Archive for the 'Islam: General' Category

Parallel Universes

April 6, 2007

The biggest difference between a Muslim and non-Muslim is their Weltanschauung. It is so utterly different and in the case of the Muslim, so engrossing and all-encompassing that it becomes a veil between him and the rest of humanity. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. Muslims simply do not realize what it’s truly like living in a world of meaning and metaphor that precludes the commandments of God. It is this differing world view that separates a believer from a non-believer; the greatest hurdle for true understanding between the two. That is one of the reasons why Sunni fiqh designed for western societies must scale not only the mountain of internal historical consistency in the face of modernity but also the mountain of establishing legal guidelines in conversation with people who cannot fathom an entire society still built around God.

It is foolish to think however that either is on the verge of collapse. Huntington was on to something [even though I don’t think he got it all right]. I am a true believer in Richard Bulliet’s view that a civilization of Islamo-Christian co-existence is only a matter of time. However, I also see an ocean of considerable ignorance that animates discourses in both universes. On the whole, whether we will continue to antagonize each other or not is a choice that lies in our very own hands.

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RIS 2006, Sherman Jackson and Mawlid w/ Shaykh Hamza

December 31, 2006

I will not be expanding on the Mawlid too much because it was a private event and nor will I be providing a hagiographic account of it. There were however, some things that are of some interest.

1) I was lucky enough to be seated between Ustadh Yahya Rhodus and Shaykh Ramzy Ajem. I didn’t even realize it was Shaykh Ramzy until much later: he is shockingly good-looking [mashaAllah] and fools you with his youthful appearance. Ustadh Yahya was like a rock. Didn’t move throughout the whole Mawlid. Him and Shaykh Hamza were both perfectly stationary throughout.

2) Shaykh Hamza said something very significant during the Mawlid. These lines of poetry that we recite were written by ‘Aarifin that were in a state most of us are only capable or re-terating in their words. In essence, it is a true benefit that they were able to transfer their experiences to word so that we may atleast get a taste of what they had. After peeking over at Ustadh Yahya’s copy of the Divan we were using, it was blatantly obvious that Shaykh Hamzah couldnt have been more right.

3) Shaykh Talal Ahdab and Shayhkh Hamza had a very long discussion before the Mawlid started. From what I could pick up, it was regarding manuscripts of the Aqida Tahawiyya and orientalist english renditions of it. For all not aware, they are both independently working on their own translations and compilations. I have a copy of Shaykh Talal’s first draft and it looks like a winner. We will have to wait and see what Shaykh Hamzah comes up with. Interestingly, I was able to sneak a peak at Shaykh Talal’s ‘gift’ to Shaykh Hamzah later on at the retreat: It was a truckload of volumes of Al-Dhahabi’s Maliki fiqh work.

4) Sherman Jackson got a chance to break out of his academic skin and relaxed on the podium. He should. Most people are nowhere near understanding one of his real lectures. He is handcuffed by his audience: after last year’s deplorable selection of answers the Shuyukh had to deal with, they realized we need to slow down.

5) Imam Zaid is the people’s man. People love him and he loves people. He creates that human bond that is not always available with intellectuals. Of note, Shaykh Hamzah, after the last session, stuck around and answered every single person until there was not a single person left. Actions speak louder than words: especially from a man whose words have been the catalyst of so much action.

6) Everyone has their opinion of Dr. Tareq Suwaidan. However, if there’s one thing I admire him tremendously for is his consistent preaching of two things: Reading atleast two books a month on any subject and professionalism and self-respect in every matter. Dr. Tareq is a successful man and it shows.

7) Shaykh Hamzah’s choice of using Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s tassawuff manual was brilliant. It was hilarious because Shaykh Hamzah had to explain just why Sidi Ahmad Zarruq was against the false sufis and the effectiveness of sama. This is why I love Shaykh Hamzah. He’s not caught up in projecting a dreamy, utopian image of Sufis. There were [and still are] deviant sufis and unless traditional Muslims say this openly, they are doing a disservice to themselves and the awam.

8 ) Sherman Jackson, Shaykh Hamzah and Imam Zaid were sneaking into each other’s lectures. That was some sight.

9) They invited all local ‘ulama to the last day to discuss the moon-sighting issue. It was good to see them interact with Shaykh Hamzah and Imam Zaid. There were many times when the Deobandi ulama were smiling and laughing along with Shaykh Hamzah’s witty musings. I was informed later on that a respected local Deobandi Mufti told an aquaintance that he rarely ever takes notes in a lecture. That changed during Shaykh Hamzah and Imam Zaid’s seminar where he came back with pages of them.

The Art of Fatwa

April 18, 2006

I recently spent some time with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. I observed something that I have found to be true of all true 'ulama. Myself and Salman, whenever we would ask the Shaykh anything related to fiqh, would be treated to a stratified answer. Such was also the case when I met with Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf last year. In many situations, a simple haram/halal answer treads of insensitivity. Also, we cannot discount the fact that in regards to some issues, a haram/halal binary does not and cannot exist. It is entirely plausible that one thing may be allowed for one and prohibited for someone else; and this is inline with fiqhi maxims. Our time with Shaykh Faraz was memorable, inspirational and most of all, had a good effect on myself and Salman's spiritual states. Regrettably for Shaykh Faraz, he may have inadvertantly rekindled my once lost love for Deoband and its institutions. Also, anyone who meets Shaykh Faraz will realize that he has an excellent (and I mean excellent) sense of humour. He had me laughing on plenty of occasions (Salman of course, being the obedient and respectful student controlled himself and limited himself to a smile everytime). The vibe that I got from him was that of happiness. To me, he was the perfect example of a man who chose to do with his life what his heart truly desired. I think that anyone present in his company would agree that we saw someone who enjoyed waking up in the morning because he chose to pursue his dreams. In him, we can find an example worthy of following.