Posts Tagged ‘islam’

BBC focus on British Deobandi, how should you respond?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

[3:110] You are the best Ummah ever raised for mankind. You bid the Fair and forbid the Unfair, and you believe in Allah.

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh

Letters received by numerous Deobandi institutes this week from the BBC News & Current Affairs department has stirred a great deal of interest and frenzy on social media. In light of these letters we would like to point out that the matter is being discussed amongst the ‘Ulama and responses to the BBC are being formulated.

Whilst we are unable to make the contents of these letters public at this time as they are under response, we would like to make a few observations and comments, to bring factual and accurate representation of Deobandi scholars and institutes, as well as to remind Muslims on how they should respond.

Although the letters don’t contain the details of the program, we think that the program is entitled ”The Deobandis” to be aired in 2 parts with the first part going live on Tuesday the 5th of April 2016 between 9.00am-9.45am. We encourage Muslims to tune in to both parts and to listen in.

Understanding the nuances of the term “Deobandi”

Darul ‘Uloom Deoband which is the full name that is often shortened to “Deoband” is an institute of higher Islamic education in a town called Deoband in India that was established in 1866 to preserve the heritage of religious learning. Today, it remains one of India’s largest and oldest seminaries where Muslims not only from India, but countries like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh etc., as well as from the Middle East and East Asia attend to gain undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Islamic Studies (‘Alimiyyah, Ifta, Tafsir, Hadith etc.).

Those associated with Darul ‘Uloom Deoband have played a crucial role in promoting a pluralistic society within India. During his speech at the World Sufi Forum (Delhi) on the 17th of March 2016, the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s acknowledged this role and paid tribute to the Scholars of Deoband stating:

The tallest of our leaders, such as Maulana Azad, and important spiritual leaders, such as Maulana Hussain Madani, and millions and millions of ordinary citizens, rejected the idea of division on the basis of religion.

Islam does not have a central religious authority, unlike for instance The Pope in Catholicism, and has always had a rich tapestry of diverse mutually-existing emphasis and interpretations of the sources of the religion – the Quran and Sunnah. In that context, it was up to scholarship to investigate and interpret the sources, and thus to establish normative Islam. These efforts very early in Islamic civilisation led to the establishment of centres of learning where both religious knowledge and subjects like Astronomy, Medicine, Chemistry, Geography, Logic, Philosophy etc. where taught. It became customary for scholars to take the name of the place they were from (or most known to be from) as suffixes in their names. And sometimes they would take multiple names. For example, the term “Al-Qurtubi” has been used for scholars from Cordoba in Spain, “Al-Azhari” for scholars from the institute of Al-Azhar in Cairo, “Al-Khwarizmi” for scholars from Khwarizm in Uzbekistan, and so on. The closest to this tradition in UK is the custom of showing the university one attained their degree from, such as the designation “Oxon” for Oxford or “Cantab” for Cambridge.

The use of the term “Deobandi” derives from this tradition, and refers to scholars who have either learnt, or studied with teachers, from Darul ‘Uloom Deoband. However, with time, as the number of graduates increased and became widespread, the term “Deobandi” came to be used much more loosely, particularly by non-scholars, often as throwaway labels of religious identity in antagonism to other religious identities. The growth of such attitude has meant that it is very easy, in a highly un-nuanced way, to categorise just about any Muslim as “Deobandi”. For instance, it is often the case that if you have friends who frequent so-called “Deobandi” institutes it is possible then you too could be known as “Deobandi” simply by virtue of association.

Contextualisation plays a significant role in traditional Islam, jurisprudence and derivation of (Islamic) rulings. It is therefore self-evident that a traditionally trained Deobandi scholar in Britain while using the same processes and methodologies may arrive at a different ruling to a Deobandi scholar in India. The origin of Deoband is in India and the Muslim community in India is a minority. In contrast, the Muslim community in Pakistan is in majority and therefore more assertive in nature. There are some similarities between the British Deobandi model and the Indian Deobandi model due to both communities being minorities. However, since British Deobandi community is unique in its context, it has evolved differently and its successful contribution and integration within the British civil society (across local communities, hospitals, prisons, charity organisations etc.) is evident. British Deobandis are successfully running close to 40% (or more) of Mosques in Britain independently, without resorting to government funds or support. It is a success story which is to be admired and appreciated.

Yet, the overwhelming majority of Muslims who might get labelled as “Deobandi” are of course not the least bit versed in the theological minutia of “Deobandi” scholars, which remain academic in nature. The term “Deobandi” unwittingly thus takes only the meaning of a religious identity. And unfortunately, disinterested Muslims are most guilty of misappropriating the term in this way, particularly those entrenched in religious dissension who fail to recognise that theological debates should be left to scholars. This in turn perpetuates completely unnecessary division within communities. Finally, “Deobandi” itself is not a fixed term. “Deobandi” scholars – both past and present, themselves have different interpretations on many matters, which is in tune with the wider tradition of normative Islamic scholarship throughout all periods. ”Deobandi” is nothing but traditional law.

What is the position of Deobandi scholars of Britain on terrorism, British values and integration?

Deobandi scholars:

  1. Fully endorse and are signatories to the many fatwas and conferences in 2008 & 2009 condemning in the strongest terms all forms of hate speech, violence, radicalisation, and involvement in terrorism, whether home or abroad. They have also endorsed and are signatories to the letter to Baghdadi.
  2. Explicitly, categorically and strongly condemn, and have no links to, terrorist organisations.
  3. Promote British values (such as such as democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs or of none) and teach that they are completely complimentary to Islamic values. The largest and leading Deobandi seminary in the UK is an independent school which has been rated “Outstanding” by Ofsted in 2014, and has repeated been found by inspectors (as recent as 2016) to promote British values and balances secular curriculum with Islamic education.
  4. Are against sentiments that are not conducive to integration and community cohesion in Britain.
  5. Take immense pride engaging in dialogue with faith and non-faith groups, as well as using faith to inspire Muslims to add value to society through achieving excellence in their jobs and workplaces, trades, charities, volunteering etc., so as to play their full part in British society.

Why should the letters to Deobandi scholars and institutes be of a concern to us?

The recent letters to Deobandi institutions are mostly generic in nature, and are being responded to by the institutes concerned. However, in some of these letters, the BBC programme makers have not asked for clarification but seem to have concluded that senior Deobandi scholars and institutes are associated with the Taliban. It appears that an attempt is being made to frame Deobandi scholars as somehow supporters of terrorist organisations by virtue of an implied “guilt by association”. Such assertions are deeply ill-informed and unsubstantiated. It is disconcerting that a public broadcaster like the BBC should attempt crude sensationalism, as it clearly belies the BBC’s high standards and defames the peace-promoting “Deobandi” scholars and institutes.

The methodology of being “guilty by association” is a tactic which is being liberally used against all Muslims, particularly those already in or seeking to enter public life. Many high profile Muslims and Muslim organisations who are fully engaged with the democratic and civic traditions of our country have also been unfairly slurred in part due to their Islamic identity. The source of such concerns could be as flimsy as being a Facebook friend with a former extremist, attending a university where radicals also studied, or having encouraged others not to co-operate with police. These broad brush character assassinations are seriously worrying.

With regard to the relationship with the Taliban, there has no doubt been an evolution in the collective stance of the UK and USA. For example, in the period 2001-2004 the Taleban had a number of official diplomatic-level visits to the USA meeting up with the then Vice President Joe Biden, which culminated in the White House officially confirming that the Taliban were not the enemy. Here are two examples of White House policy on Taliban, in 2001 and then 10 years later in 2011.

In light of this, finding Deobandi scholars today guilty by historical association is a crass standard of journalism. If it were an acceptable standard of journalism, it would mean that the many Foreign Secretaries who met and supported the likes of Saddam Hussain, Muammar Ghaddafi, Jerry Adams (Sein Fein) and others who were once supported but turned out to be terrorists or dictators etc., should all be found guilty by association. British relationship with the Sein Fein has  evolved over decades from being considered terrorists to (now) a legitimate political party involved in the British democratic process. Political relationships are fluid, influenced by policies and evolve.

Such approach does not take into account the changing nature of geo-politics and the adjustments and responses people, institutes and governments make.

How should British Muslims react when faced with slander?

The Quran provides a clear way forward for Muslims: “The good deed and the bad deed cannot be equal. Repel (the bad) with one which is better, then surely between whom and you there was enmity, will become as though he was a close friend.” (Quran, 41:34). The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught the companions: “You have been raised to be easy on people, not to be hard on them” (Al-Bukhari).

This means that even when fear, prejudice or stereotyping become widespread, particular if intended to defame or discredit Muslims, Islamic traditions (or infact any law-abiding civilised society), it is important to respond with convincing arguments and compassion, with something better as the Quran clearly states.

Advises Muslims to:

  1. Always seek consultation with parents, elders, scholars, imams and community leaders.
  2. Refrain from unnecessary commenting on this subject unless you have something beneficial to say as it is a matter for the institutes that have received the letters.
  3. Refrain from bad choice of words and language, or showing disrespect to the BBC or anyone, on social media or otherwise.
  4. Understand that the use of the term “Deobandi” has nuances that are usually overlooked. Whilst differences will always remain, and are a mercy to us, they should not be allowed to cause disunity. We should have the maturity and understanding to show good relations and manners (adab and akhlaq) to one another. We remain a part and parcel of British society and must show solidarity to play a key role in discharging our obligations and being in service (khidma) to others.
  5. We will further advise on how to write to the BBC to convey your thoughts about how the BBC should act to resolve not to make untrue and sensationalised assertions.

Finally, we pray and sincerely hope that the BBC producers will play a positive role in community cohesion to bring hearts and minds together and to maintain the high standards of journalism.

جزاك اللهُ خيرًا

Wifaqul Ulama

is an Islamic organisation and attempts to provide answers to issues and queries pertaining to Islam which are subsequently posted for public view for educational purposes. We bear no responsibility for circumstances and situations where the answers are misinterpreted, applied incorrectly or taken out of context. We reserve the right to revise and update content as and when needed and required. Please feel free to contacts us on wifaqulu@wifaqululama.co.uk.

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Media Attacks on Islamic Taribyah Academy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

BBC focus on British Deobandi, how should you respond?

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Debating Homosexuality

Monday, September 14th, 2015

By Daniel Haqiqatjou

This article was originally posted on Muslim Matters.

In light of the recent US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, we have seen a number of Muslim scholars reiterate the position of Islamic law on same-sex acts. What we have not seen much of, however, is reasoning explaining why Islamic law prohibits same-sex acts. Clearly many people today including Muslims do not understand why Islam or any religion would forbid homoeroticism. As it is often put, if two people love each other and want to consummate their love, what difference does it make if they happen to be of the same sex? What could be wrong about this?

To understand what is wrong requires addressing several large assumptions about sexuality and morality. These assumptions make it virtually impossible for people today to understand the moral reasoning and intuitions inherent to Islam’s stance on homosexuality. But once those assumptions are addressed, then Islam’s position starts to look more and more compelling. At the very least, Islam’s position stops looking like sheer hate, bigotry, prudery, etc.

The way that I have framed my thoughts on this issue is in the form of a “debate” with myself. Over the years, we have all heard the typical arguments and one-liners in support of homosexuality, so much so that these arguments have become embedded into the way most of us think about the topic. I give voice to this position in the form of questions and charges that a typical pro-gay advocate would raise against Islam’s stance on homosexuality. I then respond to these in turn, defending the Islamic view.

Q1: First of all, there are some Muslims who think that Islam is fine with homosexuality. Does Islam even prohibit same-sex acts in the first place?

I understand that there are a handful of outspoken Muslims who try to argue that Islamic law does not prohibit same-sex acts, despite the consensus of scholarly opinion to the contrary. I will not address the claim here mostly because the claim itself is so implausible and confused, frankly, that it hardly deserves recognition, let alone rebuttal. Typically, those who claim that Islamic law accommodates gay sex argue by radically redefining Islamic law and the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and exegesis. It is on the basis of that redefinition that they then try to stake their claim. This is not unlike a person who claims that US federal law permits grand larceny, and when he is shown the copious amount of relevant legal and historical documentation to the contrary, responds by disavowing the relevance of legal precedent, historical documentation, and conventional juristic methodology in determining US federal law.

As far as same-sex acts are concerned, the legal precedent and historical record shows complete unanimity on the part of Muslim jurists — not a single dissenting opinion can be found permitting same-sex acts in nearly a millennium and a half. The primary reason for this, no doubt, goes back to the many clear and unambiguous statements of the Qur’an and hadith themselves that categorically prohibit all forms of sexual activity between members of the same sex, as well as the clarity of the Sunna of the Prophet ?allallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Companions, and early community in this regard. Obviously, if one believes the weight of juristic consensus, combined with the unambiguous pronouncements of divine revelation and Sunnaic precedent, to be irrelevant in determining what God requires of us today, then it is hardly surprising (or interesting) that such a person would have divergent opinions on Islamic law vis-à-vis those who do put weight on that consensus, formed on the basis of those texts and those normative precedents.

Besides all this, some academics will also point out that premodern Muslim scholars worked with different categories of sex and gender than what would strictly map onto the modern categories we are familiar with today. What about the mukhannathun, the amrad, and so on? We will delve into some of these distinctions below, but for our purposes, what are germane are the moral implications of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex. This is the category of behavior the modern “gay rights” movement is primarily concerned with and, as it turns out, the type of behavior Islamic law unequivocally proscribes.

Q2: Let’s just cut right to the chase. Why should anyone regulate what people do in private? What business is it of anybody’s if two men want to have sex behind closed doors?

Even secular law regulates some of what people do behind closed doors. The distinction between “public” and “private” is irrelevant when it comes to issues of immorality and criminality. Part of this is because many things we do in the private sphere have an effect on the public sphere.

One straightforward example is drug use. We might think that if a person abuses heroin in private, that is his business. After all, the heroin addict is only hurting himself and what right does the state have to tell people what to do with their bodies? But if enough people start using heroin such that an appreciable size of the population consists of “junkies,” then this will clearly have a negative impact on society as a whole. Even in US political debates on the “War on Drugs,” both the “liberal” and “conservative” side acknowledge the negative societal impact of drugs. They just disagree on what is the best way for the state to regulate and curb drug use, i.e., whether to criminalize it outright or impose government programs to treat drug abusers and discourage drug use in the population. Either way, in the case of drugs, even liberals agree that what someone does behind closed doors very much is the business of a higher authority, i.e., the authority of the state, which aims to promote public welfare overall.

Another example is abortion. Studies have shown that the legalization of abortion in America and other countries correlated with drops in crime rates. Researchers believe this happened because legalizing abortion made it easier for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This, in turn, meant that fewer unwanted children were born and, hence, that fewer children grew up in detrimental environments and households that would make them prone to a life of crime.

Liberals often use these studies to argue that abortion is a good thing, that it has clear benefits to society as a whole. But, implicit in this argument is the idea that private behavior, namely whether or not women have abortions, has significant consequences for the public good. And if we acknowledge that private behavior has the potential to impact society at large and hence, impact each member of society individually, then why shouldn’t that private behavior be the business of a higher authority? As I argueelsewhere, this is one possible argument justifying Islam’s prohibition of premarital/extramarital sex. But, we could imagine other ways that a governing authority might regulate birth rates in order to protect society from the possible negative repercussions of private behavior.

Many other examples can be given, but the point is that the whole distinction between “public” and “private” easily breaks down when it comes to at least some questions of morality and protecting people in society from the negative impact of what others do behind closed doors.

Q3: Fine, drug abuse and abortion are two examples, but what does that have to do with homosexuality? How does two men having sex negatively impact society as a whole?

Well, the answer to this depends on what you think about homosexuality in the first place. The implicit assumption in this question is that same-sex activity is inherently harmless, but not everyone believes that. Muslims, for example, believe that certain sexual activities are deeply destructive — spiritually, mentally, and physiologically — to the person doing them, even if the person is physically enjoying him or herself. If enough people engage in these sexual activities, this will impact the character and health of society as a whole.

This is not unlike the drug abuse example above. While drug abuse is quite enjoyable for some, the fact is that drugs debilitate a person, and the cumulative impact of many such debilitated persons will negatively impact society.

Q4: But drug abuse is objectively harmful, not so with same-sex intercourse. Some Muslims might believe that, but that’s personal religious belief and has nothing to do with public law and morality in general.

Actually, drug abuse is not “objectively” harmful. Most people — liberal, conservative, religious, secular — all agree that drug addiction is harmful. But we can imagine someone that does not agree with this.

Imagine someone who truly believes that abusing hardcore drugs is a good thing. We might ask this person, “Don’t you see the harmful impact of drugs to the body, how drugs can cut someone’s life short, etc.?”

But our hypothetical drug advocate could respond, “Yes, I absolutely recognize the effects of drugs; I just do not believe that those effects are a bad thing.” In other words, while the empirical impact of drugs to the body is objective, considering that impact “harmful” is a judgment call based on a person’s normative outlook. For example, the drug advocate could try to justify his views by giving us an involved story about how life should be spent in a substance-induced euphoria, how the body was meant to be transcended, that self-destruction of the body is necessary for us to see the transience of life and the everlasting nature of the spirit, that a short and euphoric life is infinitely superior to a long but corporeal one, etc. Now imagine that this was not the view of one person but an entire community or demographic.

Obviously, given our contemporary assumptions about drug use, not many people would accept this story or find it the least bit plausible (unless the drug in question is alcohol, in which case some of our hypothetical drug advocate’s beliefs are widespread). But, ultimately, this is a dispute about what people believe about the human body, mind, spirit, the nature of life, death, and so on. Even if everyone agrees on the empirical, scientific aspect of drug abuse, they can still disagree on these metaphysical, value-laden questions.

Nonetheless, the liberal secular state must take a position on these questions, and it does: it deems drug abuse harmful and attempts to systematically curb it, either with criminalization or intervention, education, market manipulation, and other programming. The drug advocate, however, will experience these government programs as a forceful imposition on his beliefs, either by way of locking up “believers” or the use of public funds to “stigmatize” those beliefs and spread “propaganda” against them.

Islamic norms against same-sex acts could be cast in the same light. There are those that believe there is nothing harmful about homoeroticism, but Islamic law takes a different view. My point here is simply that what is or is not deemed harmful is ineluctably normative and far from objective. And since one’s notion of harm is so important in determining what is considered morally permissible or prohibited and whether an action should be subject to public scrutiny, we cannot so easily dismiss the Islamic view of same-sex acts as being harmful.

Q5: But it is still not clear how same-sex acts could be considered harmful, even from a religious perspective. It’s just sex. What’s the big deal?

Sex is a big deal, and it is not just Islam that thinks so. All cultures have extensive beliefs about the significance of sex, its meaning, its impact to the people engaged in it, its impact to society and to the world and beyond. Think about modern Western culture. If sex were not significant, there would not have been a whole “Sexual Revolution.” If sex were inconsequential, people today wouldn’t associate sex with human freedom itself. And look at Western popular culture and how much attention is given to sex and sex appeal. Sex even has implications for the economy since, as we know, “sex sells.” Freud, of course, went the farthest in interpreting literally all of human activity in terms of latent sexual drives and frustrations. And Darwin put sex in an even more pivotal, almost deified role by conceiving it as the fundamental force that creates new life and new species ex nihilo, as the most “fit” are those organisms that can out-reproduce and out-sex the competition.

Given this importance of sex on the individual, communal, physical, and metaphysical levels, it is only natural that cultures would feel the need to “regulate” sex, to define its proper bounds and its correct expression. And when those bounds are violated, it is always a big deal. And that is what we see. All cultures — even modern Western culture, as we will see — have specific beliefs about certain sexual acts being offensive and immoral and other sexual acts being deep violations.

As for “harm,” what we have to realize is that — regardless of whether we are Muslim or not, liberal secular or not — our senses of right and wrong are very complex and based on a multitude of different factors beyond just physical harm. The drug abuse example above was just a taste of that. Along those lines, consider that not all of our moral judgments are purely consequentialist, i.e., based on the tangible consequences of an action. For example, is it immoral for a person to daydream and fantasize about brutally raping and murdering someone? It’s just a daydream, so no actual consequences or physical harms result from that momentary act of imagination. But most of us would be at the very least disturbed by this, even if we cannot articulate why in purely consequentialist terms.

When we look at sexual morality specifically, all cultures — even modern Western culture — have specific beliefs about sex that go beyond consequences and physical harm. What is interesting is that each culture views its own set of beliefs as being preeminently rational and apt and the beliefs of other cultures as being nothing more than irrational taboos and prudishness, on the one hand, or lascivity and lewdness, on the other.

So while Western liberals might view Islam’s objections to same-sex behavior as just a cultural taboo with no basis in reason, other cultures view, for example, Western statutory rape laws in the same light. Or how about contemporary Western attitudes towards polygamy, adultery, public indecency, sexual harassment norms, and so on? Even among Western countries, different cultures have varying sex norms and view each others’ differences as either prudery or promiscuity. And when we look at how secular norms have changed over time…

Q6: Let me stop you right there. Sure, Western attitudes towards different sexual practices have changed over the past 300 years, from the Enlightenment, through the Sexual Revolution, and now culminating in the legalization of same-sex marriage. But that change is based on liberal tolerance and moral progress. Muslims, in contrast, are stuck in the 7th century.

The Western progressive narrative has it that, through the light of reason and science, Western civilization has been able to transcend puritanism as well as all other forms of sexual taboo and barbarity. This keen sense of triumphalism is dripping from, for example, the recent US Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which is seen by many as the culmination of the Sexual Revolution or even the Enlightenment. Accordingly, the belief is that we live in a sexually liberated age: Everything goes! Do what feels right (so long as it’s consensual, etc.). Depending on one’s outlook, whether “liberal” or “conservative,” this state of affairs is either a utopia or the End of Times. Whether it is cause for celebration or consternation, however, both sides of the political spectrum agree that moral inhibitions and taboos have been collectively chucked. Unfortunately, Muslims have also accepted this narrative.

A closer look, however, shows that this progressive myth has little basis in reality. It may sound strange to our culturally conditioned ears, but plenty of sexual inhibitions and taboos still stand in the West today, even though they are typically not conceived of in those terms. Contrary to popular belief, Western society is as judgmental as it ever has been on matters pertaining to sex, just not about exactly the same things and not in exactly the same ways. This stridence can be seen in how liberal secularists react to certain features of Islamic sexual ethics, e.g., polygyny, the age of `Aisha when she married the Prophet ?allallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), divorce (back when divorce was still taboo in the West), even marriage itself (back when liberal theorists were more forthright about their belief that marriage is tantamount to slavery), etc. Obviously, liberal secularists believe they have good reasons for these reactions, and as hard as it is for them to see beyond those feelings, the fact remains that from another perspective, from another set of normative assumptions and beliefs about the world, Islamic sexual ethics are perfectly reasonable and morally sound. Beyond Islam, there are also plenty of other cultures and religions that have sex practices and rituals the average liberal secularist would be squeamish and outraged about if those practices were common or prominent enough to show up on the West’s radar in the way Islam and Muslims, as subjects of colonialism, have over the past 200 years.

Beyond the cross cultural, further stringency can be seen in other areas of Western sexual morality. Consider views on voyeurism, indecent exposure, public masturbation, sexual harassment, etc. An imposing legal system with severe consequences for offenders enforces these points of Western sexual normativity. The question of legality aside, we see further sexual restrictiveness in the ever expanding realm of gender identity politics and policing, where even the most insignificant perceived slight is met with abhorrence and swift, harsh rebuke. To use “non-gender neutral” language, for example — simply using the impersonal pronoun “he” more than “she,” “he/she,” or “xe”  in one’s writing — is a grievous crime tantamount to rape in the eyes of some. Offenses of this nature typically do not have legal consequences, but anything not caught in the legal process is handled in the court of public opinion, where one’s reputationcareer, and livelihood are all on the line.

These examples show that there are many entrenched norms and taboos that continue to govern the sexual morality of Westerners, even though these restrictions are not experienced or conceived of as taboos or restrictions on sexual expression and autonomy. From a certain perspective, however, these could be seen as precisely that: overbearing restrictions on how individuals can express themselves sexually. When, for example, a person has to worry about something as seemingly small as pronoun usage in their writing, that is an indication of how objectively expansive and imposing the regime of modern Western sexual morality really is, as opposed to the free-for-all it is caricatured as. So this Western triumphalism, sense of superiority, and notion of progress toward more freedom and sexual autonomy are misplaced.

Q7: Even if it is conceded that Western sexual norms are extensive in quantity, they are nonetheless qualitatively less restrictive than their Islamic counterparts.

What does it mean for sexual norms to be more or less restrictive or more or less conducive to a person’s sexual autonomy? To answer this, we have to take a more theoretical look at the concept of desire.

What is desire? Plenty of religious and philosophical opinion has been expressed in both Western and Islamic discourse on this question. What is salient for us is the modern Western notion that any authentically experienced desire is worthy of satisfaction. Modern psychology, with its roots in Freudian psychoanalysis, tells us that if a man carnally desires another man, it would beharmful and, hence, oppressive to subjugate that desire. If an adolescent carnally desires another adolescent, it would beharmful and, hence, oppressive to insist on abstinence. Yet, if a person carnally desires an immediate family member, that desire must be repressed.

This connection between the satisfaction of desire and health (and human happiness generally) is important because that is how the typical modern Westerner conceptualizes sexual autonomy. The only just legal-ethical system is one that permits the maximum number of authentic, natural desires to be fulfilled while prohibiting the fulfillment of all inauthentic, unnatural desires, which inevitably lead to harm for the individual “perpetrator” himself as well as for possible victims.

From this it is argued that Western sex norms are the most just and liberating because they take into account people’s natural desires and allow them to fulfill all of them. Religiously-based sexuality, however, is unjust and restrictive because it recognizes people’s natural desires yet requires them to repress some of those desires for the sake of God.

There is much that can be said against this narrative, not least of which the question of how Western thought believes itself to have discovered what, in fact, is natural for a human being to desire. What constitutes essential human nature is very clearly a metaphysical question and, hence, cannot be answered by scientific inquiry. Tests in a lab are not going to reveal what human nature amounts to and what desires are in fact natural. And looking at the animal kingdom and trying to infer human nature by analogy to other species amounts to nothing more than the Naturalistic Fallacy.

In this way, conventional Western liberal attitudes about human desire are not based on any robust, objective theory of human nature. Without such a theory, there is no basis for liberals to claim that their sexual mores are more in line with natural human desire as opposed to, say, Islamic ones.

Islamic metaphysics, in contrast, does have just such a theory. Muslim scholarship frequently delves into metaphysical questions like the nature of man, his desires, his relationship to the cosmos and to God, etc. And the epistemological avenue Muslim scholars rely on is revelation, i.e., what God and His Messenger ?allallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) have said about these topics, coupled with the notion of thefitra (roughly translated as “normative primordial human nature”). Of course, non-Muslims may be skeptical about this source of knowledge, but at least Muslims purport to have a source of knowledge at all, whereas liberal secularism floats aimlessly, with no mooring from any consistent, principled standard of knowing.

Postmodernism, at least, is up front about this failing of modern epistemology and its resultant nihilism. Liberal secularism, in contrast, is in constant self-denial, insisting that liberalism and its sexual morality are what is most aligned with human nature but then failing to proffer a metaphysical account of what human nature is. By the same token, Islam and traditional religion are accused by liberal secularists of being contrary to human nature and, hence, oppressive, again without any underlying theory of human nature to give traction to these weighty accusations. How, then, can liberal secularism’s charge against Islam as “oppressing homosexuals” be taken seriously?

Q8: Look, I don’t care about whether or not Islam has a theory of human desire, etc. All I know is that homosexuals desire same-sex partners. They cannot help that. So to block the satisfaction of that desire is inhumane. Should we consign gays and lesbians to a life without sexual pleasure? What kind of religion wants people to be tortured like that?

Everyone has desires that cannot be fulfilled, whether due to social sanction, personal self-constraint, or sheer physical circumstance. That is just a part of being human. How we view the lack of fulfillment of those desires, however, depends on our beliefs about sexual morality. If someone cannot be sexually satisfied unless he publicly masturbates in full view of pedestrians, we would be fine “consigning” this person to a life without sexual satisfaction. The person himself might be sexually frustrated at not being able to fulfill his desires, but even he himself would not experience this frustration as torture. This is because he lives in a cultural milieu where public masturbation is socially frowned upon. Growing up, he was socially conditioned to understand that this is not appropriate behavior, that this is not what decent people do. Decent people must, as a matter of decency, morality, social cohesion, etc., learn to train their impulses and bring these under the disciplining force of moral habit and custom. So the would-be public masturbator does this, since he understands that public masturbation is not an actual, objective “need” that must be fulfilled for the sake of his physical and emotional health. In actuality, the impulses themselves will most likely decrease in frequency and strength or may disappear completely over time. And everyone, including the person himself, will see this as a good thing.

The point is that what we believe about which desires we must control and which we are free to pursue fundamentally depends on our moral commitments. Not only that, but our actual experiences of those desires will change depending on that normative worldview. Individuals today with same-sex attraction may feel that the inability to have intercourse with the same sex is a life of continuous frustration and misery, but that is in large part because that is what our current Western moral commitments entail. Individuals in different social contexts under different ethical frameworks would have a very different experience of these same-sex desires. And this is documented in both anthropology and history.

Furthermore, Western philosophers like Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Talal Asad, and others have argued that ethical systems play a deciding role in determining and shaping our desires as well as our experience of those desires. Ethics and desire are intimately connected and interdependent in this way. This may sound counter-intuitive because we typically think that our deepest impulses are completely natural and authentic and are not the products of outside influences. But, in actuality, outside forces can deeply impact what desires bubble up in our consciousness in the first place.

For example, children who are taught that public masturbation is wrong will internalize that injunction, which will in turn affect their thoughts and desires later in life, often preventing the impulse from even arising. And if it does arise, it will be experienced as a waywardness of the concupiscent self that must be disciplined and denied in the name of decency, morality, social cohesion, and the like. Of course, children do not have to be explicitly “taught” such things. The fact that certain behaviors are not done, at least not openly in society, in itself does a great deal to socialize and discipline children. Similarly, if children are taught that public masturbation is normal, legitimate behavior, that there is nothing wrong with this, etc., then even if they were not inclined to publicly masturbate otherwise, they may nonetheless feel a desire to do so where no desire existed before. (Note, however, that societal endorsement is not the only way socialization can occur. The fact that a person grew up in an anti-public-masturbatory culture and, as an adult, may even feel great psychologically distress at experiencing the urge to publicly masturbate does not contradict the notion that those desires are nonetheless socially constructed. In fact, it is to be expected that cultures that obsess and fixate on a certain taboo will also see a higher incidence of people violating or feeling the urge to violate that taboo. The more forbidden the fruit, the stronger people feel the urge to eat it despite themselves, whereas if the fruit were not there or if it had not been forbidden or if it had not been called “fruit,” etc., fewer people would experience the temptation.)

In these ways, we can see how some desires, for all intents and purposes, are implanted or produced by one’s social and cultural context. Or, more tenuous, amorphous urges that a person might passively feel in the course of the day are highlighted by society, reinforced by social acceptance, and then interpreted by the person as a deep, inherent desire to, say, relieve himself at the mall. In this way, socialization goes a long way in influencing our appetites.

Of course, this is not to say all human desire is purely a function of socialization, though postmodernist thinkers like Foucault do go to that extreme. Islam, however, recognizes that some desires are purely natural in the sense that that is how Allah created human beings. But there is also a recognition that this sound nature can be corrupted, or reformed and recovered if corruption has already occurred.

In the Islamic view, same-sex attraction in the sense of desiring intercourse with the same sex is not natural. As the Qur’an records, Lut 'alayhi'l-salam (peace be upon him) said to his people, “Do you commit lewdness such as no people in creation ever committed before you? For you practice your lusts on men in preference to women — you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (7:81)

That being said, finding members of the same sex attractive in the sense that a man recognizes another man as handsome or a woman recognizes another woman as beautiful is not unnatural. Similarly, it is not unnatural for a man to prefer the company of other men and prefer social interaction with them over women. Given this, it is not hard to imagine how a hyper-sexualized society could socialize children and adults to interpret such natural feelings as latent signs of same-sex sexual attraction. This would especially be the case in societies beholden to Freudian theories of sexuality, where a person’s every psychological impulse and conscious thought is somehow connected to some prior Oedipal frustration or childhood psycho-sexual encounter, where even something as nonsexual as breastfeeding an infant is understood to have sexual undertones. In such a society, these natural, nonsexual sentiments could be cast in a sexual light and then reinforced such that a person increasingly feels and is completely convinced that he desires the same-sex and that he is a “homosexual,” whether he is happy, neutral, or distressed by that “discovery.” Ultimately, the normative and metaphysical assumptions of that society — in addition to other psychological, emotional, or developmental issues — will crucially impact the way individuals see themselves in relation to their desires.

As it turns out, Islamic spirituality and metaphysics conceive the development and evolution of desire in much the same ways, as we will see below.

Q9: We don’t need to get into the dirty business of spirituality or metaphysics to know that, as long as two (or more) people consent to a sexual act, there is nothing morally objectionable about them going through with it. The fact that Islam restricts people from engaging in consensual behavior is plenty proof of the religion’s oppressiveness.

Actually, consent itself is a concept fraught with metaphysical assumptions.

On a theoretical level, the notion of consent is notoriously difficult to pin down. For example, feminists (and law makers) to this day have been struggling to define consent so that they can decide once and for all what constitutes rape. Rape, for nearly all people, is the ultimate example of sexual violation, so in many ways it has served as an archetype of sexual immorality in Western sexual ethics and liberal thought. And, of course, what makes rape a violation is the absence of consent. And while, in the case of a stranger sexually assaulting an unwilling person, the meaning of consent and its relevance to the moral status of the act is crystal clear, for other sexual behaviors and scenarios the meaning and relevance of consent is far less obvious.

Some extreme feminists, for example, argue that for a sexual encounter between a man and woman to be fully consensual, the man must continuously ask for permission throughout the act of intercourse since, at any moment during the act, his partner might change her mind and not want to proceed, in which case, what was permissible intercourse becomes rape.

In this vein, it is argued that for sex to be truly consensual and hence morally sound, every act between the sheets must be preceded with an, “Is this okay?” and a verbal affirmative from one’s partner. Before any change of position, any touch, kiss, or movement, a partner must stop and get formal authorization in the course of what would be a normal sexual encounter. (Yet, we are to believe that it is Islamic law that is autocratic in its regulation of sex compared to the supposed “Caligulan permissiveness” of the modern West!)

Other feminists and liberal theorists wonder whether the institution of marriage can ever be anything other than slavery and institutionalized rape. After all, given the existence of patriarchy even in modern society and how men are comparatively more powerful than women on average in terms of wealth and influence, how can any woman be independent enough to provide meaningful consent?

Beyond internal debates within feminism, there are other sexual behaviors where the significance of consent and its connection to morality are opaque. Again, let’s consider voyeurism. A man spies on women in a dressing room without them ever knowing about it. Since the women do not consent to being watched, consent-based sexual ethics deems the man’s action as morally wrong. But from a purely secular materialistic perspective, what impact does the man’s spying have on these women? Clearly, there is no physical or psychological harm to the women since they are none the wiser. One might say, well, maybe the man records what he sees and passes that along to friends and the overall reputation of the women is harmed. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this does not happen, that the man does not record anything and just enjoys what he sees in the moment. In this case, presumably we still believe this is morally wrong, but why? From the perspective of secular materialism, what is so special about consent that it can operate beyond the realm of physical or mental harm? Does consent have some kind of metaphysical or supernatural significance that is not captured by any physical factor? Wouldn’t this mean that even secular sexual norms, insofar as they invoke consent, have a metaphysical component, not unlike religious sexual morality? But I digress.

Necrophilia and bestiality are two other examples where consent is for all intents and purposes irrelevant, but most liberals would consider the act in question as morally objectionable and deviant.

There are also examples of acts considered morally despicable despite the existence of consent. Incest is one example. Consensual cannibalistic fetishism is another. The number of such actions eliciting disgust and moral condemnation from even the most permissive liberal are as limitless as one’s imagination. Of course, there are those extreme liberal secularists who bite the bullet and argue that all these activities, including incest and cannibalism by consent, are perfectly permissible so long as all parties mutually agree to participate. But, again, most people feel in their bones that these actions are fundamentally disgusting and wrong. Shouldn’t such intuitions factor into our moral reasoning and what we ultimately consider right and wrong?

Q10: No, these moral intuitions are irrelevant. They are purely subjective after all. People used to feel that homosexuality was viscerally disgusting, but now no such reactions arise.

Premodern thinkers — Muslim and non-Muslim alike, from Aristotle to Aquinas to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and beyond — almost took the reprehensibility of same-sex acts for granted, as if it were perfectly lucid and beyond the need for elaborate justification. Furthermore, these thinkers appealed to human nature, what we might call a person’s conscience, as plainly recognizing that such acts are vile. Modern readers interpret these appeals to conscience as evidence that the expressed abhorrence and categorical sanction are simply crass bigotry, prudery, and hatred.

But let’s examine this interpretation more closely. Is it that modern Western sexual ethics deny that viscerality and intrinsic human conscience per se are ever valid sources upon which to base our moral judgments?

From the perspective of the Islamic worldview, intuition and viscerality are very much a part of morality, whether in terms of how individuals exercise personal moral agency in their lives or in terms of how theologians theorize right and wrong. Modern liberal ethics and Western moral philosophy, in contrast, downplay the role of moral intuition and oftentimes completely disregard it.

Islamic sexual morality grounds the importance of our moral intuitions with the notion of the fitra. Certain moral reactions, tendencies, and postures are associated with the fitra in Islamic thought, as indicated in direct statements by the Prophet ?allallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) andpassages in the Qur’an. A full treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this essay, but we should note how the notion of thefitra is conceived as the ground not only for the highest moral sentiments — such as the knowledge of God, His Oneness, and the yearning to worship Him — but also the source of more visceral elements of a person’s normative outlook, e.g., one’s involuntary abhorrence to fahisha (i.e., sexual impropriety), disgust at feces, attraction to purity and cleanliness, shame surrounding nakedness, and so on.

Due to one’s God-given fitra, a person will intuitively recognize goodness and feel repulsed at corruption and depravity. In a famous hadith, the Prophet ?allallahu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Take a fatwa [i.e., take moral counsel] from your heart. Moral goodness [birr] is whatever your heart feels ease at doing, and sin [ithm] is whatever brings discomfort to the heart even if people counsel you otherwise.” Of course, this does not mean that a person’s heart or fitra is immune to corruption, which is why a Muslim must defer to Islamic law whenever applicable rather than automatically assume that his intuition on a matter is valid. That being said, the idea is that the sound fitra will perfectly align with Islamic law because both were set in this harmony by Allah.

Numerous Islamic scholars stressed this relationship between fitra and normativity. What is significant for our purposes is that, when it comes to moral reasoning, Islamic ethics has a seat at the table for these visceral elements of our normative Umwelt as human beings, factoring in this universal aspect of human nature where applicable.

Liberal secular philosophies, by contrast, either downplay or completely disregard this dimension of the human experience. It is not that liberal individuals themselves do not experience visceral normative reactions — everyone has a conscience and an intuitive sense of right and wrong after all. It is just that liberal ethics and meta-ethics do not make much of this type of visceral sentiment. This is a significant oversight considering that if we survey the moral attitudes of any religion or culture, including modern Western culture, we will always find a class of normative reactions that can only be described, for example, as categorical revulsion (though the actions eliciting such revulsion may vary from one culture to the next). Revulsion specifically concerns actions that are so odious that to simply think about them causes one to gag in disgust and horror. It is significant that these reactions are non-cognitive, meaning they are not obtained through conscious thought or carefully considered moral reasoning. Rather, they are immediate in a way that instantaneously impresses upon the mind prior to any ratiocination.

Incest with one’s own mother is a straightforward example of an act that elicits this response in virtually all cultures and religions. No in-depth moral reasoning, no consideration of practical ends, harm, virtue, consent, utility, or anything else needs to be theorized or reflected upon prior to a person’s instantaneous and visceral reaction of abhorrence and a sense that something is seriously wrong.

What place does this intuitive sense have in liberal secular ethics? Clearly, visceral abhorrence does exist in the Western mind, even if it is not conceived as such. Typical sexual examples evoking this reaction include incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, vorarephilia (i.e., erotic desire to be consumed by, or to consume, another person), coprophilia (i.e., sexual arousal and pleasure from feces), and bestiality (even though public opinion on the latter has recently been shifting toward tolerance) — and, until very recently, homosexuality. But, when pressed to justify or explain their position on these acts, Western ethicists fall back on an often convoluted, over-intellectualized discussion of harm, objectification, and consent. Rather than admit that people find these acts intuitively repulsive and that this is the central, plain, and overriding reason such acts ought to be deemed immoral, liberal secular thought attempts to theorize and base its moral condemnation on a pragmatic analysis, in terms of a rationalized harm and consent.

As mentioned before, this tendency is in accordance with liberal modernity’s own self-image of being preeminently rationalist, pragmatic, and free of purely emotive considerations or irrational “taboos.” And while not all Western philosophers in history made short shrift of conventional moral intuition in their ethical theories, the predominant view among Western ethicists in the liberal secular tradition is that intuition is subjective and carries no normative force.

Q11: Right, our intuitions and conscience are subjective! If Muslims want to argue that the fitra is important and that the “purefitra” recognizes that same-sex acts are abhorrent, why should anyone else care? What significance does that have for determining the moral status of homosexuality?

Saying that the conscience is “subjective” is an epistemological point. It means that there are no “objective” ways by which we can know what moral intuitions are truly natural and hence universal to all human beings. But the question of what we can or cannot know objectively is separate from the question of what does or does not exist. In the parlance of analytic philosophy, we cannot conflate questions of epistemology with questions of ontology.

What does this mean? Well, Muslims can concede that there is no “objective” way to know that the fitra as described in revelation exists. We can concede that there are no scientific experiments that will unveil true primordial human nature. But, just because science cannot opine on this does not mean that the fitra does not exist and does not operate in the way Islamic thought describes. After all, science cannot opine on a lot of things that we nonetheless experience as realities, e.g., human consciousness, the nature of time, or normativity and our sense of right and wrong itself.

To recap, we have already discussed how moral intuitions and our conception of human nature are important in determining our beliefs about right and wrong and sexual norms specifically. We have also discussed how Islam proposes a robust theory about our intuitions, human nature, and how all that relates to Islamic law and its attitude toward same-sex acts. Modern Western secular thought does not provide much of an alternative theoretical view. This is in large part because secular thought sees itself as scientific to a fault and thus avoids metaphysical debates about human nature and the human essence, despite itself. This is significant because Islamic sexual norms against same-sex acts are underwritten by a full intellectual discourse with the weight of 1400 years of unanimity on the issue, whereas the West’s very recent acceptance and normalization of homosexuality is not based on anything other than changing cultural attitudes of the last fifteen to twenty years.

Q12: It’s not “changing cultural attitudes” that have led to sexual liberation for LGBTQ individuals. It’s recognizing human rights and rejecting illegitimate religious taboos against gay love.

Again, this is the progressive myth that “homosexuals” — as a category of people — have been oppressed for millennia and it is only the modern West that has recognized and stopped that oppression.

In actuality, the “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” and “sexual orientation” in general are modern Western social constructions (which is not to say that these categories are not experienced as real). Both religious and secular academics have made this point, while anthropologistssociologists, and intellectual historians have documented the cultural variance in conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender. Even contemporary queer theory proposes a social constructionist account of same-sex identity and sexuality in general. (And academics like Joseph Massad go even further in arguing that the hetero/homo binary and Euro-American conceptions of sexuality in general are often forcefully imposed in an imperialistic way on other cultures and colonized peoples who, naturally, do not share these Euro-centric categories of “sexual identity.” Sexuality politics and a mission to “save the oppressed Muslim homosexual” thus becomes a pretense for “intervention” in the Muslim world, in much the same way Euro-American feminism and the mission to “save the oppressed Muslim woman” became and continues to be a pretense for Western imperial presence throughout the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and beyond.)

As far as Islam’s “oppression of homosexuals,” we should note that classical Islamic scholars did not even have a conception of “heterosexuality” let alone “homosexuality” (as was also the case in other cultures, including Europe up until the late 19th century). In Islamic law, what is impermissible is simply anal intercourse between two males and other male-male (as well as female-female) actions done with sexual desire. These sexual norms were on the books for centuries, despite the fact that same-sex activity did occur in Muslim-majority lands throughout history. Even though people were engaging in same-sex activity, they did not self-identify as “homosexuals” or as a separate category of people that could have even become a subject of systematic oppression.

So which narrative is more plausible?

1. For millennia across hundreds of different cultures across the globe, “homosexuals” — as a distinct, identifiable category of people within any given population — have been subjugated and repressed, and only the modern West of the past forty years or so has had the clear-mindedness and bravery to recognize this subjugation and “emancipate the homosexuals.” The modern West, after all, is the most enlightened and moral of all peoples of all times, so it should come as no surprise that they would be the first to “discover” what literally 99% of humanity throughout human history was too stupid or too cruel to see.

2. For millennia across hundreds of different cultures across the globe, people have experienced the full gamut of sexual desire. Different cultures regulated the expression of those desires in different ways, but the satisfaction of same-sex sexual desire was almost universally prohibited on the basis of robust theories of human nature and sexual morality. Then the Enlightenment happens, religious and non-Western notions of human nature and moral reasoning are deemed “unscientific” and eventually discarded, effectively unmooring cultural practice from the grounding of tradition or moral principles embedded in a larger ethical view of human meaning and life. Sanction of same-sex acts continues for a while due to cultural inertia, but little by little, attitudes change. What used to be moral deviancy is recast as a “psychopathological disorder” and then, finally, as just another normal, acceptable facet of a person’s “sexual orientation,” until “homosexuality” is recognized as such and no one can see why the “homosexual” should be constrained by “archaic” sexual mores.

To me, it is far more plausible that current views on same-sex behavior are the product of changing cultural attitudes that have been dressed up in the language and conceptual framework of emancipation. The alternative view, as expressed in the first narrative above, is nothing more than an ethnocentric, self-aggrandizing myth based on historical revisionism and a marked disdain for conceptual rigor and consistency.

Q13: If the West is so lacking in “conceptual rigor and consistency,” what conceptually rigorous and consistent account of sexuality does Islam provide?

The Islamic account of human sexuality begins with Adam 'alayhi'l-salam (peace be upon him), the first human being God created. As the Qur’an recounts, Adam 'alayhi'l-salam (peace be upon him) resided in Paradise with his wife until Satan deceived them into eating from the forbidden tree. Upon consuming the fruit, they became aware of their nakedness for the first time and felt the shame of this. So they used leaves from trees to clothe themselves. Realizing their mistake, they turned to Allah for forgiveness and He turned unto them in forgiveness while also sending them out of Paradise and placing them on Earth, a place of pain and hardship.

What Islamic scholars have taken from this event at the precipice of human history is that human beings naturally incline towards breaking the rules. God has set limits for us, but Satan, the evil inclinations of our own selves, and our tendency to immerse ourselves in the satisfaction of our desires push us to transgress these bounds. Violating the limits set by Allah is the epitome of ingratitude because He has given humanity many licit ways of satisfying our desires and enjoying life. Unlike Christianity and other religions, Islam does not consider bodily enjoyment and partaking in worldly pleasure to be inherently sinful. Rather, to imbibe of the permissible in life and, in doing so, to remember and be thankful toward one’s Lord and Master is a major part of what Islam considers as part and parcel of righteousness. Diametrically opposed to this are israf (i.e., wasteful overindulgence) and ghafla (i.e., heedlessness), in other words, to transgress beyond what Allah has made permissible and to do so in a heedless, ignorant manner without regard for the One who has provided all these bounties and blessings in the first place.

Accordingly, sexual misdeeds are the essence of such transgression. Here, a person’s nakedness and those parts of the body associated with nakedness are used in indecent ways. And that indecency is the cause of shame and human suffering, as a person debases and humiliates himself before God and all creation. By putting aside the permissible pleasures in order to taste the forbidden fruit, human beings show the utmost disregard for the Almighty and the very purpose of their creation and place on this earth. It is in this sense that, in the Qur’an, the people of Lot 'alayhi'l-salam (peace be upon him) are labelled “musrifun” (from israf): “For you practice your lusts on men in preference to women — you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds [i.e., musrifun].” In these ways and more, sexual morality very literally has a cosmic significance.

In Islamic spirituality and ethics, desire is always something that needs to be controlled so as not to exceed these boundaries set by God. Even natural, God-given desires, like the desire to eat, sleep, or have relations with the opposite sex, must be tempered so as not to lead a person into transgression. If a person perseveres in keeping his desires in check and in accordance with what God wants, then eventually that person’s desires will transform such that even the thought of violating the Shari`a becomes abhorrent to him. But, if a person succumbs to his desire, transgressing sacred norms repeatedly without repenting to Allah, then this too leads to a transformation.

Islamic metaphysics, interestingly, does acknowledge the mutability of desire in the sense that a person may experience a desire for something, but that desire is not natural in the sense of it arising from human nature, i.e., the primordial normative form — the fitra — upon which human beings were created by God. A person’s fitra, after all, can be corrupted, whether by social circumstance, parental influence, or even the whisperings of shayatin (i.e., satanic demons).

As classical scholars like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali describe, according to Islamic metaphysics, no amount of indulgence of a desire can lead to complete satiety. Only temporary gratification is possible, so if a person becomes accustomed to yielding to his desires, eventually he will lose the ability to abstain until the desires themselves grow ever more demanding and take over the person.

Whereas modern Western thought distinguishes desire for intimacy with men versus desire for intimacy with women, Islamic thought (along with many other civilizations, both historical and contemporary) identifies the primary natural urge for males as the urge to penetrate, whereas females urge to be penetrated. As scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah describe, the same desire to penetrate women can be corrupted such that it is directed towards men, but that desire is not sui generis. Any man who gives free reign to his lust for women may eventually be driven toward craving to penetrate other men, animals, and beyond. A male who desires to be penetrated, however, is understood to be suffering from a kind of abnormality known as “ubna.” In this way, the “active” and “passive” partners are distinguished respectively, as has been the case in many cultures throughout history including ancient Greek civilization.

To this day, many Middle Eastern men who participate in same-sex intercourse in this active role do not typically consider themselves to be “gay.” They perceive themselves simply as men since they continue to play the typically “male” role even in an encounter with another man. Again, the operative distinction here is primarily one of role rather than of gender. The Western homosexual, in contrast, understands his very desires to be completely distinct from those of the heterosexual. Furthermore, it is his desire for sexual contact with a male, regardless of the respective role played, that marks him off distinctly as a “homosexual,” highlighting the modern West’s (culturally and historically bound) prioritizing of gender over role or any other potentially relevant consideration. This is the “orientation” a person is supposedly born with. As such, a homosexual man could never truly desire the opposite sex or have his desires satisfied by a woman.

Finally, when it comes to the prohibition of same-sex acts, Islamic scholars typically express four main ideas in their reasoning against male-male anal intercourse (i.e., liwat) as well as same-sex sexual acts generally (though female-female tribadism, i.e.,sihaq was less discussed):

1. An expression of disgust and abhorrence as well as condemnation in the strongest terms while citing not only the Quranic account of the people of Lot (i.e., qawm Lut), but also human nature (or conscience) as immediately recognizing the evil of this act.

2. Appeals to nature and teleology, specifically regarding the natural, God-given roles of males as penetrators and females as recipients of penetration and how liwat subverts this normative order. This language is especially prominent in legal treatises. Beyond jurisprudence, some theologians go further in discussing the inherent complementarity of the male and female bodies as well as other characteristic traits essential to each sex as well as how that complementarity bears life, propagates the “descendants of Adam,” and provides the basis for familial and societal flourishing, in contrast to same-sex acts which undermine all these.

3. Characterization of liwat as being driven by extreme, blameworthy desire where men who, in their lust and desire for sexual variety, turn to other men instead of females.

4. Mention of physical and mental diseases caused by liwat as well as characterizing a male’s desire to be penetrated as a mental affliction, i.e., “ubna.”

Obviously, the classical Islamic view of desire and how it leads to same-sex intercourse, as well as the reasoning for prohibiting that intercourse, are all outrageously offensive to the modern liberal mind. But this offense is due to specific cultural attitudes and assumptions that we have questioned and deconstructed throughout this “debate.”

Q14: I have gay and lesbian friends. Ultimately, what they say they feel and makes them happy is all I care about.

Islam cares about what people feel and what makes them happy, too.

It should be recognized that from the Islamic perspective, we all have to be constantly critical of ourselves and question whether or not what we believe about ourselves is true. A Muslim, for example, could spend his whole life believing that he is a just, righteous believer only to discover on the Day of Judgment that he was in fact a hypocrite because his false piety was only for the sake of people and not for God alone. In the same way, a person might see himself as a “homosexual” and subjectively experience what he thinks are immutable desires, but, in reality, he is only deceiving himself.

Even liberal secularists recognize this capacity for self-deception. Consider the latest identity groups that have entered the scene, such as the otherkin. For the uninitiated, otherkins are individuals who believe themselves to be partially or entirely non-human. For example, some otherkins have very strong feelings that they are partially animals, e.g., foxes, rabbits, kangaroos, etc. These feelings constitute a significant part of their sense of self such that otherkins feel an overwhelming biological or psychological connection to the species in question. Some have argued that being otherkin even has a genetic basis. Indeed, many otherkin activists have adopted the language of social justice and minority rights to fight for respect, acceptance, and equal treatment in society at large, which they believe to be deplorably “human-centric” and “kinphobic.”

One does not have to come from a religious perspective to see all this as ludicrous. Even gay-rights activists bristle at the audacity of otherkins and take offense at the comparison with homosexuality. After all, sexual orientation has a real basis in constituting people’s identities, they argue, whereas otherkins are a bizarre, invented subculture. Otherkins, however, interpret this animosity to their cause as not unlike the prejudice homosexuals had to endure prior to mainstream acceptance.

Otherkins obviously feel very strongly about their animal identities and believe that they were “born this way” and that being otherkin is an important component of human nature. Regardless of how strongly they experience these feelings, however, that does not mean the rest of us are wrong to think they are crazy. Analogously, self-identifying homosexuals may feel very strongly about sexual orientation, its place in the human psyche, and its role in generating desire. Nonetheless, all that subjective feeling is irrelevant to the derivation of moral norms and legal rulings in light of a robust theory about human nature as given in Islamic thought, especially given the fact that, from the Islamic perspective, individuals and entire societies can systematically mislead themselves about right and wrong, purity and filth, as demonstrated by the story of Lot 'alayhi'l-salam (peace be upon him) and his folk. Simply put, what God tells us concerning human nature and the fulfillment of desire trumps what people subjectively feel or claim about themselves.

Ultimately, it is unfortunate that modern society has bombarded individuals with the unchallenged idea that same-sex attraction is natural, that having a “gay sexual orientation” is immutable, that same-sex behavior is acceptable and even healthy. Given this, it is not surprising that that is what so many in our communities and in our society deeply believe and feel about themselves. But there is nothing wrong with us problematizing these assumptions and working in a compassionate manner to get people to see and experience an alternative reality that proceeds from an elevated and holistic account of who we are, what our purpose is, where we are going, and to Whom we shall ultimately all return.

_________________

About the Author: Daniel Haqiqatjou is a columnist at MuslimMatters, where he maintains his column The Muslim Skeptic. He attended Harvard University, majoring in Physics and Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou is also a student of the traditional Islamic sciences. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity. Contact: EmailTwitterFacebook.

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The Rules Of Zakat

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
The Rules Of Zakat

The Rules Of Zakat

Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and a unique system, which has no parallel in any of the other prevailing religions. Unfortunately, Muslims, in general, know little about the rules governing Zakat.

The author deserves compliments for compiling this monograph dealing exhaustively in a simple and easy-to-understand manner with all the aspects of Zakat.

Cover: Paperback
Author: Mohammad Shoaib Omar
Publisher: Idara Isha’at-e-Diniyat (P) Ltd
Pages: 56
Size: 21.4 x 13.8 cm

Available at Darul Ishaat UK

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Knowledge and Adab

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Syed Muhammad al-Naquib al-Attas
Posted: 26 Jamad-ul-Awwal 1433, 18 April 2012

The aim of education in Islam is to produce a good man.’ What is meant by good in our concept of `good man’? The fundamental element inherent in the concept of education in Islam is the inculcation of adab (ta`dib), for it is adab in the all-inclusive sense I mean, as encompassing the spiritual and material life of a man that instills the quality of goodness that is sought after. Education is what the Prophet, Peace be upon him, meant by adab when he said:

“My Lord, educated (addaba) me and made my education (ta`dib) most excellent.”

There is a general tendency among Muslims who are aware of the dilemma that is now pressing upon the Community to see its causes as external, as coming from the outside, originating from influences exerted by Western culture and civilization. That its causes are attributed to external elements is of course based upon correct observation, but it is also only partly true. It is true that the Muslim mind is now undergoing profound infiltration of cultural and intellectual elements alien to Islam; but to say that the causes are derived from external sources is only partly true. How has it been possible in the first place for Muslims to succumb to such infiltration to the extent that their predicament has now assumed the proportions of a dilemma? We will at once realize that the external causes referred to are not the only ones responsible for throwing us into a state of general crisis, and we must see that the full truth of our answer to the question lies undeniably in the prevalence of a certain anomaly within our Community; an anomaly that has with increasing persistence plagued our world and our intellectual history, and that has been left uncorrected and unchecked, now to spread like a raging contagion in our midst. Only by our consciousness and recognition and acknowledgement that serious internal causes have in. fact contributed considerably to our general disarray will we be able to discern the full truth that lies at the core of the dilemma we suffer today.

We can never resolve this dilemma unless we know why we have allowed ourselves to be so weakened as to be susceptible of straying away from the right path. One of the definitions of knowledge is to know the cause of the existence of a thing, for knowledge of the cause or causes is itself a partial solution to the problem. And this brief discussion on external and internal causes is meant to create the awareness that the internal causes are prior to the external and as such the former have primacy over the latter, so that their clarification demands our urgent attention. This introduction will attempt to clarify the problem.

Basic Problem: Loss of Adab

As to the internal causes of the dilemma in which we find ourselves, the basic problems can – it seems to me – be reduced to a single evident crisis which I would simply call the loss of adab. I am here referring to the loss of discipline — the discipline of body, mind, and soul, the discipline that assures the recognition and acknowledgement of one’s proper place in relation to one’s self, society and Community; the recognition and acknowledgement of one’s proper place in relation to one’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities and potentials; the recognition and acknowledgement of the fact that knowledge and being are ordered hierarchically. Since adab refers to recognition and acknowledgement of the right and proper place, station, and condition in life and to self-discipline in positive and willing participation in enacting one’s role in accordance with that recognition and acknowledgement, its occurrence in one and in society as a whole reflects the condition of justice. Loss of adab implies loss of justice, which in turn betrays confusion in knowledge.

In respect of the society and community, the confusion in knowledge of Islam and the Islamic world-view creates the condition which enables false leaders to emerge and to thrive, causing the condition of injustice. They perpetuate this condition since it ensures the continued emergence of leaders like them to replace them after they are gone, perpetuating their domination over the affairs of the Community.

Thus to put it briefly in their proper order, our present general dilemma is caused by:

1. Confusion and error in knowledge, creating the condition for:
2. The loss of adab within the Community. The condition arising out of (1) and (2) is:
3. The rise of leaders who are not qualified for valid leadership of the Muslim community, who do not possess the high moral, intellectual and spiritual standards required for Islamic leadership, who perpetuate the condition in (1) above and ensure the continued control of the affairs of the Community by leaders like them who dominate in all fields.

All the above roots of our general dilemma are interdependent and operate in a vicious circle. But the chief cause is confusion and error in knowledge, and in order to break this vicious circle and remedy this grave problem, we must first come to grips with the problem of loss of adab, since no true knowledge can be instilled without the precondition of adab in the one who seeks it and to whom it is imparted. Thus, for sublime example, God Himself commands that the Holy Quran, the Fountain of all true knowledge, cannot even be touched in approach save through the prescribed adab or ritual purity. Knowledge must be approached reverently and in humility, and it cannot be possessed simply as if it were there available to everyone irrespective of intention and purpose and capacity. Where knowledge of Islam and the Islamic world-view is concerned, it is based on authority. Since Islam is already established in perfection from the very beginning, requiring no further developmental change nor evolution towards perfection, we say again that adequate knowledge about Islam is always possible for all Muslims. There can be no relativism in the historical interpretation of Islam, so that knowledge about it is either right or wrong, or true or false, where wrong and false means contradiction with the already established and clear truth, and right and true means conformity with it. Confusion about such truth means simply ignorance of it, and this is due not to any inherent vagueness or ambiguity on the part of that truth. The interpretation and clarification of knowledge about Islam and the Islamic world-view is accomplished by authority, and legitimate authority recognizes and acknowledges a hierarchy of authorities culminating in the Holy Prophet, upon whom be Peace.

It is incumbent upon us to have proper attitude towards legitimate authority, and that is reverence, love, respect, humility and intelligent trust in the veracity of the knowledge interpreted and clarified by such authority. Reverence, love, respect, humility and intelligent trust can be realized in one only when one recognizes and acknowledges the fact that there is a hierarchy in the human order and in authority within that hierarchy in the matter of intelligence, spiritual knowledge and virtue.

In respect of the human order in society, we do not in the least mean by `hierarchy’ that semblance of it wherein oppression and exploitation and domination are legitimized as if they were an established principle ordained by God. The fact that hierarchical disorders have prevailed in human society does not mean that hierarchy in the human order is not valid, for there is, in point of fact, legitimate hierarchy in the order of creation, and this is the Divine Order pervading all Creation and manifesting the occurrence of justice.

God is the Just, and He fashions and deploys all Creation in justice. In order that mankind generally might recognize and acknowledge the just order, He has bestowed upon His Prophets, Messengers and men of piety and spiritual discernment, the wisdom and knowledge of it so that they in turn might convey it to mankind who ought to conform with it as individuals and as a society. And this conformity with that order is the occurrence of adab; the resulting condition of that conformity is justice.

Process of Leveling

The chief characteristic symptom of loss of adab within the Community is the process of leveling that is cultivated from time to time in the Muslim mind and practiced in his society. By `leveling’ I mean the leveling of everyone, in mind and attitude, to the same level as the leveler. This mental and attitudinal process, which impinges upon action, is perpetrated through the encouragement of false leaders who wish to demolish legitimate authority and valid hierarchy so that they and their like might thrive, and who demonstrate by example by leveling the great to the level of less great, and then to that of the still less great. This Jahili streak of individualism, of immanent arrogance and obstinacy and the tendency to challenge and belittle legitimate authority seems to have perpetrated itself— albeit only among `ulama of less authoritative worth — in all periods of Muslim history. When Muslims become confused in their knowledge of Islam and its world-view, these `ulama tend to spread among them and influence their thinking and infiltrate into positions of religious leadership; then their leadership in all spheres of life tends to exhibit this dangerous streak and to encourage its practice among Muslims as if it were in conformity with the teachings of Islam. They who encourage this attitude pretend that what is encouraged is no other than the egalitarian principle of Islam, whereas in fact it is far from it in that what they propagate leads to the destruction, or at least the undermining, of legitimate authority and hierarchy in the human order — it is the leveling of all to their level; it is injustice.
No doubt it is possible to concede that the critics of the great and learned were in the past at least themselves great and learned in their own way, but it is a mistake to put them together on the same level — the more so to place the lesser above the greater in rank, as happens in the estimation of our age of greater confusion. In our own times those who know cannot fail to notice that critics of the great and learned and virtuous among Muslims, critics who include groups of both modernist and traditionalist `reformers’, and a third group consisting of secular scholars and intellectuals, who all emulate the example of their teachers in the habit of censuring their own true leaders, are men invariably of much less authoritative worth than the lesser of the past; men whose intellectual and spiritual perception of Islam and its world-view cannot even be compared with any of those of their teachers — let alone with those of the great they disparage, from whom their teachers derived knowledge and guidance without due acknowledgement.

They and their followers thrive where there is confusion and ignorance, where they can escape the relentless scrutiny and censure of knowledge. It is because Muslims in our age have become confused, ignorant and desperate that they see in them men who have, as if for the first time, opened their minds to Islam; they do not see that these men are poor imitations of the great of the past. They do not bring anything new that the illustrious Muslims of the past have not already brought; nor do they clarify Islam better to the clouded vision than the immensely superior clarification accomplished by the masters of the past. Yet, it is such as they who have been most vociferous and vehement in disparaging and denouncing the past, its, great and learned scholars, thinkers and jurists and men of spiritual discernment.

All the three groups mentioned are prone to leveling everyone to the same level of equality, notwithstanding the fact that even in God’s Sight we are not all the same and equal. Indeed, we are all the same in that we are creatures of God, human beings, cast in flesh and blood. But our spirits, our souls, though derived from that One Spirit, and though essentially the same are, in point of power and magnitude, not the same, not equal. We are like so many candles of varying lengths and shapes and hues and sizes; the tallow they are made from is essentially the same and the light they burn is essentially the same, but the greatness of the flame, the light each sheds, is not the same in power and magnitude. And we judge the value of the candle by the light it sheds just as we judge a man by those qualities by which he is not the same, but excels another, such as by his intelligence, virtue, and spiritual discernment. So it is neither correct nor true to regard such a man as merely a man of flesh and blood like any other, for he is not like any other in that his intelligence, virtue, and spiritual discernment transcend the limitations of his flesh and blood, and his greatness of spirit manifests his excellence over others. Adab is the recognition and acknowledgement of such lights in man; and acknowledgement entails an attitude expressing true reverence, love, respect, humility — it entails knowing one’s proper place in relation to him who sheds such light.

The basic problem, therefore, is that of education — the lack of proper and adequate Islamic education — for such education, rightly systematized, would assuredly prevent the occurrence of general confusion leading to aberrations and excesses in belief and in practice.

How Education is Leading to De-Islamization of the Muslim Mind

The secular scholars and intellectuals among the Muslims derive their inspiration mainly from the West. Ideologically they belong to the same line of descent as the modernist `reformers’ and their followers; and some of them cleave to the views of the traditionalist `reformers’ and their followers. The majority of them do not possess the intellectual, spiritual, and linguistic prerequisites of Islamic knowledge and epistemology so that they are severed from the cognitive and methodological approaches to the original sources of Islam and Islamic learning. In this way their knowledge of Islam is at the barest minimal level. Because they occupy a strategic position in the midst of the community and unless they drastically change their ways of thinking and believing, they pose a grave danger to the Islamic welfare of the Community. They have no adab, for they do not recognize and acknowledge the legitimate authorities in the true hierarchical order, and they demonstrate by example and teach and advocate confusion and error.

This is in fact the main reason why, as demonstrated in the course of Western intellectual history throughout the ages and the rise of secular philosophy and science in Western civilization, the Western conception of knowledge based upon its experience and consciousness must invariably lead to secularization. There can be no doubt, therefore, that if the secular Muslim scholars and intellectuals allow themselves, or are allowed to confuse the Muslim youth in knowledge, the delslamization of the Muslim mind will continue to take effect with greater persistence and intensity, and will follow the same kind of secularizing course in future generations. Large numbers among them do not fully understand the nature of Western culture and civilization whence they draw their inspiration and before which they stand agape in reverential awe and servile humility portraying the attitude of the inferior. They do not even completely grasp the contents and implications of the teachings of their alien masters, being content only to repeat them in vulgarized versions and so cheat the Muslim audience of their true worth.

In deIslamizing the Muslims, and in situations where Western colonialism or domination have held sway, the Western administrators and colonial theorists have first severed the pedagogical connection between the Holy Quran and the local language by establishing a system of secular education where race and traditional culture are emphasized. At the higher levels, linguistics and anthropology are introduced as the methodological tools for the study of language and culture, and Western values and models and orientalist scholarship and philology for the study of literature and history. Then, still being brought to bear upon the study of language and literature (which are the identifying and consolidating cultural elements of Islamization) and of history and traditional culture, sociology and educational theory and psychology are significantly introduced. These, misplaced at the purely rational disposal of scholars and intellectuals inadequately equipped with knowledge of Islam and its world-view, tend to reduce Islam to the level of other religions as if it were the proper `subject’ of the philosophy and the sociology of religion, and as if it were an evolved and developed expression of primitive religion. And all these and other fields of knowledge in the human sciences, including those philosophical elements in the theoretical aspects of the natural physical and biological sciences, instilled into the marginal minds of secular Muslim scholars and intellectuals, are such that their knowledge so conceived is productive not only of potential and theoretical confusion, but also of actual and practical error as well. Through the unbalanced assimilation and imparting of such knowledge without any Islamizing science and judgment being brought to bear upon its every proposition, and the active participation in its formulation and dissemination by secular scholars and intellectuals, the rapid propagation of loss of adab is assured and indeed becomes a widespread reality.

These false leaders among Muslims are responsible for causing the Romanization of the originally Arabic script of the language and thus facilitating gradual severance from its formal, lexical and conceptual connections with the Sources of Islam, with their own Islamic sources and with the languages of the other Muslim peoples; for causing the deArabization, Westernization and confusion of the language and its semantic and general vocabulary so that many important concepts pertaining to Islam and the Islamic world-view have lost their transparency and have become opaque; for causing the emergence of the journal and the newspaper — so significantly un-Islamic in concept and purpose — and of mediocre journalists and writers of rustic quality who all contribute to the mutilation of the standards of literary values and expression established by Islam; for causing the widespread emergence of the marginal Muslim and the marginal society stranger to the Ummah, and hence for causing the disintegration of consciousness in the ummatic solidarity; for causing the severance of the Muslim past from the consciousness of the present; for causing the establishment in our midst of an educational system designed, from the lowest to the highest levels, to perpetuate secular ideology; for causing the rise of various forms of chauvinism and socialism; for reviving the Jahili spirit of advocating a return to pre-Islamic values — and cultural tradition — and many more which for obvious reasons it is not necessary to detail here. And the same is true, in varying degrees of the absence of adab in respect of their character traits, their lack of quality, their contagious contribution to error and confusion in knowledge of Islam and its world view, and their propagation of false knowledge, of other such scholars and intellectuals among the Muslims, wherever they may be in the Muslim world, whether in the Arabic speaking regions or not. They have all become conscious or unconscious agents of Western culture and civilization, and in this capacity they represent what we have earlier identified as the external sources and causes of our dilemma. But their existence amongst us as part of the Community creates for us the situation whereby what was once regarded as `external’ has now moved in methodically and systematically to become internal. In their present condition, they pose as the external menace which has become a grave internal problem, for intellectually, as it were, the dar al-harb has advanced into the dar al-islam; they have become the enemy within, and — unlike the kinds known to the Muslims of the past — they are not hidden nor any longer lurking underground, but have surfaced in multitudes into the full light of awareness, advertising themselves openly and conspicuously and exhibiting their learned confusion and arrogant individualism so publicly that it is no longer possible to ignore them. The epistemological weapons they use to bring about the de-Islamization of the Muslim mind are invariably the same, and these are —apart from the underlying principles of secular philosophy and science that produced and nurtured them — anthropology, sociology, linguistics, psychology and the principles and methods of education. If the underlying principles and methods of these sciences are not made subject to some kind of Islamizing formula whereby they are rendered harmless, then, as they are, they would continue to be harmful to the Islamic welfare of the Community.

Iblis: Seeing the Clay Only

Loss of adab, then, not only implies loss of knowledge; it means also loss  of the capacity and ability to recognize and acknowledge true leaders. If all are brought down to the level of the masses, the awam, how can true leaders stand out above the rest? If true leaders are denied their rightful place above those they lead, how can they be recognized and acknowledged by the led? And true leaders must not be confused with the false, for how can nightingales, put in the same cage as crows, sing? To put true leaders in lofty stations in our estimation and to put ourselves below them and to revere, to love, to respect, to affirm their veracity and confirm in our actions their wise counsels and learned teachings in humility is not to worship them, as the narrow-minded among the modernist and traditionalist `reformers’ erroneously think. Were the Angels worshipping Adam, upon whom be Peace, when they prostrated themselves before him? Indeed, they were obeying God, Glorious and Exalted, and recognizing and acknowledging the superior knowledge bestowed upon the first men by his Creator — they not only ‘saw the clay he is made from, but they recognized and acknowledged even more so the spirit that God breathed into him. It was Iblis who saw only the clay and refused to recognize and acknowledge Adam’s superior nature, and disdained to prostrate before him in spite of the Divine Command. Recognition and acknowledgement of excellence in another does not mean regarding the other as a rabb and assuming an attitude of the `abd towards that other; it is none other than recognizing and acknowledging God’s knowledge and Will and Power and Just Purpose, His Bounty, Charity and Love in bestowing excellence in one over the other, so that that one may share it with others. But only those others who recognize and acknowledge derive benefit from it, not those who do not.

New Lamps for the Old?

We must see that the three main groups that perpetuate loss of adab in our times, and that not only perpetuate, but also consolidate its paralyzing influence and intensify its odious spread among the generations of contemporary Muslims, are not in reality our true leaders. Without knowing any of them, and without being in any way guided by them, we can still know about Islam and its world view from the great ‘ulama of the past who are the real interpreters of the sources of such knowledge. Conversely, without knowing the true teachers of the past and without being guided by them, it is almost impossible to arrive at the correct understanding and knowledge of Islam and its world view. It is as if the false leaders of our times have been fashioned in the mould of the crafty Master Magician in the guise of new lamps meant to be traded for the old. They indeed claim to be the new lamps; and we must not fall into the error of the ignorant wife of Aladdin, trading the old for the new, unaware of the priceless value and wonderful quality of the old far surpassing all of the new put together.

The thinking, methods and example adopted by these false leaders and their followers, (compounded of a mixture of truth and falsehood and right and wrong which are the ingredients of confusion, propagated and advocated at a time when Muslims are already confused and desperate and in no balanced state of mind and spirit to absorb more confusion), have effected among the generality who are influenced by them, a warped understanding of Islam and a clouded vision of its interpretation of the world and of reality and truth. The effect of their teachings among this generality of Muslims, particularly the younger generation who are experiencing the effects of Westernization, is the tendency towards a relentless and erroneous attitude of leveling by which they judge all things. Their words and actions betray their mental and attitudinal condition of leveling in which they imply and even understand the Holy Quran to be on the same level as other books; Islam to be on the same level as other religions; the Holy Prophet, upon whom be Peace, to be on the same level as other Prophets, Peace be upon them all, who are all regarded as being on the same level as ordinary men; the knowledge to be on the same level as other sciences; true leaders to be on the same level as false ones, and the greater to be on the same level as the lesser; the life of the world to be on the same level of importance as that of the hereafter. It is this leveling of everything instilled into the understanding of the masses, without due consideration being given to the quality of that understanding, and without due elaboration as to the distinctions that naturally exist in the hierarchical order of creation, especially in the human order, that is productive of the socialization’ of Islam.
The despiritualization of man, starting from the Holy Prophet himself—the despiritualization that must necessarily take place as a precondition to the leveling process — tends to involve Islam absurdly in a kind of secularization. These groups of false leaders, who are not even sure what they are supposed to do, and are equally groping for solutions to the general problems we encounter today — solutions hastily conceived in piecemeal fashion, of tentative validity and dubious soundness – have indeed misrepresented the achievements of the truly great `ulama of the past: the mujtahidun, the men of piety and virtue and of intellectual and spiritual excellence, in connection with their interpretation of Islam and its world view. Inclined as they are to see only small matters and not great ones in their estimation of superiors, they have not understood those men completely and have misrepresented them in caricature before us.

Torches and Candles

Our task ahead is to represent the true leaders of the past in truer light, to exercise justice in our estimation of them from whom our predecessors derived guidance and knowledge. We must reexamine the misrepresentations, referring every detail to the original sources they allegedly claim to represent; we must scrutinize their premises, their deductions and conclusions, and retrace the paths of their logic to see how far they have been correct or have been led astray by their own process of inadequate thinking; we must ourselves know the originals and understand them in their correct perspectives. It is our duty to study diligently the thoughts of the true leaders of the past, who were all recognized and acknowledged by a grateful Community; who all served Islam and the Muslims with signal merit, recognized and acknowledged by a knowing Community of contemporaries without their true characters and qualities having to be fabricated and `built up’ long after they were gone, as so often happens in our age of falsehood and confusion. We must learn from the great of the past their knowledge and wisdom. This does not mean that we ourselves cannot contribute any further knowledge that can be contributed, but it does mean that we must first draw our strength and inspiration from their wisdom and knowledge, and that when we do begin to contribute ours, we must recognize and acknowledge them as our teachers, and not disparage and denounce, for ijtihad can be exercised without having to undermine legitimate authority. They are like torches that light the way along difficult paths; when we have such torches to light our way, of what use are mere candles?

(Abridged from Introduction to Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education, King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, 1978).

Source: Albalagh

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al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam

Saturday, May 12th, 2012
al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam

al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam

This book is an adaptation of the Muqaddimah or Preface to Mohammad Akram’s 40-volume biographical dictionary (in Arabic) of the Muslim women who studied and taught hadith. It demonstrates the central role women had in preserving the Prophet’s teaching, which remains the master-guide to understanding the Qur’an as rules and norms for life. Within the bounds of modesty in dress and manners, women routinely attended and gave classes in the major mosques and madrasas, travelled intensively for knowledge, transmitted and critiqued hadith, issued fatwas, etc. Some of the most renowned scholars among men have depended on, and praised, the scholarship of their women teachers. The women scholars enjoyed considerable public authority in society, not exceptionally, but as the norm.

The huge body of information reviewed in al-Muhaddithat is essential to understanding the role of women in Islamic society, their past achievement and future potential. Hitherto it has been so dispersed as to be ‘hidden’. Akram’s dictionary will greatly facilitate further study, contextualization and analysis.

Mohammad Akram, currently a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, is an alumnus of the prestigious Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow. He has written many books on hadith, fiqh, Islamic biography, and Arabic grammar. This is his first major publication in English.

The cover shows the study journeys of Fatimah bint Sa`d al-Khayr, and a few of her principal teachers and students. Her family moved from Valencia to the western edge of China; she died in Cairo in 600 AH. (Full map and details in ch. 3.)

Cover: Paperback
Author: Dr Muhammad Akram Al-Nadwi
Publisher: Interface Publications
Pages: 336

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Women Around The Messenger

Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Women Around The Messenger - darul-ishaat.co.uk

Women Around The Messenger - darul-ishaat.co.uk

 

This is the ‘women’s lib’ age as the WEST prefers to term it. But is it TRUE? Is it not a lip-service age turning women practically to ‘dolls’ or something like dolls in the real life?

Women entering the fold of Islam played an enviable prominent role, side by side their counterparts, men, in shaping and developing the Muslim society as a model from the onset, emancipating humanity, men and women, from the shackles of deep-footed ignorance. Women in Islam have very special place, status and dignity unknown to mankind before or after.

The life sketches of the early female believers, in this book, stand as beacon and outstanding models for the so-called ‘weaker sex’ and call for the revival of the pristine lofty high position of women in the society once again.

This work is an attempt at dispelling any misconception by bringing into focus biographies of the first generation of Muslim women and the important role they played in the overall development of their society, right from the beginning. It is hoped that this book will not only strengthen the resolve of the already well-acquainted Muslims who follow the footsteps of their predecessors, it will also spur them into emulating the examples of those righteous, noble and pure women

Cover: Hardback
Author: Muhammad Ali Qutb
Publisher: IIPH
Pages: 363
Size: 22 x15 cm

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Islamic Banking And Finance

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
Islamic Banking And Finance - Darul Ishaat UK

Islamic Banking And Finance - Darul Ishaat UK

Islamic Banking And Finance – What It Is and What It Could Be

This text has been designed for use by professionals new to the field of Islamic banking and finance, and by students at undergraduate level or above. It covers the historical, theological, commercial, legal, institutional and macro-economic factors affecting the modern world of Islamic banking and finance and is organised into four main sections: Islam and the Shari’ah, Traditional Contract Forms, Contemporary Practices, and A Response to Capitalism. Views both for and against the current direction of the Islamic banking and finance industry are presented and a number of reforms are suggested at the institutional and contractual levels. Traditional and contemporary interpretations of Islam are contrasted, along with differences of opinion among the various schools of thought, so that the reader can better understand current discourse among scholars of Shari`ah. In a section devoted entirely to the modern application of Islamic contract law, fourteen case studies provide a detailed analysis of the extent to which modern Islamic financial products adhere to the legal principles outlined elsewhere in the book. Particular attention has been paid to clarity of expression in order that complex concepts can be absorbed quickly. To aid the learning process, an extensive index and table of contents allows ease of reference, and suggestions for further advanced reading are provided at the end of each section. Self tests allow students to keep pace with their progress, and these also act as a guide on content for more experienced readers. An extensive Arabic glossary is provided, and key terms are transliterated in the main body of the text.

Contributions from Taris Ahmad, Tarek El Diwany, Ahmed Fazel, Haitham al-Haddad, Salman Hasan, Sufyan Gulam Ismail, Muhammad Amin Kholwadia, Faizal Manjoo, Nejatullah Siddiqi, Bashir Timol, and Shaharuddin Zainuddin.

Cover: Hardback
Author: Edited by Tarek El Diwany
Publisher: 1st Ethical
Pages: 502

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Hijab (Revised Edition)

Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Hijab (Revised Edition)

Hijab (Revised Edition) - DARUL ISHAAT UK

Hijab – Revised Edition

What is the place of hijab in Islam?
What are the requirements of hijab according to the Quran and Sunnah?
Are practices such as niqab and burka cultural or Islamic?
What are the religious benefits of adhering to hijab?

In this book, Dr. Ismail Memon Madani makes it self-evident through ayas of Qur’an, detailed explanations from the famous Tafsirs, and the ahadith that hijab is indeed an Islamic commandment which has been observed by the wives of the Blessed Prophet (Peace be upon him), the Sahabiyat (May Allah be pleased with them), the pious predecessors and our whole Umma for the last fourteen-hundred years. The book details the requirements of hijab are according to the Qur’an and Sunna. This book also highlights how hijab is the most effective tool in maintaining peace and purity in society and how abandoning it leads to promiscuity and shamelessness.

Cover: Paperback
Author: Dr. Mohammad Ismail Memon Madani
Publisher: Madania Publications
Pages: 144
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches

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Tawheed Wal Sunnah Conference

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Keighley Al-Hidaayah Foundation Presents

Tawheed Wal Sunnah Conference

Date:     Monday 18th July 2011

Time:   6.00pm

Venue: Bangladeshi Community Association

                  Surma Building, Kensington street

                  Keighley

                  BD21 1PW

Guest

World Famous Recitor & Nasheed Artist:

  • Qari Ziyaad Patel

Lectures by Prominrnt Mufassir of the Quran from Bangladesh

  • Maulana Nurul Islam Olipuri
  • Maulana Hammad Saadi
  • Maulana Jubair Ahmed Ansari
  • Maulana Junayd Al-Habib
  • Maulana Ghiyash Uddin
  • Mufti Saiful Islam

Refreshments will be served after the event

More in formation please visit: http://www.al-hidaayah.org/

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