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Islam and Muslims in Academia – Dr Munir Jiwa

Dr. Munir Jiwa discusses the national frames through which Islam and Muslims enter discussions and debates in the public sphere and the particular ways these impact the study of Islam and Muslims in academia.

He offers a critique of secular and liberal norms and how both the Euro-American left and right, inside and outside academia, selectively create and reproduce an index of “good” and “bad” Islam, Muslims, and Islamic Studies.

Content Outline:

0:0:0 Assalam Alaykum (Safir Ahmed)
0:01:48 Speaker’s Introduction
0:03:59 Assalam Alaykum/How We Do Islamic Studies (Dr. Munir Jiwa)
0:07:14 How We Think About Islam and Muslims Across History and Academia
0:11:00 Calendars, and Timing
0:13:46 What is Secularism: Ideally and Politically
0:18:34 Personal Experience in the Realm of Academia
0:21:39 The Five Media Pillars of Islam
0:22:13 (I) 9/11 as an Introduction to Islam
0:25:46 The History of Secular Violence
0:27:17 (II) Islamic Violence vs Secular Violence
0:30:19 (III) Women and Gender
0:33:14 Colonial Feminism and the War in Afghanistan
0:35:54 Are Muslims Liberal Enough
0:39:47 (IV) Islam in the West, Do They Belong
0:42:26 (V) The Middle East
0:43:42 An Analysis of of How These Pillars Get Unpacked in Real Settings
0:46:39 Islamic Theology and Objectivity
0:50:07 A Paragraph on Good Muslim, Bad Muslim***
0:51:22 Liberal Norms and Islam
0:54:05 Conclusion
01:00:32 Closeout Comments (Safir Ahmed)

Comments, Questions and Answers

01:03:07 Question 1: How do you begin to create new frames for Muslims and Islam rather than challenge the existing ones?
01:09:00 Question 2: Can you speak more on the departmental divisions that push Islam to the side of traditional Western academic institutions and the best way to navigate Islamic studies in an academic environment?
01:14:21 Question 3: Much of you talked about is in relation to modern nation-states, can you speak to this idea applied to nation building projects? Do you see any similarities in framing for unestablished nations?
01:19:10 Question 4: As a non-Muslim who is being made aware of these frames but still watches a lot of TV, what’s the fundamental things I must ask myself when consuming media about Islam and Muslims?
01:23:17 Question 5: Looking at the dominant frameworks that you speak of, how does one accept the framework of the dominant knowledge producing force and how, within that, do we look at different rhythms that work for other societies? How do we interpret those frameworks?
01:35:12 Question 6/7: In a world where there are sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shias, what role does religion play to unite us? (Q7) What inspirations can we draw from to be beautiful and share beauty knowing that it may end up in a violent frame?



With gratitude to our Content Partner,
Zaytuna College.


Resources for Seekers

The Importance of Being a Very Public Muslim – Imam Zaid Shakir

The Importance of Being a Very Public Muslim

This post first appeared on Imam Zaid Shakir’s facebook page.

In the climate of fear and mistrust of Muslims being carefully cultivated by some elements in this country it is extremely important to be a very public, very visible, very talkative Muslim. Some Muslims would tend to shun this advice thinking that by “laying low” and being almost invisible they can get by or pass unnoticed.

This is exactly what the anti-Muslim forces want. They want Muslims to disappear from our society and when sisters take off hijabs, brothers take off their kufis or shave their beards and everyone silences themselves they are actually advancing the program of the racists by helping to create a society “without” Muslims.
As people become accustomed to not seeing Muslims, not hearing from Muslims not sensing a Muslim presence in their lives or communities, it becomes easier for the racists to enact policies that lead to the actual eradication of Muslims. This is a lesson history has taught us concerning the ways tyrannical regimes are consolidated. Hence, be very visibly Muslim!
Some will argue that it is very dangerous to be very assertively Muslim right now and will point to the recent attack on the Muslim girl and her friend on the Portland MAX. That incident supports rather than argues against the point I am making. To clarify, because one of the girls was identifiably Muslim, there was a massive public rallying to defend her right to be herself, a valued member of her community. If Muslims “disappear” what is the basis for anyone rallying on our behalf?
Challenging times are always fraught with danger, however, heroes are those who face the danger of their time and by so doing represent a challenge in their own right which others must respond to. Now is the time for heroes not cowards. Tyranny draws its life from a society of cowards and is eradicated by the courageous.
As the warning signs of tyranny begin to rear their despicable heads in our society let us starve them of air, cut off their roots. For insight into the nature of tyranny, I encourage everyone to read Timothy Snyder’s brief but very insightful book, “On Tyranny.” May these middle days of Ramadan be blessed.
Imam Zaid Shakir

Ramadan, Rumi, and Love By Zeshan Zafar

It is part of life to have a difference of opinion with various individuals or groups of people. Terry Tempest Williams, in one of her books, states, “Most of all, difference of opinions are opportunities of learning.”

However, generally speaking, on many occasions, when this occurs, if one doesn’t manage it well or lacks comportment, the result can turn into a feeling of animosity. Furthermore, when uncontrolled, it can turn into hatred, a spiritual disease that sits at the core of one’s heart, dictating and defining one’s behaviour unbeknown to oneself.

When such hatred sets into our way of life, individuals choose to deal with it in a variety of ways. Some try to mask the emotion or seek validation for that hatred; others seek revenge or violent harm with devastating consequences to those they may have loved unconditionally at one time. We also see the modern phenomenon of social media being used to spread this hatred, unfairly sowing the seeds of doubts that stick and label many unfortunate individuals with “justified” gossip becoming an accepted discussion on each of our tables.

Such behaviour has unfortunately broken down many marriages, families, friendships, communities, business partners, etc. as this trait continues to become rampant to the point that we no longer discern the goodness and sacrifices that many still work towards in our respective communities, regardless of our opinions. Instead, we tend to sideline them and bad mouth them, thinking we are safe to share statements against people in the confines of our close circles, yet at the same time we do not realise the terrible human beings we are all becoming through the mismanagement of this emotion.

One of my teachers once said in one of his lectures, “Do not have a crablike mentality whereby when crabs are put in a bucket together, each one tries to escape by pulling the other one down, just to escape themselves, leading to collective demise.” This is exactly what hatred is doing to the development and growth of our communities in times when our real challenges are elsewhere and which we should all really be focusing our energies on. Unfortunately, we cry out emotional slogans such as “Muslim Unity” without realising that little can be changed without changing oneself.

One of the most notable scholars and thinkers of Islam, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, recently shared a profound insight from the Qur’an that states, “Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” He stated that our community is besot by changing the world whilst forgetting the simple hard rule of changing oneself, and that the role of changing the condition of people as a collective is the role of God. So if we all focused on changing ourselves first, ridding ourselves of our hatred for one another and purifying our own hearts, God will take care of the rest.

The question arises, how can we move beyond this hatred and begin to remove this infection so that goodness can be achieved in the short time we tread on this earth, with the invaluable gift we have been given of life?

Many have their own mechanisms of dealing with this. Recently, whilst on a journey to the States, a dear friend of mine gave me valuable and practical advice on a way to manage such tendencies, by making a conscientious and sincere effort to reach out to individuals you feel you have wronged, or who you feel wronged you, or who seem distant to you. He suggested making a prayer for them to rid your heart of antagonistic presumptions by reaching out to them on a weekly basis, until all that is contained or constricts your heart disappears until you only have mahabba (love) for that person.

The Muslim community as a whole is known to be a giving community, especially when it comes to charity and hospitality, and they continue to hold tight to the noble virtues that are fast disappearing in a globalised world. Yet charity as described by our Prophet (peace be upon him) is also through actions and good deeds: hence being altruistic through your generosity, kindness, compassion, and time are equally important. Letting go of the self is important to move away at an individual level, especially in a world where the “self” has become a dictator over our natural inclination of moderation. Many argue over the ownership of ideas and whether certain ideas are relevant and can work. The best advice I was given was to let people learn from their mistakes but to not cause further rift that our communities are regularly torn by. Instead, you must choose the incision point that you feel can best help and support individuals that you perhaps disagree with, as our commonalities are far greater than our differences.

For those who feel they do not need help from someone sincerely trying to offer their support or help, remember even if such advice is not appropriate or compatible with your aims, never ignore it. You will always find a time when such advice can be found to be valuable at a different stage of your life or applicable to a different situation.

This is what distinguishes people of wisdom, such as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who represents someone that keeps love at the centre of how he lives (may Allah grant him good health and a long life), through his acts of consistency. He epitomises renewal in his scholarship, but, more importantly, through his self-discipline and observance, he embodies renewal in his character. He is someone who knows not of hatred. He is someone who cannot but love and be objective to those who may be fierce critics or who oppose him or his approach. What struck me in my observances of the Shaykh is that despite any animosity shown to him, he always takes the time to listen and offer his help as he would to those who are amongst his family. This is evident in the Shaykh’s writings and rulings that speak with kindness, graciousness, and nobility of the other. I am sure everyone can relate to an individual out there who embodies such prophetic characteristics, and if you can, do not be ashamed to acknowledge your shortfalls before making that effort of change required by those who inspire you.

As Ramadan makes its yearly entrance into our homes, lives, and hearts, this is what I will be aiming to strive for, being mindful and realistic that things do not happen over night. I hope others can have mercy with me and forgive me for any wrongdoing. Imam Shafi’i famously said, “Be hard on yourself and easy on others,” noting that our God is a God that is all-merciful and all-forgiving; these are utterances that we grow up on and repeat daily.

So if your heart has flipped once, let it flip repeatedly until you have nothing but love for those who are around you. This can be achieved only by empathising. Ramadan Kareem. I will leave you with the words of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Zeshan Zafar is the Director of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and is currently based in Abu Dhabi.

Taken from Healing Hearts

Defending the Prophet – Advice from Habib ‘Umar

Written by Lina Abdul Wahab

Habib Umar bin Hafiz calls upon us all to teach people about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his life, his character, his call, his different states, his beauty, his perfection and his kindness and to teach about the Prophet’s light, by allowing it to shine through our words and deeds.

habibAccording to Habib Umar, amongst us are people with families and children who are ignorant about the important matters in the life of Allah’s Prophet. It is good to see that out of the love for him, Muslims are protesting peacefully and speaking out (in defense of the Beloved Prophet). However, Habib Umar added, it is essential for us to take into account by asking themselves, where have they been all these years? What are the states of our homes? Muhammad (pbuh) is absent from our families, unknown to our children and unknown to our friends at work. To them, he is a figure who has not yet penetrated their hearts. They are not connected to him, they do not revere his teachings, and they know little about his life, his character, his message, his call, peace and blessings upon him. These are the people to whom we should say, “Convey the character of the Prophet! Tell the world and everyone in it about the character and qualities of this Prophet. Express your attachment to him in the best way!”

Habib Umar added, “This is YOUR role. You! This is your task! This is your job. This is the vicegerency of Allah on His Earth, conveying the Message of Allah and His Messenger and his family and his companions. This is the reason the noble companions spread out in the east and in the west!”

Resources for seekers:

Advice in Times of Hardship, after the Chapel Hill shootings and other incidents
Video: Capacity Building for Dealing with Islamophobia
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Rising Anti-Muslim Sentiment – AlJazeera
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together – Habib Ali al-Jifri