Fishing for an Ideology

We have to be extremely careful in dealing with a legacy as old and as comprehensive as that of Islamic knowledge, a legacy that dealt with many aspects of life, one that was employed by many communities to deal with all sorts of circumstances. I see different people, groups, and ideologies that are somewhat opposite yet they are all relying on the very same legacy to support their views. For example, one can scan this large body of knowledge, note all the aspects that talks about spirituality, and come up with an ideology that Islam is but a spiritual recipe. Another can follow the political involvement of such knowledge and focus more on its involvement of wars for example, and arrive at an ideology of violence. A third can follow the many mentions of encouraging peace, forgiveness, and patience, and form a pacifist ideology from the same body of knowledge.

Isn’t that weird? What wrong do we do for that to happen. Well, let me share a couple of important points that we should keep in mind to be able to understand this legacy the way it should be understood:

  1. Know that what is considered the guidance of Islam is 1) what is in the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, and 2) the AUTHENTIC tradition of His Messenger. Anything else–even though it is important to study especially that which is closer to the prophet’s time, is still people’s views and interpretations and should only be attributed to them not to Islam.
  2. Having a pre-conceived ideology, THEN scanning the legacy of knowledge to support it is definitely the wrong way to go. Rather, one should form his/her ideology based on Islam and not the other way around. (very tough I know)
  3. It is very harmful to focus on partial knowledge and, intentionally or unintentionally, ignore other parts that address the same subject at hand.
  4. Be very mindful that context plays a major role: what applies to certain times, societies, or cultures can be quite different from what applies to others. Simply taking a society’s understanding of Islam and borrowing it to another society is very problematic to say the least.
  5. Scholarly opinions under certain political and social circumstances may not be accepted when these circumstances change.

I wish I have time to swamp you with examples of each points. I also wish I have time to show how these examples can be very harmful to us as Muslims and to the image of Islam itself. But I don’t :)

However, I will conclude with my view of a very famous hadith in which the prophet (pbuh) said that Allah sends to this Ummah every century that who will renew its religion. This religion and its pure source of guidance (mentioned in 1 above) interact with societies, cultures, and peoples, and get understood within those societies, interacting with those cultures, and applied by those peoples. This cause the pure message of Islam to be covered by people’s interpretations and understanding, which is acceptable. Someone (or some people) will come every now and then (every century as the Hadith said) and remove those layers and dig deep to the pure source (that is preserved and protected from alteration) and bring it to life in the current context and circumstances.

A Bird’s View – #aWordAboutHadith

One of the most important advice I received regarding dealing with the Sunna (and the Qur’an for that matter) is to put my hands on different pieces of the Sunna that talks about a subject before deducing conclusions on this subject.
A little simple, yet very telling, example is praying while injustice is committed against you. I have heard someone telling another who was praying against an unjust tyrant, “You can’t pray against him. You should pray for him. The Prophet prayed for his people even though they oppressed him and his companions.”
Even though the prophet prayed for his people even though they oppressed him, but he also, according to authentic reports, prayed against them when they harmed him. In addition, there are many reports about the prayer of the person whom injustice is committed against and how definite it is that Allah accepts it.
Now that these pieces of Sunna are in front of you, it becomes clearer what would the right choice be–at least the decision is not as it is had you only focused on one piece.
‪#‎aWordAboutHadith‬

Who said Hadith is as authentic as the Quran? – #aWordAboutHadith

Not a single scholar ever said that the words of the Prophet are as authentic as the Quran except the very few that reached us in the same method of narration as that of the Quran.
The rest of his words (peace be upon him) has always been subject to a scientific process of acceptance or rejection. For that purpose, a lot of sciences was invented, terminology was established, and tremendous amount of work was published.

The scholars have always been using these sciences to research the authenticity of the words of the Prophet; had they not done so, the Prophet’s words would have been lost in the huge amount of fabricated and weak ones. Until this moment, this very critical process are being used for the same purpose.

I tried to learn about these sciences and spent some time reading about them. I was humbled by the oceans of knowledge and the tireless effort spent on this, humility that disallowed me to engage in it without the proper knowledge, tools, and skills.

‪#‎aWordAboutHadith‬

The New Saudi King – #aWordAboutPoliticsInIslam

I slept while my king was Abdullah and I woke up and my king was Salman. No troubles, no intermediate government, no protests in the streets; Thank you Allah for the Islamic Sharia

Someone posted the words above on twitter and it went viral: some are spreading it happily agreeably while other had so much fun mocking it. I will admit that I was one of those who had a little bit of fun commenting on one of the posts.
What made me write this post is not that I want to continue having fun commenting on this post; Not even to talk about Saudi Arabia or its king. I am not writing this post to avenge the few offensive comments I received when I made fun of the quote above. Rather, to make a comment about this statement “The Islamic way of selecting a leaders.” Someone made this comment during the discussion that made me want to write a few posts hash-tagged #aWordAboutPolitcsInIslam. “A few companions got together and chose Abo Bakr; Abo Bakr chose Omar; Omar chose 6 and asked them to choose the leader from amongst themselves; There are 3 legitimate ways of selecting a leader in Islam.” Same person claimed.

In these few posts, I will share my view regarding this and I ask Allah to make these posts beneficials, educational, and somewhat fun to read.

In my favorite format (bullets):

  • In these posts, Politics = “governing and taking care of public affairs, whether a small group, a large community, or a whole nation.”
  • Politics is one of the things that are very progressive; that is, it is required to develop and progress to cope with new situations, life advancements, population increase, different backgrounds and social and traditional practices, etc. Unlike beliefs, rituals, or character–which are constant despite the circumstances, politics of one period may cause a huge burden when applied to another.
  • Islamic Sharia when addressing issues that are subject to change would not give specific and detailed guidance. Instead, a general framework of principles and overall guidance is prescribed, leaving the details to be figured out within this framework. Politics, I believe, is at the extreme end of this category.
  • Several (and few) principles define the framework of politics in Islam. Among them are these two main pillars:
    • 1- The moral (value) system by which politics is practiced is Islam itself. What is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, what is acceptable and what is not; what is a crime and what is not, and what is moral and what is immoral are ALL defined by this value system which stems from Islam. The verses in the Quran stating that are numerous. In simple words, as the Muslim individuals are obligated to rule their personal life according to the guidance of Islam, the Muslim community/society/nation is obligated to rule their public life according to the guidance of Islam (aka Sharia)
    • 2- The public affairs, and decisions thereof, lies in the hands of the PUBLIC. Allah said describing the believers, ” … whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves …” That is the authority of making decisions in public affairs is in the hands of the public; of course according to the moral system in principle 1 above.
  • To me, any violation to one of these two main principles is a violation of the guidance of Islam in doing politics even if practiced by statesmen at a time Muslim nations ran very successful advanced, and powerful states.
  • But what is the “Islamic” way of selecting the leaders? What is the Islamic way of legislating detailed laws? What is exactly the Islamic way of consulting the public in their affairs? The answer is exactly what I mean above by “stating a framework of principles, leaving details to be figured out.”
  • Therefore, I would say that selecting the leader directly by everyone, selecting a number of representatives and delegating the choice to them, or proposing names and conducting a massive approval, can all be considered Islamic IF and only IF they achieve “their affairs are determined by them.”

Next: The Appointment of Abo Bakr, Isn’t that the same way the Saudi King was appointed?

An American is About to Die; And You Are Not Doing Anything About It!

I 140401-soltan-615a_6bb0673d5316ace22e658d782e83ea12woke up this morning on a message from one of my old friends who lives in Saudi Arabia, “Wael, Mohamed Soltan is going to die. I am in my office now. I am helpless. I can’t do anything to him. I am just here crying.”

I paused for a moment, gathered my thoughts, then I responded, “Hey! It has been a long time since I heard from you. Sigh! Yeah, I know! He is among thousands of people: everyone of them has a tragic story!”

“No Wael!” He responded. “He is an American! Where is the American Government? What are the American people doing about it?”

I was a little surprised that my friend–who is not an American–speaks this language. I decided to call him.

“Want me to call?” I replied.

“Sure!” He answered.

Mohamed Soltan is a 27-years old, Egyptian American, who was arrested by the Egyptian Police in a street protest and was detained for over a year awaiting for trial. He has entered a hunger strike for close to year now. His health has deteriorated recently and people are worried about losing him.

“I thought calling you may be better.” I said to my friend.

“Yes it is! Thanks for calling and I am sorry to trouble you but I am here very helpless and I see my friend dying while I am unable to do anything about it!” He replied. “But I do not understand why you guys aren’t doing anything for him. Where is his government? Where are his friends? Where are the human right organizations? Where are people of conscience? Isn’t he an American citizen that you guys have to worry about? How do you just leave him die like this in prison?”

“Sigh! You know my friend. His case is not big enough to make the government push for it. There is no political motivation behind it for any politician to consider it seriously. It just did not get enough interest to be pushed forward” I, disappointedly, said.

“That is so passive Wael! YOU push for it! You make it motivating! You attract people’s attention. I know you are busy. I know you have tons of other things that you do. But this is a life of a human being that is under threat!” He angrily responded. “Don’t tell me he is not alone. I know he is not alone! But his case is unique and it should not be difficult to free him.”

“OK my friend! OK! I will try. I just do not know what to do. But I will try … Anyway, it has been a long time. How are you and how is your family …” I said

We hung up the phone. It was one of the toughest calls I had in a long time. I really do not know how to move and where to start. Well, First step, publishing this post

#freeSoltan

On Freedom of Expression and Religion

A very brief post about this very important subject. In my favorite format (bullets), I say:

  • Freedom of expression is a gift Allah (swt) has granted us. As a matter of fact, one of the elements of His Mercy is that he taught man how to express himself: “The Most Merciful * has taught the Quran * has created man * has taught him articulate speech” [55:1-4]
  • Offensive speech, especially that of racist nature or that which encourages crime, is wrong and should not be allowed
  • I admit that there is actually a thin boundary between freedom of expression and offensive speech
  • Religion is one of the things that many people hold dear. People who are committed to their religion would find it offensive if you criticize their religion, beliefs, or religious figures. No matter how sensitive you try to be or how polite you are, it will be perceived as offensive
  • There are many calls to keep religion out of the domain of free speech and avoid this sensitive subject; hence avoid offense. I disagree with that. Why? Next bullet
  • I view religion as the true faith, belief, and way of life one must embrace. Therefore, it is an obligation that one deliberately seeks the truth and spares no effort in finding it. In that endeavor one should allow critical thinking, challenges, and even criticism.
  • We can’t stop people from being critical in such an important issue such as religion even though it may appear offensive. One should not get offended by an argument. One should get excited to think more, understand more, and, in the end, either confirms one’s belief or corrects it.
  • HOWEVER, I am against ridiculing, insulting, cursing, lying, etc. To me this is not free speech even if some want to include it. Well, it is a thin boundary anyway. “Do not insult those whom they worship other than Allah, for they may insult Allah in ignorance out of spite …” [6:141]