Happy Easter and Hag Sameach

A Happy Easter to all my readers. And a Happy Passover too.

Today is Good Friday. So a Happy Easter to all my readers.

And sorry I am late. Passover started at sunset on April 2, but it is a week long holiday. So a Happy Passover too.

یہ کیسا جہاد ہے

پاکستان میں کیا ہو رہا ہے؟ جہاد کے نام پر مسلمان کن کاموں میں پڑ چکے ہیں؟ کیا اسلام صرف سیاست اور تشدد ہی کا نام ہے؟

پاکستان کس طرف جا رہا ہے؟ اب تو وہاں کی خبریں ایسی ہی لگتی ہیں جیسے کسی اجنبی ملک کی۔ وقت کے ساتھ ساتھ روز پاکستانی اخبار پڑھنے کی عادت بھی ختم ہوتی جا رہی ہے۔ مگر پھر بھی کچھ سن گن رہتی ہے اور کچھ جذبات بھی اس جگہ سے جہاں عمر کے بیس اکیس سال گزرے اور جہاں آج بھی بہت سے جاننے والے رہتے ہیں۔ اس کا نتیجہ یہ ہے کہ کچھ معلومات اور اندازے لگا سکتا ہوں پاکستان میں ہونے والے واقعات کے متعلق۔

پاکستان میں خودکش دھماکوں کا سلسلہ تو کچھ سالوں سے جاری تھا مگر اس سال اوپر تلے اسلام‌آباد، کھاریاں، کوئٹہ وغیرہ میں بم دھماکے ہوئے۔ کیا اب خودکش بمبار ساری دنیا میں پھیل جائیں گے؟ کیا یہی نتیجہ ہے فلسطین، افغانستان، کشمیر وغیرہ کے جہاد کا؟ یا یہ تامل ٹائیگرز کی پیروی ہے؟

فروری میں پنجاب کی صوبائی وزیر ظل ہما کو گجرانوالہ مسلم لیگ ہاؤس میں مجمع میں سے ایک شخص نے گول مار کر قتل کر دیا۔

پنجاب کی صوبائی وزیر ظل ہما کو قاتلانہ حملے میں ہلاک کرنے کے ملزم غلام سرور نے عدالت میں اعتراف جرم کرتے ہوئے کہا ہے کہ اس نے یہ قتل کرکے جہاد کیا ہے اور اسے اس بات پر فخر ہے۔

پولیس کے مطابق ملزم پانچ سال پہلے بھی لاہور اور گوجرانوالہ چھ ایسی خواتین کو قتل کرنے کے الزام میں گرفتار ہوا تھا جنیں مبینہ طور پر کال گرل بتایا گیاتھا۔

پولیس کے مطابق غلام سرور بارہ جنوری دو ہزار تین کو گرفتار ہوا تھا لیکن مدعیوں کے اسے بے گناہ قرار دیئے جانے کے بعد دسمبر دو ہزار پانچ کو رہا ہو گیا تھا۔

وہ ایک بار حج اور دو بار عمرہ کرچکا ہے۔ اس کے نو بچے ہیں۔

اپریل سنہ دو ہزار پانچ میں گوجرانوالہ میں حکومت نے پہلی بار میراتھن منعقد کرائی تو ظل ہما نے اس کے انتظامات میں سرگرمی سے حصہ لیا تھا جبکہ مذہبی جماعتوں نے اس دوڑ کی سخت مخالفت کی تھی۔

اب ظل ہما کو قتل کرنے کی وجہ میراتھن تھی یا عورتوں سے غلام سرور کا عناد مگر یہ بات قابل غور ہے کہ ملزم کے نزدیک وہ جہاد کر رہا تھا۔ جہاد کی ایسی مثالیں مسلمانوں میں عام ہوتی جا رہی ہیں۔ دکھ کی بات یہ ہے کہ اچھے خاصے پڑھے لکھے اور مذہبی لوگ بھی جہاد کے بارے میں کچھ نہیں جانتے اور ہر فسادی کو محرب کی بجائے مجاہد سمجھتے ہیں۔

اب ہم آتے ہیں جامعہ حفصہ کی طالبات کی طرف جنہوں نے حکومت کی طرف سے غیرقانونی مساجد کے گرانے کے خلاف احتجاج کے طور پر ایک لائبریری پر قبضہ کر رکھا ہے۔ میں اسلام‌آباد کی مساجد کی قانونی حیثیت کے بارے میں کچھ نہیں کہہ سکتا اور نہ ہی میں حکومت کا حامی ہوں۔ پاکستان کی حکومت کام سوچ سمجھ کر اور صحیح طریقے سے نہیں کرتی اس لئے میں اس بات پر تبصرہ نہیں کروں گا۔ البتہ کچھ دن پہلے ان طالبات نے جی سکس میں ایک گھر پر چھاپہ مار کر وہاں کی عورتوں کو یرغمال بنا لیا۔

مدرسہ حفصہ کی انتظامیہ نے دھمکی دی ہے کہ اسلام آباد کے ایک مکان پر طالبات کے چھاپے اور تین خواتین کو یرغمال بنانے کے الزام میں گرفتار کی گئی چار استانیوں کو بدھ کی شام تک رہا نہ کیا گیا تو جہاد کا اعلان کر دیا جائے گا۔

مدرسے کی طالبات نے اسلام آباد کے ایک رہائشی علاقے جی سکس کے ایک مکان پر منگل کی شام کو چھاپہ مار کر ایک خاتون اور اس کی بہو اور بیٹی کو ’جنسی کاروبار میں ملوث ہونے پر‘ یرغمال بنا لیا تھا۔ مقامی پولیس نے طالبات کی طرف سے کی جانے والی اس کارروائی کے جواب میں مدرسے کی چار خواتین اساتذہ کو گرفتار کر لیا تھا۔

پولیس کی کارروائی کے بعد مدرسے کی سینکٹروں طالبات ڈنڈے اٹھا کر سڑک پر نکل آئیں۔ مشتعل طالبات نے جنھیں طلباء کی معاونت بھی حاصل تھی پولیس کی دو گاڑیوں کو ان کے ڈرائیوروں سمیت مدرسے کے احاطے میں بند کر دیا۔

مدرسے کے منتظم غازی عبدالرشید نے بعد ازاں ایک پریس کانفرنس کو بتایا کہ اسلام آباد کی رہائشی تین خواتین ان کے قبضے میں ہیں۔ انہوں نے مقامی انتظامیہ کو خبردار کیا کہ اگر فوری طور مدرسے کی چار اساتذہ کو رہا نہ کیا گیا تو جہاد کا اعلان کر دیا جائے گا۔

غازی عبدالرشید نے حکام سے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ ان خواتین پر زنا کے الزام میں مقدمات چلائے جائیں اور قرار واقعی سزائیں دی جائیں۔ انہوں نے خبردار کیا کہ اگر حکام نے ان پر مقدمات دائر نہ کیئے تو مدرسے کے اندر قاضی عدالت قائم کی جائے گی اور شریعت کے مطابق انہیں سزائیں سنائی جائیں گی۔

اس مدرسے کی طالبات اور طلباء نے آبپارہ مارکیٹ میں واقع ویڈیو شاپس کے مالکان کو بھی خبردار کیا ہے کہ جنسی مواد پر مبنی سی ڈیز کی فروخت بند کردیں۔

جب غازی عبدالرشید سے پوچھا کہ ان کے مدرسے کی طالبات نے کس اختیار کے تحت کارروائی کی تو انہوں نے کہا کہ یہ اسلامی ملک ہے اور اسلام کہتا ہے کہ برائی کو روکیں۔

بعد میں پولیس نے مدرسے کی استانیوں کو رہا کر دیا اور طالبات نے بھی جن پولیس اہلکاروں کو پکڑ لیا تھا انہیں چھوڑ دیا گیا۔ کچھ دن بعد لال مسجد میں ایک پریس کانفرنس میں یرغمالی شمیم اختر کے اقبالِ جرم کے بعد ان خواتین کو چھوڑ دیا گیا۔ گھر پہنچنے کے بعد شمیم اختر نے کہا کہ وہ بیان تو اس سے زبردستی دلوایا گیا تھا۔

یہ اسلام‌آباد ہے پاکستان سے دس کلومیٹر باہر ۔ یہاں قانون کا کوئی پاس نہیں۔ حکومت شہریوں کی حفاظت کی بجائے نجانے کس کام میں مصروف ہے اور مذہبی جنونی جس کو چاہتے ہیں یرغمال بناتے ہیں جسے برا سمجھتے ہیں اسے دھمکیاں دیتے ہیں۔ بے‌گناہی کا انہیں کوئی پاس نہیں کہ innocent until proven guilty والا مقولہ انہوں نے کبھی نہیں سنا۔

یہ خبر پڑھتے ہوئے مجھے جامعہ حفصہ کے پرنسپل عبدالعزیز کا نام کچھ جانا پہچانا لگا۔ عبدالعزیز آجکل لال مسجد کے امام ہیں۔ جب میں پاکستان میں تھا تو ان کے والد عبداللہ وہاں کے امام تھے اور عبدالعزیز ایف 8 کی مسجد میں ہوتے تھے۔ یہ صاحب پڑھے لکھے اور مزاج میں سلجھے ہوئے انسان ہیں۔ مگر صد افسوس کہ ایسے ہی مسلمان ہمیں دہشت‌گردی میں ملوث نظر آتے ہیں۔ عبدالعزیز صاحب نوے کی دہائی میں افغانستان میں طالبان کے قصیدے پڑھا کرتے تھے اور ان کی مسجد میں اکثر حرکت الانصار (کشمیر میں حربی گروہ) کے ارکان اور کرتا دھرتا چندے مانگنے آیا کرتے تھے۔ آجکل بھی سنا ہے عبدالعزیز کی مسعود اظہر اور جیش محمد والوں سے گاڑھی چھنتی ہے۔ ایک بات کا خیال رہے کہ ایف 8 کی مسجد بھی شاید سرکاری تھی اور لال مسجد بھی۔ تو کیا عبدالعزیز ایک سرکاری ملازم ہیں؟ اور اگر ہیں تو کیسے جہاد کی کال دے رہے ہیں؟

آجکل جہاد کا نام آتا ہے تو ہمارے ذہن میں کچھ عجیب سا خاکہ بنتا ہے جس میں قتل و غارت کو بڑی اہمیت حاصل ہوتی ہے۔ باقی دنیا کو چھوڑیں مسلمانوں کا یہی حال ہے بلکہ بہت سے مسلمان سیاست اور تشدد سے جہاد کا سرا باندھتے ہیں اور ایسے جہاد کو نہ ماننے والوں کو مسلمان ہی نہیں سمجھتے۔ حالانکہ اگر آپ شروع اسلام سے مسلمانوں کی تحاریر پڑھیں تو جہاد کے متعلق آپ کو کافی مختلف خیالات ملیں گے۔ آج کے مسلمان تو کچھ باتوں میں بالکل خوارج لگتے ہیں۔

Shariah is Human

People interpret religion and its strictures. These interpretations are human and can be flawed or change over time. We do not have the view of God and have to rely on our senses and abilities to develop religious law.

Koonj has a great post which makes the point that we humans interpret and create all laws, even religious law.

Religion and religious law must always be the human reading of a law. The notion of a “God’s-eye-view” law is a tempting and beautiful one. However, it is one of those things for which we yearn on earth, similar to perfection, eternal life, perfect beauty, endless love, and so on. Earthly life is not made for such things.

A human being cannot access “God’s-eye-view” law or religious law.

Paradoxically, religion and religious law must always be more or less human–but always somewhat human.

To claim that you have access to God’s-eye-view of law is to claim that you have God’s view, which approximates blasphemy.

So to claim that your perspective on religion/religious law is infallible, is, in a way, to claim divinity. And as even Ibn Arabi says, the Lord is the Lord wa in tanazzal, and the servant is the servant, wa in ta’arruj (will not translate for fear of doing it poorly).

[…] Some of us think that literalism is safe refuge from our own readings, but there is never any refuge from our own readings. Whether you read one of the seven inner meanings and the seven inner meanings of the inner meanings of each Qur’anic verse – or whether you try to go from a “linear atomistic” (see Mustansar Mir) reading of each line, – or whether you struggle to read the Qur’an using the Qur’an itself as its commentary – or whether you use a scholar’s readings – we ordinary human beings always use words, our limited five senses and our limited spiritual senses, to try to KNOW.

Haj and Eid Mubarak

Congratulations on your Haj to all Hajis. Eid Mubarak, everyone.

Today is the main day, the day of Arafa’, of Haj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah. Congratulations to all Hajis including my mother-in-law.

The day after is Eid-ul-Azha in Saudi Arabia. Here, we are celebrating Eid on December 31 while it is on New Year’s Day in Pakistan. Eid Mubarak, everyone.

UPDATE: As usual, we have sent our donation to the Edhi Foundation for the qurbani (slaughter of goat) in Pakistan.

Looking at the Atlanta mosque websites, it seems like a majority of them are going to follow Saudi Arabia and celebrate Eid on the 30th. However, we like combining New Year’s Eve celebrations with Eid.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

This year we are celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas, which seems like a better option than being alone in Pretoria on Christmas a decade ago. We are going to Red Rock Canyon today.

Awards and Carnivals

Go nominate blogs for Brass Cresecent awards. Also, contribute to Carnival of Islam in the West. Include the real-time Carnival of Brass in your blog sidebar and read Muslims in the West blogs together in your feed reader.

Since the end of the year is near, it is again time for the Brass Crescent Awards for the Islamicate blogosphere.

Brass Crescent Awards Nominations

Right now they are taking nominations for a bunch of categories until November 17. So go and nominate your favorite weblogs. Do note that a blogger does not need to be a Muslim to be nominated (and definitely not necessary for those nominating or voting).

In defining the Islamsphere, we are not relying solely on adherence to the faith, but an affinity for parts of the diverse cultural fabric that Islam embraces and is embraced by worldwide.

Abu Sahajj, the owner of the Wa Salaam blog, started the Carnival of Islam in the West a few months ago. You can read the first and second editions of the carnival. Now it is time for the 3rd edition being hosted by Travellers on the Path of Knowledge. Do submit if you have any blog posts realting to the experience of Muslims in the West in these areas:

  • Religion and Worship
  • Marriage and Family
  • Education and Life
  • Business and Careers
  • News and Politics
  • The State of the Ummah

While on the subject of carnivals, Aziz has created a sort of “real-time” carnival called the Carnival of Brass where you can submit blog posts and media stories and there is an output feed which you can include on your blog which includes the items posted to the carnival. It updates at about one new item per day. I have included both the media and blog ones on my sidebar. If you want to include Carnival of Brass in your blog sidebar, please read Aziz’s FAQ.

Abu Sahajj also has an Islam in the West feed which aggregates quite a few Muslim blogs in the West. Just subscribe to the feed using your favorite feed aggregator and you can read a lot of Muslim blogs.

UPDATE: This month’s edition of the Carnival of Islam in the West is now up.

عید مبارک

کل عید ہے۔ آپ سب کو عید مبارک ہو۔ اور ایک دن تاخیر سے سہی مگر دیوالی بھی مبارک۔

کل یہاں عید ہے۔ آپ سب کو عید مبارک ہو۔ ان کو بھی جو کل منا رہے ہیں اور انہیں بھی جو پرسوں منا رہے ہیں۔

کل دیوالی تھی۔ کچھ دیر سے مگر پھر بھی دیوالی مبارک۔

We are celebrating Eid tomorrow. Others in the United States are celebrating it on Tuesday. It seems like Eid will be celebrated on either of these two days around the world. We wish a happy Eid to everyone.

Yesterday was Diwali. A belated happy Diwali, everyone.

Sorry for the radio silence here for the past couple of weeks. I have been sick. Expect regular blogging from now on.

Islamic Calendar

Fiqh Council of North America has decided to use astronomical calculations for the Islamic lunar calendar. I like the idea, but it is very controversial in the community. Let’s take a look at the blogosphere’s reaction. Ramazan Mubarak!

Finally, the Fiqh Council of North America has made the decision to create an Islamic lunar calendar using astronomical calculations instead of relying on sighting the moon every month.

A special conference on Hilal Sighting was organized by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) on 10 June 2006, in Virginia, attended by a number of jurists, Imams, astronomers and other concerned Muslims. [… T]he following is concluded:

  1. It is decided to use astronomical calculation to determine the beginning of the Islamic lunar months with the consideration of the sightability of the crescent anywhere on the globe.
  2. To determine a lunar Islamic calendar, a conventional point of reference must be used. The International Date Line (IDL) or the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) may be used.
  3. The new Islamic Lunar month begins at sunset of the day when the conjunction occurs before 12:00 GMT.

A number of people say that it is against the practice of Prophet Muhammad to use astronomical calculations and hence should not be done. However, we use such calculations for lots of things nowadays as this explanation says.

These astronomical calculations are already being used in acts of Islamic worship such as directions of Qiblah, five daily prayers, Imsak and Iftar timings, the acts of worship which are more significant and frequent than sighting the crescent. The Qura’nic verses and the Prophetic commandments clearly indicate some means to accomplish the aspired objectives. For instance, The Qur’an connects the Imsak timings with the white and black thread at the dawn time. Presently we go by our watches based upon the astronomical calculations. The Hadith connects the Iftar timings with seeing the night coming from the East. Currently we break fast without sighting the night coming from the East but by our watches. The Qur’an and Ahadith connect the five daily prayers timings with the shadow and movement of the Sun. According to the Ahadith Angel Jibreel himself taught the Prophet (PBUH) timings of these prayers and connected them with the shadow of the Sun. The entire Ummah somehow goes by the astronomical timings of the watches and not with the letter of the Qur’an and Hadith texts. There is a consensus among the Muslim jurists that these means are permitted to determine the Salah, Imsak and Iftar timings and nobody makes fuss about them being against the Sunnah or against the crystal clear texts of the Qur’an.

Here is some information from the Fiqh Council of North America and here is the calendar for the next 5 years.

This is not the first instance of Muslims not using moonsighting. There is a Fatimid calendar used by Nizari Ismailis and Dawoodi Bohras.

The Tabular Islamic Calendar (also called the Fatimid Calendar) is a rule-based variation of the Islamic calendar. It has the same year numbers and months, but the months are determined by arithmetic rules rather than by observation or astronomical calculations. […]

Each year has 12 months. The odd numbered months have 30 days and the even numbered months have 29 days, except in a leap year when the 12th and final month has 30 days. There are 11 leap years in a 30 year cycle.

In addition to all the confusion and waiting till late night that the moonsighting approach entailed, there were also scheduling and economic issues.

Kareem Irfan, of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, where an estimated 400,000 Muslims live, said the uncertainty of the old system has been costly.

Organizers of the massive community worship services that mark the holiday had to reserve convention halls for two different days, losing money on the double deposit, he said. Muslims who needed a day off from work or had to make plans for pulling their children out of school could not say when the celebration would be.

So how have we, in North America, been deciding on Ramazan and Eid until now? The Moon Sighting Debate Blog explains.

Camp #1: This is the camp of the majority of the traditionalists. They firmly follow the local moon sighting position.

Camp #2: This is the Saudi moon sighting camp. Although, they tend to portray themselves as followers of the global sighting position, in reality they only determine their Islamic dates according to the moon sighting announcements made all the way in Saudi Arabia.

Camp #3: True followers of the traditional global sighting position. I have personally come across only one major scholar from Syria who says he follows this position.

Camp #4: This is the brand new camp. [… T]his camp has declared a five year pre-determined Islamic calendar based solely on astronomical calculations.

Most of the mosques in Atlanta fall in camp #2, but it is still common to have two Eids in almost every major city in the United States.

While I think a calendar based on astronomical calculations is a good idea, it is definitely no panacea for the multiple Eids problem since a lot of people are sticking to their guns and plan to observe Eid using the method they like. In fact, in recent days, a number of new organizations based around moonsighting have sprouted.

Here are some reactions from the Muslim blogosphere, without comment, on this issue.

Wa Salaam: I’m still not sure exactly where I stand on this issue.

Eteraz: Muslim sure do fight over the moon a lot. This is because the Muslim calendar is lunar and so to know when Ramadan starts (or ends) you have to have a moon-sighting. The problem is that because the Earth spins on an axis (stupid axis!), the moon does not appear at the same time in different places. In fact, because the axis spins on a slow 24 hour cycle (stupid axis!) it means that the same moon can appear in one place a whole day after it appears in another place (stupid moon!). This, in the American context, gives rise to the most idiotic ‘debate’ to strike Islamic Law since Khomeini’s madrassa hypothetical.

جہانزیب: میں آسٹرانومی کی بنیاد پر بنائے گئے کیلنڈر کے حق میں ہوں اور امریکہ میں خصوصاً اور باقی اسلامی دُنیا میں عموماً ایسے لوگ پہلے سے موجود ہیں جو آسٹرانومی کی بنیاد پر کیلنڈر کا اجراء چاہتے ہیں۔ نہیں تو حالات وہی رہیں گے جو نیویارک میں ہیں لوگ پاکستان، سعودی عرب فون کر کے پوچھتے رہیں گے کہ رمضان کب ہے اور اُس حساب سے اپنی عیدین مناتے رہیں گے۔ ہمارے گھر کے قریب ایک مسجد ہے جہاں دو عیدیں پڑھائی جاتی ہیں وہاں ڈیوٹی پر موجود ایک پولیس اہلکار کا سوال تھا کہ ایک ہی علاقے میں رہنے والے مسلمان ایک ہی عید پر متفق نہیں ہو سکتے؟

میرا پاکستان: رمضان کی آمد آمد ہے اور ایک بار پھر مسلمان اس تفرقے کا شکار ہوجائیں گے کہ رمضان کب شروع کریں اور عید کب کریں۔ عرصہ ہوا دنیا کو اتنی ترقی کۓ ہوۓ کہ چاند کے گھٹنے بڑھنے کا اندازہ پہلے سے ہی لگایا جانے لگا مگر مسلمان ہیں کہ اس ٹیکنالوجی سے انکاری ہیں اور وہ اپنی آنکھوں سے ہی چاند دیکھ کر رمضان شروع کرنے پر بضد ہیں۔

David Kearns: Based on what I’d read, and the assertions of groups like ISNA, I’ve been saying for years that if you don’t sight the moon, it just doesn’t count. Apparently that’s not the case any more. In reality I’ve just followed the guidance of ISNA, and I guess if they’ve taken a new stance, then I’m all for it. This certainly helps for scheduling things. Maybe some day I’ll be less busy and can investigate the jurisprudence behind this.

Ginny’s Thoughts and Things: I’m all for creating an “American Muslim identity” and all of that, but let’s not throw away the Qur’an, along with the Sunnah of our noble prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), in the process of “trying to fit in”. We can use science, yes, we can carve out our own niche, we can do all of that, but we can do it and still “follow the rules”, as it were. I mean, while we are at it, if we’re going to be “like everyone else” and dispense with calculations, then let’s stop wearing hijab, let’s just stop eating hilal meat, etc. Basically, in my “sarcasm” I think this is getting dangerously close to the “slipperly slope”

Lota Enterprises: This is literally something that has been unknown to the ummah of Muhammad(saw) for literally over 1,420 years. It has never been done before, and especially not on this scale. Its August, and they have already announced Eid. They’ve zapped all of the fun, excitement, and most of all the SUNNAH of anticipating Ramadan and Eid!!

The Moon Sighting Debate Blog, which actually presents only the side against the astronomical calendar, has reactions against the Fiqh Council decision here and here.

And I forgot. Ramazan Mubarak! It starts tomorrow.

UPDATE: Also, Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Muslim Occidentalism

Thabet argues that Muslims see the West similar to the way the West sees Muslims. Western Orientalism has a counterpart in Muslim Occidentalism. What is even more interesting is that Western Muslims set themselves apart from the West.

Thabet has a great post about Muslim attitudes towards the West.

Western Orientalism and its science of Islamology is a very well-studied and understood phenomenon. Edward Said, above all others, did much to highlight the distorting filters through which some of the most widely read Western scholars of Islam. […]

One would have thought that Muslims, and mostly Western Muslims, would have understood what it means to distort and crudely reduce entire human traditions and cultures into vulgar stereotypes or dismissal of other ideas as pointless and meaningless. Yet Muslims are far too happy to engage in their own form of Occidentalism when engaging with Western traditions.

[…] the discussion moved to ‘liberty’ and Muslim states. I pointed out that they fail miserabley on that aspect; that they do not leave people alone who is not directly harming anyone or causing any great offence. This, I said, was an ideal from Western traditions and Muslims who lived in Western states should appreciate this liberty (give or take the recent fascination with arresting and harassing people). They weren’t about to be arrested everytime they left their front door (or even if they were asleep). The response from one friend was to suggest that my approval of ‘liberty’ was tantamount to advocating ‘binge drinking’. The logic being that because people were free to drink, then they would want to binge drink, and so binge drinking would this become an ‘ideal value’, as it has in Britain. Whatever the flaws of the argument — and the point here isn’t even about binge drinking, which is a massive problem in Britain — this isn’t critical engagement with another tradition or culture, but is the reduction of these traditions into vulgar forms, where the worst aspects are held as the ideals. It is no different to suggesting that the subjegation of women is an ideal of Islam, because far too many Muslims engage in opressive practices against women in the name of Islam (and that do this shouldn’t be denied).

Do read the whole post. It is not too long and definitely worth your time.

Who is a Muslim?

Should we define Muslims narrowly or broadly? Does even the effort to define exclude people and thus is negative? Can we learn from the Kharijites and Murjites? Arafat has some thoughts and I add my 2 cents.

Sorry, I haven’t gotten the time to write about why I think “Islam is defined by Muslims.” I have several unfinished posts on the topic lying among my drafts, but they will have to wait when I am less busy. For now, here is a related post about the necessity or otherwise of defining a Muslim by Arafat.

[T]here were three main strains of argument: 1) It is necessary to define a Muslim (preferably through a broad definition with minimal conditions) if at least for the sake of inclusion and preventing takfir. 2) It is necessary to define a Muslim, because people derive identity through membership in communities, and if Muslims form a community (ummah, local and/or global), it must naturally be defined (It seemed to me that this line of argument had certain communitarian tendencies […]). The proponent of this position insisted further that a definition “too broad” is problematic. 3) The third position, in opposition to the first two, was that this debate is practically useless, and likely even harmful: the effort to define necessarily excludes, and that is bad — not only because of the anti-takfir principle (you cannot judge another person’s Muslimness, since God alone decides), but also because we need to be open and welcoming towards everyone. The proponent of this position also maintains, that yes of course, there are normative criteria that make a Muslim, and which for instance we’ll teach our kids, but for the community to practically apply these is harmful and intolerant.

Do read Arafat’s post as he has a bunch of thoughts on this topic.

He also mentions the Murjiite school of thought in early Islam.

[Murji’ites] advocated the idea of “delayed judgement”. Only God can judge who is a true Muslim and who is not, and no one else can judge another as an infidel. Therefore, all Muslims should consider all other Muslims as true and faithfull believers, and look to Allah to judge everyone during the last judgment.

The opposite approach was taken by Kharijites, the original radical fundamentalists, who preferred a very strict and narrow definition of a Muslim and declare jihad against anyone they considered not to be a Muslim (i.e. anyone who committed a grave sin and they included almost everyone in that category).

While I think that we have to define Muslim as anyone who considers himself (or herself) one, there are a few caveats:

  1. This acceptance might or might not mean that the person is a Muslim in the eyes of God. So I am taking the Murjite position here by delaying judgment and staying away from takfir.
  2. On the other hand, the Murjite position and the reaction to the Kharijite violence resulted in giving a pass to the Umayyads as the Murjites (and the Muslim community in general) acquiesced to Umayyad rule. This position of accepting even unjust rulers has survived in some traditional schools of jurisprudence. While I understand the reasons why this arose as a result of civil wars and disturbances, I have to part company with the Murjites and hold the rulers responsible for their injustice. I would still delay judgment on their faith. However, I would hold them accountable for their deeds as rulers. This is probably a secular concept

There is also the issue of determinism as related to Murjite thought but that is a topic for another day.