was ibn rushd, who was known as the 'commentrator' (of aristotle) of his time, there could not have been a more western man. i think you should have made your position clear from an orientalist point of view, why you viewed islam indigenous. an argument has many sides.
Anessa, I hope you are well. Indigenous religion in Western scholarship usually refers to Native American practices or African practices etc. but Islam is considered a world religion. Now I do not know what you framed Islam as or what you where referring to when you stated Islam is an indigenous religion. Can your clarify your position a bit?
Given your definition of including African practices as indigenous, I guess a case could be made for Islam in the sense that it was brought over to the New World by African slaves? I guess it would be a question of contiuation but I have seen works of how Islam affected practices today in the Carribean.
MT your right and this is the point Shakib made in his latest post. We could argue that Islam is indigenous to America as you know this position was fostered by many Muslim Black Americans sometime ago. Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick contends that there are some historical artifacts and other forms of evidence to support this notion. Some have argued that Islam came to the Americas some time ago pre-slavery. To date many of the arguments for Islam in America(s) pre-slavery have not been tightly cast and “seem” untenable. But this tenor of thought needs to be explored. Possibly the lack of solid argumentation and evidence is the reason Dr. Jackson in Islam and the Black American somewhat neglects this type of discourse. Allahu Al'am
On the other hand, Islam was definitely here before the Muslim immigrant wave and in this sense is indigenous. This in any event does not do much to affect the way the word indigenous is used in the humanities and this is the problem that Anessa ran into. In any case, there is a bias against Islam in academia and Edward Said's Orientalism gives a good clarification of that. Associated with the indigenous peoples, so to speak, and their ways is not highly regarded in academia as indigenous as a notion and set of practices is not considered “western”
islam can be argued as both indigenous as pointed out by Sheikh Abul-Hussein and western, depending on what account of development are we subjecting it to. there are those models of keynesian economies that look into hard facts of comparative advantage and stages theories to arrive at one system 'better' than the other. ofcourse in this system you use a lens of oppression. then there are those who view alternative models of developments by looking into 'qualitative' difference between pre-capitalist and post-capitalist economies and arrive at a negotiated development based on the 'historicity' of development. recently indigenous or ethnographical studies based on participatory action research are gainfully used to challenge the dominant methodologies that have come to form some of our notions of what is real knowledge and what is not.
islam reached parts of russia atleast 300 years before christianity did and most certainly left the earliest written accounts of scandinavian, persian and african exchanges in the late byzantine period. islam's influence in giving europeans a political identity (as the 'europenses', first coined during Charlemagne) and precipitating its theological schism through the iconoclast movement (Fred, 2004) into two roman empires give credence to Islam's acendency as a western power. however west is not a geographical boundary as much it is a frame of mind, collaboratively created through a systemic understanding of knowledge (Hensh, 2005). thus its dispersion in the much of the old and new as mentioned by Sheikh Abul Hussein can also be argued as a process of 'nativitizing' an economic system of capitalist slavery. one of the economic forms of oppression that industrialization brought to its full was that of distribution of labour. imperial britains ability to create markets of unfree labour and resale commodities back to the competing metropoles came from its ability to see the comparative advantage (Ricardian model) of efficient labour in an era of industrialization. Efficiency of labour was maintained by regulating the lives in plantation economy in a way that needed a new form of racial theory of superiority backed up with legislative and political change. this form of capitalist system was different from pre-capitalist societies in China and Egypt where a small amount of oligarchs rapidly owned huge lands and people requiring the estate to ensure specialized labour to create value for the society McNally, 2002).
Shakib, you raise some interesting points, very interesting. If I may introject and push your position further and speak of the world system. When we look at Modernity and the West it is impossible to be without Islam nor with what preceded like the Ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians etc. So, here we can argue that the West is the achievement of mankind but claimed by Europe and it is definitely a product of the Ottoman world and Islamic scholarship (see: Eurocentrism: Amin, Samir)
Also, we find that there seems to be a problem with admiting Islam's presence in the West and hence Islam is as Western as Chrisitianity or Judaism except that the Catholics outted the Muslims with the sword or under threat of death. So much for the current Pope's position cause at the end of the day there is no doubt Catholicism spread by the sword and the horse and disease and this is unfortunate. Islam was indigenous to the West but ousted like other indigenous!
Indigenous = Al-Ansar
Immigrant = Al-Muhajiroon
This whole discussion although is intresting, I find the lack of cross referencing of the problems at hand to life of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) or the Quran.
Be bothers and do not fall for the old “divide and rule” trick. First Sufis vs. Salafis…now Indigenous vs. Immigrant!
Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illaa billaah