After the summer break, we bring you an unabashedly provocative and controversial piece about what the author claims is a set of essential tools to survive the wave of doubt and apostasy facing Muslims in the West.
Essential and worrying reading.
A major event in world history went largely unnoticed by Muslims both in the West and elsewhere recently – namely the legalisation of gay marriage in Ireland, which, rather than the Vatican, is in fact the citadel of Catholicism in the West. Moreover, this occurred with the full consent of a significant majority of the population (over 60%) in a democratic referendum (unlike the recent liberalisation of marriage laws in the US, which essentially was pushed through a form of constitutional court after losing referenda in states such as California). My point here does not concern the merits or demerits of gay marriage, an issue that is wont to send both Liberals and the religious into conniptions, but rather to illustrate that despite the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on the very act of homosexuality let alone its institutionalisation, and the fact that the vast majority of the Irish did and would still describe themselves as Catholic, with some of the highest Church attendance in the Western world (which, granted is not saying much as congregations dwindle in developed countries year on year, with catastrophic declines in the UK and other European countries in particular), yet in little under five years the Gay Marriage lobby ‘won’, in the sense that there is no more way to justify homosexual unions in the Catholic tradition than there is to justify a ban on contraception or anal sex in the secular liberal canon. The point is that the secular liberal contingent was able to deal the Catholic Church what will one day come to be seen as a catastrophic blow in its stronghold. Among the many explanations that have been proffered, from the de-legitimisation of the Church due to child sexual abuse scandals (although non-religious people abusing children or adults is strangely never seen as a jumping off point to criticise atheism or agnosticism) to the inevitable march towards progress that secularism is alleged to bring, none are truly sufficient to explain the remarkable turnaround in so short a time. Catholic authorities in Ireland now know that they will be challenged on abortion next – and if they are realists, can expect a similar reversal.
Muslims have observed this, if indeed they have bothered to observe it at all, with a kind of detached bemusement. Many Muslim speakers and intellectuals (and I use this term in its loosest sense) have indeed seen the rise of ‘Gay Rights’ as a Godsend that allows them to emphasise the alleged decadence of the West. It escapes them that Catholic commentators were doing much the same a few years back. Too busy playing to the gallery as opposed to ‘preaching to the perverted’, they were left adrift as public opinion changed or was manipulated against them in the meantime. While Muslim speakers see it as self-evident that gay marriage is ‘wrong’, their congregations in wider society struggle to furnish any convincing arguments against it, and soon may not even be allowed to do so as disapproval of gay marriage is increasingly conflated with homophobia and can lead to serious censure.
Unlike Muslims, Catholics have retained a lot of their intellectual traditions, not rushed to incorporate Protestant movements (as Muslims have by giving up the field to Salafi and Wahhabi groups) and maintain an number of gifted thinkers and philosophers on their books, both now and in the recent past. A comparison for example of the Jesuits and the vile output of Medina University is perhaps illustrative of this point. But neither this nor the organisation, financial clout and centralisation of the Catholic Church was of any use against the arguments/propaganda/tele-evangelising of the Liberal contingent.
The question that arises is that if the liberal media complex can eviscerate the Catholic Church in the space of under a decade in its Western stronghold, what can it do to the Muslims when it turns its attention to them?
Whereas for much of the recent past, Muslims have been relatively ‘under the radar’ (save for places such as the USSR where they were subjected to sustained academic/educational system and other attack, resulting in mass apostasies if Soviet statistics are to be believed), since 9-11 the aggressive actions of both international terrorists as well as Muslim apologists and ‘Dawah’ organisations have directed the eyes of Secular Humanists and Liberals towards Islam. Having suitably hammered both the Catholic and Protestant Churches in the last two Western societies where they still enjoy any influence (Ireland and the United States respectively), one can safely expect that ‘they’ will now turn their attention more fully towards Islam.
They will find an easy target: even in the United Kingdom, Muslim communities are under educated and under financed. Groups such as IERA who feign to represent Muslims on campus have been unable to furnish a single tenured professor or even a PhD candidate in over six years of (very well-funded) action. Atheists and Islamophobes will be looking on in glee: debaters and ‘activists’ such as Hamza Tzortzis speak to under and post graduate crowds but quite apart from not having any academic qualifications to speak of, IERAs’ years of preaching ‘Big Bang Cosmology’ has not seen it actually recruit or train or even sponsor a single actual cosmologist. There is much to be said for gifted amateurs (and sadly, IERA are not those either), but the fact is that all the talk of ‘science in the Quran’ and the ‘Big Bang’ (whose overuse by theists in an often non-rigorous fashion has no doubt contributed to the clear trend amongst physicists to try and get rid of it from their models entirely by emphasising ‘Eternal Inflation’ and the ‘Big Bounce’, which are essentially the eternal universe rehabilitated) is not actually resulting in a) any scientists converting to Islam and joining Salafist Dawah organisations or b) any Muslims mastering the discipline of Cosmology. This is blood in the water for both militant secular humanists and scientific atheists.
There are degrees of survival that Salafist organisations are willing to accept however: after exposing Muslims to the full brunt of the above groups’ wrath, they will be happy to not bother with debating anymore and to retreat, like Evangelical churches in the US, to their congregations of the already convinced (but increasingly irrelevant). Since virtually all groups representing Muslims are Millennial and essentially nihilistic, seeing changes in society as signs of ‘fitnah’ (trials and tribulations) and the ‘End Times’, they are frankly not too bothered with what goes on in larger non-Muslim society or even with Muslim apostasy, as this fits nicely into their world view in any case. In this, they share much in common with the Evangelical Christians and the idea of ‘The Rapture’. In fact, they both share the idea of a large segment of humanity being wiped out and true believers being rescued by Jesus Christ.
Essentially, such groups will put religious believers in the line of fire but when things don’t go well, they are happy to retreat and decry the ‘Age of Darkness’ we have (according to them) found ourselves in. They will try to argue and convince people but not very hard and when the going gets tough they will, in effect, run away and await their version of The Rapture. These people are present in all religions and amongst those with none: Lenin’s body is soon to be buried but it was meticulously preserved by his followers to await his scientific resurrection. Everyone has a version of a ‘better tomorrow’ or an unrealistic utopia.
Christianity may not seem to Muslims to be a good example but in this they are again mistaken. Although the defeats in Ireland and the United States are just the latest in a protracted process of increasing secularisation since The Enlightenment and before, many Christian thinkers have long realised that the Church had overplayed its hand in political meddling, self-interest at the expense of doing what was right (for example, during the Second World War where one could find the church effectively praying for the victory of both sides), social engineering and tampering in family affairs as well as oft-lamented anti-rationalism and textualism. All of these problems afflict Muslims too, though they have less insight than most Christian thinkers. Wont to look down on their Christian brothers, Muslims often suffer from hubris while having exactly the same gaping holes in their world view and theology.
Take the doctrine of the Incarnation of God or the Trinity. I witnessed the truly tragic exchange of a Salafi mocking a Christian about the doctrine of God being present in the body of a man, the dual natures of Christ as both God and man and whether the Trinity made sense. The problem with this was that the Salafi, much like many of the currently dominant groupings of Muslims also believes that God inheres in a body, and anathematise Muslims who reject the anthropomorphic descriptions of God found in some narrations accepted by them (such as of Adam in the image of God or God appearing as a beardless young man). Needless to say, even the Christian, who presumably by his own admission is an anthropomorphist, went to town on this fellow: ‘so you agree God is a body, you just don’t agree he is Jesus’ body right?’ He then challenged him on the well-known Hanbali/Salafi assertion that God is literally sat on or above the throne (fortunately for the Salafi, the Christian was unaware that Salafis also consider that Muhammad will be sat next to him, much as Jesus is said to sit on the right hand of God in the Bible). ‘So God sits on the throne, and comes to Earth in the last part of the night? So that means he enters the creation right? So why can’t he enter Jesus? Jesus is better than the throne or all of the Earth isn’t he?!’
And indeed Jesus is better than ‘The Throne’ and the whole world according to Muslims. The poor Salafi was visibly perspiring. I felt terrible. Here was a man being led to apostasy by a fellow anthropomorphist: what would an atheist, a logician, a philosopher or a Mu’tazzilite, who could attack the very concept of a God that is bound by space, time or a body do to him?
The problem was of course that the Salafi and the Christian in fact both have the same belief – namely that God is a body and can enter the universe and incarnate – they just disagree as to how and when. Of course, the Salafi replied with the tried and tested trope that God is on the Throne or comes to Earth but ‘without a how’. Which is exactly how Christians explain how Jesus can be both God and man or that the Trinity can be consistent with monotheism. ‘Without a how’ is Salafist speak for ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t really make sense. Don’t ask me about this’.
But of course, atheists and others will ask. In the example above, I could easily see a minor philosopher, even of the theistic variety, divesting both of them of their faith.
Muslims’ feeling more secure than other religious groups who have suffered a wave of apostasy when encountering Western Civilization or ‘the Monoculture’ is very dangerous for their future prospects. In addition to the problems with the concept of God that were highlighted by the combative Christian, Muslims have a number of social issues that are unique to them which are not shared by Christians: Christians have no challenges in terms of explaining their dress code or social interactions with women (at least not most Christians, although there are groups that do maintain Old Testament dietary and dress regulations, for example the Mennonites, at least in part). The great danger is in fact that many lay Muslims are labouring under the misconception that Muslim scholars and apologists from Yusuf Al Qaradawi to Zakir Naik can answer the questions they can’t and somehow ‘save’ them from problems. This is a colossal error and a tragic case of misplaced faith. The results of this are already being seen: scholars who have both good knowledge and can transcend their sectarian, or increasingly, Saudi-funding basis, are very hard to come by indeed. Scholars which have the necessary grounding in either science or philosophy are also next to impossible to come by. The self-satisfaction of practising Muslims who are ‘students of knowledge’ quickly evaporates with even a cursory session online where they find their interlocutors failing to even defend the authenticity of the five daily prayers against poorly read Islamophobes.
For some Muslims this will be a terrible shock from which they will not recover. For most in today’s world, exposed to ideas instantly and in doses which would hitherto be considered dangerous, there is only limited time to have their doubts answered before the dominant social and intellectual paradigms fill the void left by Muslims intellectual incompetence. Those Salafists telling their followers that applying the intellect is ‘haraam’ (prohibited and immoral) and is the way of the Mu’tazzila (early Islamic rationalists) will not last long against the plentiful engines of apostasy online and in daily life who are advocating that the person use his mind as much as he likes, much as throughout history the argument for celibacy has always, in the end, lost to some form of permissiveness, even if not unrestricted.
Another compounding factor is Muslim leaders persistent refusal to admit the actual causes of Muslims’ confusion and apostasy (in fact, it is next to impossible to get them to admit that there even is a problem, so fond are they of repeating the Islamophobes baseless assertion that Islam is ‘spreading’ in the West and that there are numerous converts). Groups such as Deobandis, Salafis and Brelwis are singularly unable to admit that it is many of the same hadith that they insisted were in fact uttered by The Prophet (to the point of anathematising those who disagreed) that are now causing many to leave Islam. For other groups such as HT, it is the refusal to admit that their emphasis on an ‘Islamic’ state and kowtowing to anyone who claims to furnish this (from Khomanaie to the Taliban) that causes many to become disillusioned with the utter inadequacy of the realisation of this concept and the disparity between those states and the quasi-mythical image of the ideal state portrayed by HT itself. They have learned their lesson by not openly supporting ISIS, but in fact are now further confusing their desperate adherents by not following a state which actually bases all of its rulings on the same textual and juristic sources that HT used to alienate Western Muslims from their host countries and justify the concept of an Islamic State in the first place. They essentially use fatwas, opinions and hadith from the same people that ISIS did but find the conception of the ‘Islamic State’ politically inexpedient or embarrassing and so try to backtrack in a manner that convinces no one of even average intellection that ISIS is not in fact an authentic realisation of their goals.
Likewise, as many have begun to realise, the reliance of the Salafi dawah (‘inviting’ people to Islam) movement on ‘science’ has in fact encouraged a type of militant scientism in their followers and has led to their suffering the same disease as Western proponents of that idea: regarding science as an ultimate end and an omni-competent tool for truth. Although such a world view sits very nicely with both the western Scientific and Salafist anti-philosophy bent, it leaves the latter uniquely unarmed to even articulate let alone defend their faith – especially against scientists. They are also leaving themselves open to a catastrophic refutation since despite all of the harping on about science, they are in fact textual literalists and will not in fact reject something from the hadith literature that conflicts with scientific research, resorting to a series of fudge tactics such as ‘science hasn’t explained this…yet’. These convince no-one, not even themselves most of the time.
Everyone has an angle. And if it is their angle that is causing the problem, they will never even admit it let alone resolve the issue.
My goal here is in the spirit of honesty exemplified by Jeffrey Lang in his latter day masterpiece ‘Losing My Religion’, in which he sought to honestly tackle those issues which he actually found causing doubt and apostasy amongst Muslims (as opposed to what he would like to be the case). Of course, people will object that there is no apostasy, these are not the reasons, it is empirically impossible to show that it is in fact these ones etc. That is fine by me. My aim here is simply to provide a roadmap, in its general outlines, of the methodologies, ideas, fatwas and leeway – the ‘tools’ if you will, that ordinary Muslims in the West or anywhere else for that matter, will require in the coming decades to hold on to their faith. It is my subjective perception of the problems they are already facing and will increasingly face and how best to circumvent them. It is not a detailed verse by verse apologia but rather a description of those attitudes of mind which if held may enable one to avoid the worst travails without necessarily having in depth knowledge of specifics. For example, unlike the majority of rather ineffective yet confusingly long and convoluted ‘explanations’, I won’t be trying to explain individual problematic hadiths or juristic decisions. Rather I will be trying to encourage an attitude or epistemology towards these that can enable one to avoid doubts in principle.
Of course, I am sure that my ‘toolkit’ will offend most sectarian and entrenched interests and raise their ire, but that is of no consequence as neither I nor any moral being can sacrifice the needs of many to lionise or safeguard the sensibilities of the few or the powerful. As it is with the financial 1% in the West, Islam has unfortunately acquired a religious or cultural ‘1%’ who disseminate and insist on their ideas often in contradiction to any evidence to the contrary, whether from the Quran or the lived lives of Muslims and others. I encourage readers to challenge the attitudes and prejudices of this ‘Islamic 1%’ and judge for themselves what is or is not the coherent and Islamic teaching on a particular subject.
Lay Muslims Need Free Deniability of Any Single Chain Hadith – i.e. Most of Them
Much of the fanaticism of the Salafist and Salafi inspired groups mentioned above is directed at defending the canonicity and authority of the hadith literature. Unlike the Quran, which in English translation is around six hundred pages, the hadith literature is an astonishingly complex conundrum of over two million narrations of wildly varying thematic content and believability. Sunni and even many Shia efforts have largely been directed at defending a ‘final redaction’ of these narrations in six canonical Sunni collections and in particular that of ‘Sahih Bukhari’ or ‘Al Kafi’ or parts thereof in the Shi’ite case of the ‘Akhbareen’ (roughly equating to the Muhaditheen of the Sunnis). The reasons for this are very complex and wide ranging and of varying legitimacy but the position that nearly all Muslims groups extant today, from sects, juristic groups to Salafists such as Ikhwaanis and HT as well as Wahhabis find themselves in is that they have painted the redaction of Bukhari as final. The problem is that their opponents are now holding them to this indefensible position. Furthermore, Muslims have managed, through the prominent post-colonial Salafist organisations and groups such as the non-violent Tablighi–Jamaat through to wannabee genocidal militants such as ISIS, so successfully to inculcate in lay Muslims the idea that hadith in general and hadith in Bukhari in particular were in fact incontestably uttered by the Prophet himself, that when they hear hadith such as that the Prophet attempted a sexual assault on a captive woman or ordered no punishment whatsoever for the killing of non-Muslims, sanctioned the assassination of a single mother who mocked him or indeed said that the sun bows to the throne of God before rising again, they never stop to consider that these narrations are misattributed nonsense. Deviant groups who have come to ascendancy within Muslims themselves have so successfully conditioned the response [hadith = word of the Prophet] that instead of scepticism about whether the Prophet actually said this, we find in the main only two responses: doubts compounded by successively controversial and unacceptable attributions to the Prophet until there is the hadith that breaks the adherents faith and he apostates or in the better and more common scenario, the Muslim is sent scurrying to the scholars (or more commonly, the internet) to explain the hadith (which of course, he just like the apostate, is convinced was indeed uttered by Muhammad). I do not have time here to go into the varying standards of ‘scholars’ (or indeed dawah ‘experts’ or apologists and debaters) explanations of controversial hadith except to say that in the vast majority of cases they will be seen to be both dishonest and abysmally poor. This also goes for the attempts made by many, such as Yusuf Al Qaradawi, to explain away hadith which deal with the killing of non-Muslims. An Azhari Salafist with admittedly impressive depth of knowledge, his attempts to refute ISIS’ use of these narrations was astonishingly poor, consisting like most such enterprises of accepting both the controversial hadith and then presenting others (usually not from Bukhari or the canonical six books of Sunnis) to contradict them. This can be called ‘rejecting with acceptance’ but it simply leaves many onlookers of any religious affiliation confused and concerned, and with good reason.
The actual end point is that some will be so shocked by certain narrations or rather the cumulative effect of numerous narrations they find unpalatable, that they will apostate, often quite vocally (hence it becomes easy to paint these people, who often then uncritically accept secular liberal or humanistic thought without the degree of critical thinking that they applied to Islam, as self-hating stooges of Islamophobes). Many of the genuinely intelligent and critical thinking people will in fact not make a song and dance about their apostasy nor try to bring harm to Muslims (which is a fashionable passtime for uncloseted apostates too, as individuals such as Maajid Nawaaz seem to be). They simply quietly leave the faith – which is a great outcome for Muslim groups since they can overlook these individuals and a terrible one for Islamophobes because they cannot exploit them. For those who seek to explain away these narrations while accepting them, there is in my opinion, only the chance of the most worryingly gullible and wilfully blind people accepting the explanations proffered. Even in these cases, doubts often remain that can later precipitate a crisis.
Of course, it is in the interests of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ methodology used by most Muslim sects on this issue that it be assumed that there is no problem – and the use of these narrations is quietly minimised by most of them: Deobandis and Brelwis are very proud of having their seminarians do a ‘khatam’ or complete reading of ‘Sahih Al Bukhari’. But their ability to ignore all of the problematic narrations is perhaps much more impressive.
This attitude of self-editing and putting out fires or more often letting them burn themselves out has become slowly untenable since 9-11 and culminated in the ISIS crisis. Muslims have widely denounced the self-publicised actions of ISIS, most famously taking female captives as slaves, killing Muslim and non-Muslim captives by burning them and throwing a man who was supposedly gay off of building to his death (which they in fact failed to do so he had to be thrown off repeatedly) as well as the perennial favourite of those who claim to represent ‘sharia’ everywhere – stoning someone to death for adultery. Another article has already convincingly addressed that unfortunately there are many in the Muslim community who in fact do not have an issue with these actions but others have vocally denounced them also. The problem of course is that ISIS are quite justifiably vocal that their actions are justified by narrations attributed to the Prophet (burning apostates, flinging gays and mistreatment of prisoners are all found in Bukhari in precisely the manner that ISIS ‘scholars’ claim they are). Therefore it is harder for Muslims to ‘explain’ anything, at least while staying within the lines they have drawn for themselves: if they proffer a convincing explanation or resort to the understanding of those groups that they anathematised, they will become ‘hadith rejecters’.
As has been rightly said: those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Since controversial hadith are used by both Evangelical and missionary groups, Islamophobes and deviant Muslim groups to corrupt the faith and freedom of Muslims, it is not unreasonable to posit that an agnostic or ‘deniability’ attitude towards the hadith be a powerful tool for lay Muslims. All controversial narrations are single chain reports (apart from a few which are claimed by Muhaditheen as being ‘Mashoor’ or ‘famous’, such as stoning for adulterers). The Sunni and Shi’ite consensus on these (as well as that of the Mu’tazzilites and many other groups) is that they do not constitute certain knowledge. Even the Hanbalis have been subdued to this position over time. Since these are, and there is no way around this, speculative reports and may not have been uttered by The Prophet of Islam, is it not more useful to have this knowledge at the front of lay Muslims minds to prevent the vicissitudes of doubt that being accosted with a controversial narrations (admittedly often out of context or poorly translated) could cause? Instead of having to get doubts and run off and research each and every narration, an indulgence unavailable to some, is it not better if the aggressive Islamophobe or Evangelical Christian is simply silenced by saying ‘This is a hadith. We are not sure if the Prophet even said this. I no more blindly accept speculative reports that make no moral or other sense than you do, so why are you challenging me on this? Do you accept everything outside the Bible that is attributed to Christianity or Jesus for example?’
Such a stance would find much support in the classical sources, which described a hadith which is graded as ‘sahih’ as only potentially correct or ’50:50’. The reason for this was not to facilitate deniability or apologia but rather that considering narrations with single or a few sources documented two hundred years or so after the passing of the Prophet as ‘certain’ was never a tenable position and had been thoroughly criticised by many groups, including those extant today such as the Malikis and Hanafis. Put bluntly, arguing that Atlantis exists because Plato possibly had some chains of reliable narrators and documented it is not a position that Westerners would find credible. And the same goes for Muslims through much of history.
But the present day obsession with hadith by Salafis, Deobandis et al, often to justify their sectarian, isolationist and violent agenda or heretical theology as opposed to for reasons of genuine religious practice or even historical authenticity, has meant that hadith are grossly over emphasised and although most of these groups are forced under theological pressure to admit that the hadith, including those of Bukhari, are not all authentic and are indeed speculative knowledge, they resort to a second tier of blackmail if one can indeed get them to admit even this: namely that it is sinful to reject them without a reason, the consensus of the scholars, that everyone accepts them except deviant group ‘x’ and so on. In effect, this is just a backdoor way of again insisting on all sahih Hadith as certain knowledge again. As an adjunct, these groups often threaten individuals with the danger of ‘rejecting the words of the Prophet based on your own deficient intellect’. Quite apart from the fact the question is whether the Prophet actually said these things in the first place and that one’s own ‘deficient intellect’ is all one has to make any kind of decision anyway (including delegating ones thinking to others), this is a bizarre inversion that, if the recipient is intelligent, will actually speed apostasy: in effect, these people are saying that Muslims accept things that do not make sense to them because they allegedly make sense to someone else more knowledgeable to them. One wonders how they would apply this logic to the doctrine of the Trinity or the existence of God. Would they advise a Trinitarian or a polytheist not to think about these doctrines and leave it to their more knowledgeable scholars? If not, then what we have here is a case of manifest hypocrisy.
Most of the groupings in the past put restrictions on who could and could not reject sahih hadith, but given the paralysis (often induced by the desire for speaking engagements and Saudi money) amongst most who claim to represent Islam today when it comes to rejecting those narrations attributed to the Prophet such as those above, as many Muslims, notably the Hanafis, Malikis and Mu’tazzilites did in the past, today we have no choice but to empower the Muslim laity to question those hadith that conflict with their personal conscience and intellect. And if the scholars cannot furnish a suitable explanation, then to reject them without undue concern. As for the alternative, we are already seeing its dire consequences.
The Sanctification of the Scholars Must Stop
If Muslims and their supporters are in dire need of returning to the classical methodology of those who did not take Sahih hadith as ‘gospel’ – since people can and do attribute calumnies to the Prophets – then how much more so with the ever more fallible scholars? Although Shi’ites are famous for having seven or twelve ‘infallible’ imams, Sunnis in fact have hundreds. Authorities ranging from outright heretics such as Ibn Taymiyya through to more genuine ones such as Imam Shafi are considered beyond reproach. Or more accurately, beyond reproach by those same lay Muslims who are going to be exposed to doubt due to hearing their opinions. Muslim readers will be instantly familiar with the analogy of a doctor which is wheeled out by Salafis, Deobandis and Brelwis along with too many others to mention with nauseating regularity to explain this unquestioning deference to scholars.
You are sick, so this false analogy goes, and you go to a doctor to help you obtain a cure. Since you lack knowledge, you defer to his superior knowledge and trust him to help you get better. And thus with Muslims scholars, up to and including your local imam. Quite apart from the fact that this ‘analogy’ is completely incoherent since one freely chooses which doctor (or none) to go to, it makes no sense at all since one might follow one’s doctor in taking a mild painkiller for an inflamed joint, but if the same doctor asked one to undergo castration to avoid the inconvenience of nocturnal emissions and soiled bedsheets, one would in no way defer to his admittedly superior medical knowledge. That is because the degree of deference, or in Islamic terms blind imitation or ‘taqleed’, is directly proportional to the existential consequences of the particular course of action to be imitated unquestioningly. One would have assumed that this was a piece of what is (perhaps ironically) known as ‘common sense’, but this understanding has entirely evaporated from many Muslims.
I recall when I first started to seriously study Islam as an undergraduate at university. My instructor was a scholar from the Shafi School. It was all going swimmingly until he came to the (to put it mildly) ‘idiosyncratic’ opinion of the Shafis, which they trace to Imam Shafi himself, that if one has an illegitimate daughter, she was in fact not ones’ daughter. And so one could marry her. The response of a young convert in the class was actually what should have been my own: ‘Dude, what the hell?!’ he cried out loud. But rather than join the chorus, despite my, err, surprise at this information, I turned and reprimanded the other student, first of all for swearing and even more so for disrespecting the opinion of Imam Shafi. It is shocking to me now that I did this but so conditioned was I to uncritically defer to the opinion of scholars and so convinced of the infallible and unassailable opinion of Imam Shafi, who I was brought up by Islamic teachers in madrassa to consider virtually as unquestionably right as the Prophet himself, that my deference to him, temporarily at least, overcame my aversion to incest. Needless to say, my response and the approval of it by the teacher must have given the poor convert a very effective push on the road to apostasy. ‘I’ve joined an insane cult’ he must have been thinking. And he was right. But it wasn’t a cult of Islam but rather one of uncritical devotion to the opinions of (certain, select) scholars.
Recently, the bizarre opinion of Imam Shafi was being defended by a Muslim in a group discussion where it had been raised. An (allegedly) ‘modernist’ Muslim interjected and said ‘Shafi was talking rubbish. Islam would never allow you to marry your biological daughter. Arguing that a daughter born out of wedlock is not actually your daughter at all is mental’. I said nothing. I had learnt my lesson: the reputation of Islam and religion was more important than the reputation of Shafi by some infinity of degrees. I thought the interlocutor was harsh and rude. But if Imam Shafi really said that (and it seems he did) then he ‘messed up’. Badly.
The fatwa of Imam Shafi on marrying ones daughter is an extreme example, but it is illustrative of the legion of bizarre, dangerous and morally bankrupt opinions attributed to the famous scholars of Islam. Many of these are questionable but many others also certainly were uttered by them. And of course, they can cause huge doubts. In the case of the hadiths which caused doubt, the concern of Muslims was above all to salvage the authenticity of the patently fabricated hadith, to hell with the doubts of the lay Muslims: they lacked the necessary ‘faith’. Although it is unclear what level of ‘faith’ is required to have sex with one’s sister or daughter as some Shafis are implying, in the case of scholars opinions, it is again the concern of various apologists to salvage the reputation of the scholar in question or cry misattribution (no matter how implausible). This is of course if they do not, as my teacher did, simply defend the position.
Of course, both of these methods have merit: we do not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and become ‘radicalised’ against Shafi if he did not in fact say this or if it was taken out of context etc (it isn’t unfortunately). Nor do we want to disregard the ‘good stuff’ he said on account of an error. The point is that errors should be called as such and that Muslims need deniability in the case of the opinions of the scholars, which is in this instance even more obvious and part of traditional Islam than it was for hadith, to protect them from needlessly questioning their faith because some followers of Shafi didn’t question something he probably didn’t say in the first place or because we have an unhealthy obsession with certain authorities (it is interesting to note that with many exceptions, these scholars, including famous Imams such as but of course by no means limited to Shafi, Malik, Al Ghazzali etc would criticise each other in the most disrespectful terms). My point is that lay Muslims are taught to defer to a group of people that did not in fact extend this courtesy to each other. Of course, the excuse is their superior knowledge but the argument that I need knowledge equivalent to Shafi to critique him on the issue of marrying my own daughter or know as many hadith as Ahmad to critique him on the issue of killing non-Muslims or women or children without punishment is patently idiotic, much like asserting that until I have am in depth working knowledge of Quantum Mechanics I am not to say that the Manhattan Project was a bad idea for humanity. Maybe this line of reasoning worked once, but today it is an Achilles Heel of epic proportions.
With many sects extant today, there is the added motivation that if people are free to exercise ‘deniability’ with regards to some of the famous Imams, this leaves their own founding fathers in a tight spot, as one finds increasingly disturbing and un-Islamic fatwas emanating from later Imams and especially from the founders of the popular post-colonial movements today such as Deobandism (for example, the works of Ashraf Ali Thanwi), Ahmed Ridha Khan and Brelwi’ism, Sayyid Qutb and of course the perennially moronic Ibn Abd Al Wahhab. If people are not too accommodating of Ahmad or Shafis’ stranger narrations then how much less so for these individuals, so their adherents seek to nip the problem in the bud and enforce a general ‘argument from authority’, despite the fact that even God failed to use this form of persuasion when he was questioned by Satan or the Angels, opting instead for rational and even empirical proofs.
Another misconception of Muslim scholars that helps speed people on the way to apostasy is that their (chosen) imam’s logic and learning is so deep that it is not in fact apprehensible to ordinary people. This was what my teacher told me about Imam Shafis’ fatwa on marrying ones daughter – there was a ‘logic’ to it but a man of my limited learning could not hope to fathom it. Without going into the details of Shafis ‘argument’, it was in fact, as I discovered many years later, not at all difficult to understand or falsify. It was an entirely feasible task for someone of normal intelligence without Arabic language skills. The same goes for most of the bizarre fatwas of the greats. It could be that the people who proffer this argument are genuinely surrounded by people of sub-par intelligence or more likely that they are merely enforcing their argument from authority by claiming that the argument is so refined so as to not be understandable by the laity. To the detriment of Muslim’s faith, the internet and academics are currently laying bare for all to see the reasoning or rather non-reasoning of many great scholars’ fatwas and people are realising that there are not any impressive intellectual gymnastics behind them.
This is not to say that the emperor has no clothes or to denigrate the Imams of Muslims, but rather if Muslims choose to pin their faith on these often very fallible people then they are heading for a fall. Much as with hadith, a generalised deniability would not go amiss.
Stop Making Mediocre People into Role Models
Closely allied to the cult of venerable imams of both Sunnis and Shi’ites, which frankly is a form of personality worship and an excuse to delegate ones thinking to other people, is the problem of selecting who is to be included in the venerable Imams and role model roll-call. This is no small matter and this is why I have treated it separately. In fact, my argument is that if one grows up wanting to be like Ashraf Ali Thanwi or Abd Al Wahhab or indeed even some of the Imams from the earlier period of Islamic history, one will not get very far in life.
I recall an interesting discussion between a non-Muslim orientalist and his Muslim student. It was regarding who was greater – not Muhammad or Jesus as is usually the case in these discussions – but rather a famous Sunni Imam (one of ‘the four’ – I won’t say which one to avoid offence) or Isaac Newton. Unfortunately, the poor Muslim student was badly shown up – the academic recounted a list of Newton’s impressive achievements from his theory of gravitation to his likely invention of calculus. Not being able to match any of these, the Muslim tried to focus on the spiritual excellence of the Imam and said that his opponent was comparing apples with oranges: the imam of course was a gifted legal theorist, a man of huge piety etc. But the Professor had, as they say, the students’ number:
Prof: So you are telling me that Imam X is better than Newton because he was a pious guy? I can just say the same for Newton. He was a Unitarian monotheist you know – he showed great courage in maintaining his beliefs – which if they were discovered would have led to his being killed for heresy. I can just as well argue that he was like one of your Sufi masters and he had followers and all that jazz. There’s no way of proving such things. That is why I am pointing out his concrete achievements – such as his contributions to our understanding of the universe and the subsequent betterment of mankind that has resulted from it. I mean the guy invented calculus, which is basically the underpinning of Physics, which in turn is the underpinning of modern technology. That guy did something. Can you make a similar claim for your Imam?
Student: Imam X laid down the foundations for a just and fair legal system. You can’t compare a lawyer to a physicist or mathematician. I can argue that he did more for mankind as he came up with a fair legal system, which is more relevant and necessary than technology. We can have a technocratic society that is unjust – look at the Nazis for example.
Prof: So Imam X saved us from Fascism and moral evils, assuming we listened to him right?
Student: That’s correct.
Prof: Which novel legal or ethical principles did he posit or elaborate by which he achieved this? Where and what is his moral philosophy for example? Where can I read his refutation of fascism or ideas like it in his time, like those of the Umayads for example, or his legal theory as compared to others of its time? Where is his moral ‘Principia’ if you will?
Student: Well, he derived principles from the Quran and hadith and they are all over his books.
Prof: Well, now you are saying that he merely stated what was already in the Quran and Hadiths so I don’t see how that makes him better than Newton who elaborated new stuff. So I should read the Quran and if I think that is a contribution to mankind then credit the guy who wrote that and not this guy.
Student: You could never understand the Quran without this guy!
Prof: Then the person who wrote the Quran didn’t do a very good job did he?
Student: There’s no need to be offensive!
Prof: You are the one being offensive! You are demanding that I pay homage to a guy for whom you cannot name me a single thing he did for humanity. As best as I can gather, he seems to be some kind of lawyer. Having a lawyer as a hero is a bit weird anyway but I can grant your argument if you tell me some of his morally superior legal theories and ethical positions. I’m open to it. But you haven’t given me anything. You are simply saying that this guy was great because he followed the Quran. Which is just like saying that the Quran is great and anyone who follows it will be great. But what did he do, in and of himself, which makes him better or even comparable to Newton?
Student: We will have to agree to disagree
Prof: No, rather we will have to agree that you are talking nonsense!
At this stage, looking aggrieved, the poor student turned to me for support. But there really was nothing I could say. Newton was an extraordinary individual. There have been Muslim scientists, philosophers and theologians who did match up to or exceed him and may well have even done some of the groundwork which led to his own theories. But the student’s enterprise of putting up a random Imam, no matter how pious and saying that his contribution to mankind was objectively greater than Newton’s was doomed from the outset. If he had chosen an accomplished theologian such as Maturidi or Razi or a scientist such as Ibn Sina, he would have had more success. But he had chosen his favourite Imam. In fact he did not even know himself what was so great about him and in all honesty, his argument came down to ‘any Muslim is better than Newton, especially a famous Imam’. Although this in and of itself is very questionable, the question was not ‘who is the better Muslim’, in which case the answer could still have been the Unitarian Newton but rather ‘who made the greater contribution to civilization?’
The reason the poor fellow was in such a fix is that the process of veneration of scholars through Islamic history is hugely problematic and severely redacted. Today it is popular to talk about the ‘Four Imams’ as if they were a mutual appreciation society – far from true (Imam Al Ghazzalis hateful comments about Abu Hanifa showed how deep and late the animosity between Hanafis and Shafis ran). Many people are excluded from the list on an arbitrary or sectarian basis and people consign Imam Zayd or Hasan Al Basri to the back page and elevate others for political and other reasons. Khawarij (violent radicals) like Ikrima are included much to the chagrin of Shi’ites but people like Jafar As Sadiq are ignored in all but name. So one problem is that some of the people who Muslims are taught nowadays were ‘amazing’ and role models were really not that great or in some cases were dreadful people (such as many or all of those associated with Ummayad and Abassid governments who have now become ‘imams’).
Some people won’t care but others, who having been taught to tie their belief and practice of Islam intimately to certain scholars, upon finding that these people were intellectually or morally unimpressive or even just not very nice people, will now begin to get doubts about their faith.
This is already occultly admitted by many Muslims: when the glories of Muslim civilization are mentioned, Muslims rarely bring up, say Imam Ahmad. Instead they focus on Avicenna, Al Farabi, Al Haythami, Al Bayruni and even Suhrawardi and Ibn Arabi. The fact that virtually all of the famous Muslim scientists and philosophers, including the above, are considered heretics by most Muslim groups popular today is omitted for the time being.
So as well as taking people as role models without actually knowing anything about them or what made them great, Muslims exclude practically all of the great Muslim polymaths and thinkers as ‘bad Muslims’. Virtually all of these individuals were anathematised by the anti-rationalist and anthropomorphic orientation within Islam, which continues to do so today.
It is quite obvious which civilisation will gain ascendancy out of the one that takes a glorified lawyer as the pinnacle of human achievement (Imam X) and the one who aspires to the mathematician/alchemist/philosopher/scientist.
Like it or not, having no impressive or decent role models has a devastating effect on the intellectual and civilizational self-confidence of Muslims, especially against the onslaught of the Liberal Monoculture they find themselves in. And like it or not, the heavily redacted and sectarian list of notables in Muslim history is sorely lacking in genuine high achievers and role models.
The outcome of having unremarkable people from the past lionised is what we see amongst Muslim apologists and community leaders today: uncharismatic and inarticulate people, pleasing neither to the eye nor ear, representing Muslims in the media and academia and doing a very bad job of it. In a community where people as utterly banal as Akram Nadwi and Haitham Al Haddad can ascend to the highest echelons, one cannot be surprised at the messianic devotion that greets someone presentable and yet of still below normal intelligence like Jonathan AC Brown. In the kingdom of the blind…
Total Deniability on Any and All Tafseers (Commentaries) of the Quran
An interesting and oft ignored fact about the Quran is that the overwhelming majority of the Quranic commentaries are by Shi’ites and Mu’tazzilites (i.e ‘heretical’ groups). There are many, usually poor explanations as to why there are so few ‘Sunni’ commentaries as well as an effort to invent new ones – such as the recent commentary by Ibn Taymiyya. Except he’s dead and didn’t write one in the first place. What has in fact been done is to take parts from his (excessively) voluminous writings and fashion one in the present day, much like the Western practice of taking a hodgepodge of recordings from an artist who has died, say David Bowie, and then releasing them as a ‘new’ album.
One convincing explanation I have heard is that many scholars were too obsessed with hadith to focus on the Quran at the level required to write a commentary. They also believed, unlike the Shia, that the Quran is not understandable without the hadith and since they, at least in the Shafi and Hanbali case, allow the Quran to be abrogated and specified or even ignored by the use of ahad (single chain) hadith, they presumably felt less need for a closer study of the Quran. A corollary of this is that some of the famous tafseers amongst Muslims today, such as that of Ibn Kathir, are famous only because of those scholars leanings towards positions sympathetic to Salafis (Ibn Kathir narrated anthropomorphisms as brazen as God falling out of heaven and onto the Earth with the animals on the Day of Judgement. This is as befits a student of Ibn Taymiyya I suppose – they are interred next to each other).
In short, insistence on tafseers of the Quran, especially those popular today, is just as dangerous as the ‘don’t give an inch’ mentality inculcated in Muslims vis-a-vis hadith and scholars opinions.
This is most clearly seen in debates with Evangelical Christians, who often display impressively brazen hypocrisy by demanding that the Quran be understood in light of commentaries (they have their favourites – such as Ibn Kathir) while at the same time themselves being ‘Bible only’ (and even then, interpreting verses on their personal authority) and not admitting to the interpretations of the Bible given by any of the famous church fathers, commentators or theologians, all the while completely ignoring the greatest body of Christians in the world, the Catholics. Muslim apologists, not known for their overabundance of intellect, fall for it every time and start defending not only the Quran but the Tafseers as well (which contain such well known absurdities such as that the Earth is on the back of a whale in ‘Tafseer Jalalayn’).
A person of rudimentary intelligence could see the folly of this strategy, where the ‘area of attack’ for Muslims is the Bible only (excluding Church fathers writings, creeds, commentaries etc) but for Evangelicals is The Quran, any of its commentaries, all two million hadith and all of the opinions of the Four Imams and anyone else they fancy such as Ibn Taymiyya, Al Ghazzali etc. This is an immensely foolhardy pursuit and many Muslims are left in serious doubts because of it. A fair way would be to hold Evangelicals to all of the writings of the Church fathers, Calvin, Luther etc and their equivalent of hadith and commentaries and demand that they defend all of them (for example, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and Luther all agreeing on forced conversion of the ‘heathen’). Rather, Muslim apologists, for the sake of pleasing a certain audience and of course securing Saudi and other money, allow themselves a target the size of a needle in a haystack (often the New Testament alone) and allow Evangelicals to carpet bomb the whole edifice of anything any Muslim ever said or did, ever. This is clearly because they have occultly bought into the Christians’ narrative, which is not difficult since Evangelicals and Salafists are theologically nearly identical.
If Muslims do indeed believe the absurd proposition that the Quran is incomprehensible without the hadith and or tafseers, then they have a bigger problem in that they are worshipping a God who can’t make himself clear and furthermore gives people a protected and unchangeable book…which then can only be understood in light of unprotected and changeable books.
Total Deniability from Cultural Accruements to Islam – Especially the Arab and Asian Ones
Saudi Arabia is a brand new country that did not exist until 1924, at which point the British brought it into being. Not that most Muslims would think that: they basically act as if the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet) had Saudi passports. This is a measure of both the poverty and lack of education in most of the Muslim world and the degree of success of Wahhabi propaganda in both presenting themselves as central to the Islamic project to Muslims (thorough sponsorships, scholarships and the annual Hajj as well as low cost published material. And if they can open and control the main mosque in London of all places, just imagine what influence they can wield in the Islamic and Third World – which in fact are interchangeable anyway) and to the West as an important bulwark against extremism and threatened oil supplies. It has been very important for Wahhabi states such as Saudi and Qatar to gain legitimacy with the wider body of Muslims by presenting themselves as Sharia compliant and representations of Islamic authenticity. In the post-colonial period, merely looking or speaking Arabic is sufficient to grant most Arabs the kind of celebrity status that Caucasian English teachers once enjoyed in Japan. Largely, they have pulled this off and most Muslims when they think of Saudi think of them as defenders of Islam. This has had a catastrophic effect on the intellectual and spiritual recovery of Muslims from their decline and colonialism.
It is exceedingly common to see practising Muslims in the West dressing not like Muslims but specifically like Saudis with a long robe and headdress that the Prophet never wore. Moreover, this is a deliberate choice on their part – it is not that they are confused as to how the Prophet dressed but rather that they wish to be identified with the Khaliji Arab dress, much how Caucasian hip-hop fans will adopt certain modes of dress from Los Angeles for example. Likewise, one often finds them to be the most vociferous defenders of the noxious fatwas that Arabs are inherently superior and not marriageable for non-Arabs: black and Asian Muslim youth, rather than rebelling against this vile piece of racism are instead using it as a badge of authenticity and are proud of pointing out that they are following the fatwas of Shafi and Ahmad (one also sees this featured prominently in the books of the Deobandi sect such as Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s ‘Behishti Zewar’[Heavenly Ornaments] where he proudly asserts that a non-Arab can ‘never’ be a match for an Arab in marriage).
As such, the concerns, social norms and politics of certain Arabs (meaning usually Saudis) become generalised to any Muslims living in the West – much like those Caucasians who have a fetish for some other culture (usually oriental ones) in the West: they watch the movies, read the books, wear the T-shirts and sometimes even learn the language. They are often martial arts cinema groupies. So it is with the Arab groupies. They refer to each other in broken Arabic (of the non-Quranic kind) and copy the social norms and political concerns of Saudi uncritically and no matter how poor a fit they are in England or the US or in fact with Islam. Should any obvious or problematic clashes occur with Islamic practice, these will soon be smoothed over by the Arab scholars to whom they are beholden. Yes, you understood it correctly; these people are a cult at worst or like Goths at best.
Likewise, they uncritically adopt conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism from these Arabs. They are concerned about the Arab-Israeli question with an apocalyptic zeal…and little else in global politics. Despite the gross injustice that constitutes the Palestinian question, it is portrayed very willingly by Muslims as a global concern of the Muslim Ummah and even as a theological issue as pertains to the mosque at Al Aqsa. Issues such as Kashmir and Burma or the Uighurs in China…well they are local problems. Well, in that case, why isn’t the Palestinian question a ‘local’ question for the neighbouring countries? Arab problems are ‘Ummah’ problems, as the recent Saudi demand to Pakistan that it should intervene with it against the Houthis in Yemen showed. Saudi, strangely, has never intervened against the Taliban in Pakistan. Or anyone else (in fact, Qatar has provisioned and embassy for them).
There are a group of Muslims who have traded in the exotic fetishism of the colonised for the coloniser that was found amongst some subjects of the British and other empires for the new fetish of Arab culture.
There are a slew of practices which are desirable to certain Arabs and South Asians, specifically FGM and early marriage without the consent of the woman (and often not even of the man), gender segregation as a necessity verging on total Freudian sexual paranoia as well as forced endogamy and cousin marriage, which are repeatedly emphasised by scholars and cultural partisans to the detriment of the wider image of Islam. Hadith that seem to embody these practices are emphasised and never allowed to lapse irrespective of their dubious authenticity: subcontinental Hanafites jettison their affiliation and become card carrying Hanbalis when it comes to their daughters marriage or ‘free mixing’. Their brand of jurisprudence is simply to writhe and twist until ‘Islam’ (by now a caricature of itself) becomes congruent with their cultural practices. This of course is found in all religions and cultures to some extent but it is a prominent cause of apostasy amongst Subcontinental and Arab origin Muslims.
Hilariously, when confronted by such apostates, Muslims usually reply with the truth, that these practices are cultural and not part of Islam. But by then it is too late. Having prostituted their religious ethics to justify their usually ugly cultural idiosyncrasies, they have turned people off for good.
Make Belonging to the Muslim Community Less Socially Punishing
All but the most self-delusional people know that Islam does not have a ‘cool’ image. Practically no one in the West grows up appropriating Islamic culture or wanting a Muslim boyfriend or girlfriend or hoping to make more Muslim friends. For most non-Muslims, a family member introducing a Muslim as a mate has the same stigma that bringing home a black man once did in ‘Look Who’s Coming to Dinner’ (with the added fear, not entirely unjustified, that your little princess will now be joining a terrorist organisation). A lot of this is indeed down to the Islamo and generally xenophobic and Eurocentric media but even more is down to a complete failure of marketing by Muslims. To put it mildly, Muslims are not exactly Walt Disney, who could turn what is essentially household vermin into a cultural icon that everyone thinks is cute. It is interesting to contrast how Islamic culture is viewed in the West when compared with Japanese culture. This is illustrative as both groups are usually racially distinct from Caucasians and both have undergone a conflict with the West recently while at the same time having large communities resident in the West (Roosevelt proudly declared the holdings for Japanese internment in the US during WWII to be ‘Concentration Camps’, and newspapers published stuff like this:)
However, both before and after WWII, Japan and Japanese culture has had a positive, or at least fetishized and exotic image in the West. This is partly down to attitudes to Japanese female sexuality, which is eroticised by Western media (just watch literally any film where a ‘white guy’ goes to Japan from ‘You Only Live Twice‘ onwards) but also because Japanese movies, video games, manga, Samurai or Bushido culture, Kanji, Ninjas and art are considered ‘cool’ by many in the West. Few in the West who fetishise these aspects of Japanese culture (much like those who think Chinese culture is about Kung-Fu and nice looking handwriting) have ever had any direct experience of Japan or Japanese people. Their main point of contact with ‘Japan’ is the Japanese cultural output (broadly speaking, ‘art’) and the Western media representation and appropriation of this (not always positive but nowhere near as negative as in the case of the Middle East and Islam). Although Japan and the West don’t quite have the antagonistic history of Europe and Islam or Europe and Judaism, there are the recent Japan – Russian, Sino – Japanese Wars (which was a threat to the colonial powers in China) and Second World War, so the parallel is not too dissimilar. However, unlike Japan, Islam does not really have what Amy Chua has called (in reference to the United States) ‘an overseas fan club’. By this she means that the US can get away with a lot more morally questionable behaviour than say Iran or Russia and still maintain a glamorous and positive image in the minds of many because it has a lot of people overseas who aspire to American culture and its symbols – in short, are its ‘fans’. Lots of people, especially young people born after the vicissitudes of colonialism, aspire to be Americans or French or English. Some in the West even aspire to be Japanese. Hardly anyone anywhere outside the Islamic world (and quite a few within) aspire to be Muslim or appropriate their cultural symbols or language.
I would posit that a big part of this is that unlike the Chinese or Japanese culture, Islam has been furnished by its followers (of late) with very few points of interaction with others. This makes them appear alien and inscrutable and thus easy to misrepresent. For example, young people in the US and Europe interact with Japan and grow up admiring it because of its animations, cinema, comics (found in literally all major bookshops from Scotland to Spain – in the local languages), calligraphy, dress and other ‘cool stuff’. Islamic art has none of these ‘points of contact’ because it is largely decadent and assumes a religious component. There are even lots of ‘J-Pop’fans in the West, but again, this is made impossible for Muslims by their own leaders. The Japanese pop culture phenomena has recently been repeated in the case of South Korea, with a huge interest in this nation’s movies and music amongst Caucasian Westerners and the Koreans have done a remarkable job marketing themselves off the back of this with music and film festivals as well as cultural events. Of course, if Muslims were ever to have a foreign government sponsor a cultural event, we know who would be paying: there would be no music and the centrepiece would probably be the beheading of a Philippine domestic worker.
What any of this has to do with apostasy is that young Muslims feel alienated in that they are always appropriating and admiring the cultural symbols of others, to whom they can never belong as a community, and lacking any of their own. They listen to Japanese music, have a poster of Brad Pitt on their bedroom wall, watch American movies and consume French art. But Japanese people can listen to their own music, Americans can watch their own movies and so on. The decadence of Islamic cultural output, from the virtual absence of the novel in Arabic to the banal racket that passes for ‘Islamic’ music denies Muslims this opportunity. The reason that Islamic arts are decadent is partially colonialism but mainly puritanism – you aren’t going to excel at sculpture or drawing comic books if you think they are going to cause you to burn in hell. Islamic art had its heyday, in fields such as architecture and calligraphy and it has its apologists (such as Sayyed Hossein Nasr in his excellent ‘Islam and the World’ and other works) but it is utter self-delusion to believe that that was anything but another life.
Further, Muslim excuse making does not help: Calligraphy is not the only halal (permissible or licit) form of Islamic painting – where are the Islamic landscape painters? The Ottoman or Muslim Turner or Monet? No doubt some will try to point to Mughal miniature painting or the anthropomorphic representations allowed by some Shia artists as counter-examples but if such works are compared with the contemporaneous efforts of Dutch or French artists, the results are decimating to the ego of Muslims (not that Muslims could furnish a single art historian to argue their case anyway, since studying art history would be considered useless by virtually all ‘practising’ Muslims in the West)
Outsiders do not in the first case interact with other cultures primarily via their religious text or ‘Dawah’ but rather through their art. That is how nearly everyone outside America first interacted with that culture. But what is called Muslim ‘art’ today and for a long time in the past is absolutely pathetic. Of course, people will be loath to believe this (and will be eager to point out minority cases such as Chinese Muslims} but it’s one of those things that one can’t prove…and yet everyone somehow knows is true.
The decadence of Islamic cultural expression and art has a dual purpose in apostasy: on the one hand it makes it very easy for opposing interests to make Islamic culture look ‘unfashionable’ (and fashion is a driving force in human relations. This is of course lamentable but it must be accepted and adjusted for) and thus dissuade many people from taking an interest in it (unlike how people graduate from watching Japanese animations to learning more about Japan or at least having a positive impression of the culture). Concurrently, it makes Muslims feel culturally vacuous and inferior, which sadly is largely true. But such feelings are often generalised to the religion of Islam too, which is surprisingly easy as Muslim authorities tend to use religion as the justification for practically everything, especially their recent artistic cultural and academic underachievement (‘well, we suck at music and painting because it’s haraam, a waste of time blah blah’).
Muslims are often, very rightly, fond of pointing out that apostates are ‘Uncle Toms’ who subserviently and uncritically adopt the dominant cultural values of the West. This is true. But Muslims rarely go on to ask why such people felt the need to do that – you know, if ‘Islamic culture’ was so great compared to the others that is. In movies, games, comics, clothes, art and fashion, we are all ‘Uncle Toms’ and cultural apostates but we can’t be blamed. Muslim music, clothing, art and other cultural artefacts are just not any good. And they haven’t been for a long time.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Muslims Must Stop Restricting Peoples Career Choices and Hobbies
Closely allied to the above – if you are a Muslim Mozart or Rodin (before people start pointing it out, yes I know some of the sculptures are nude, the fact that I had to mention that is illustrative of our mentality), you are finished before you have picked up a pen or a scalpel. This seems to most Muslims to be a minor thing but, say, to a potential Mozart, it’s a very big thing – not being allowed to do the thing you love, especially if the thing you love is not something obviously bad or evil like music or sculpture, can create a serious conflict in the minds of people. Most ‘practising’ Muslims seem to approach these kinds of problems in their brethren as a test of faith or as a chance to tell them to ‘man up’ and put their religion before their hobbies. But this ignores the fact that some people feel almost as strongly about other things as some do about their faith: when it is said of someone that ‘golf is his religion’, it is meant that golf is the thing to which all other things take second place. Whether this is a good or bad thig is another issue, but nonetheless, it is a reality for many people and despite their seeming denials, Muslims are just people: God only created one ‘operating system’ for humans, no matter how much Muslim scholars dislike it
For God’s Sake, Stop Bringing Religion into Everything
In a way today, Muslims, especially the practising ones, have become a kind of mirror image and reaction to secularists: whereas the latter insist religion should be kept out of ‘public’ life (by which they actually mean everything), Muslims instead try and inject religion into literally everything. In fact they are even proud of doing so and boast of how intrusive their religion is and that it prescribes everything for them and because of that they will find what I have said offensive. This is because of a number of reasons. A number of universal and noble moral and political guidelines in the Quran were exaggerated into a comprehensive political manifesto by certain sects. The A’shari theologians relegated the role of man in moral knowledge to total irrelevance and denied free will, creating the problems of God’s compulsion of man (jabr). The uninhibited indulgence in hadith by the Muhaditheen caused some of them to demand a narration for literally everything (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal upon not finding a narration for eating melons refused to eat them, with other jurists echoing this principle and saying that all things not ‘mentioned’ automatically had the designation of ‘forbidden’. The fact that this story of Imam Ahmad is proudly remembered by Muslims of a puritanical bent is illustrative). Those beholden to narrations, of often dubious authenticity by the standards of everyone other than the traditionists themselves will of course be more partial to arguing that a narration exists for every aspect of life (although this is patently false as we can see from the obvious fact that the very pertinent knowledge of Prophetic medicine is nearly entirely lost – which is why Muslims only ever talk about ‘Black Seed’ being a cure for everything, a position which Muslims, like Evangelicals and their alleged ability to drink poison unaffected, do not actually believe in).
Those (very few) Muslims who take the Quranic emphasis on intellection and investigation seriously will be less so inclined, but nonetheless, a devastating corollary of Muslims emphasis on the intrusiveness and all-encompassing nature of their faith (which in practice is not in terms of their moral or ethical lives but rather limited to hadith-spamming) is that whenever Muslims do something good (like win an award), they thank, credit and praise God. And when they do something really stupid, like blow up a train carriage full of kids, they likewise thank, praise and credit God. I’ve often said that Islamophobes just re-label crimes done by Muslims to make them religious in nature – so a crime of passion where a man kills his wife is apt to be just that if the man is a Caucasian but to be an honour killing if he is of a darker hue, but in reality, Muslims are largely guilty of this too, crediting God and religion for terrorist and interpersonal attacks or beating their wife as opposed to their own base motives. Christians, while committing far more and worse crimes in the West as is expected by their preponderance, are hardly ever seen to use the ‘Jesus made me do it’ excuse.
Newly practising Muslims of the Salafist orientations remind me of puppets: you have to pull on a hadith otherwise it is impossible to get them to do anything, so assured are they of the need to find a narration to govern every aspect of their lives. This actually has the effect of atrophying their moral and intellectual faculties. Muslims are rightly proud of the well attested narrations (backed up by the practice of the Companions of the Prophet and opinions of the jurists) that empower them in good hygiene and manners, but they have mistaken the gentle guidance of the Prophet (and the authenticity of what remains of it) as a prescription that extends to what colour trousers to wear.
I was surprised to find the truth of Ibn Khalduns’ statement that the hadith literature is, as a rule, contradictory and requires expert appraisal and application when I undertook Hadith studies. When studying the issue of how to perform ablutions and timings of prayers from hadith alone, I was alarmed to discover that the hadith actually added to the variety of opinions and confusion, until clarified by my Maliki and Hanafi teachers using the amal (practice) of Madinan jurists and applications of the companions (in the Hanafite) case. Even this was a heuristic solution however. Not for nothing is it said that ‘hadith without fiqh [legal theory] is misguidance’.
So far as I am concerned, the belief that you can shut off your moral and intellectual sense because there is a narration to tell you how to do everything is observably untrue (sahih narrations do not even clarify how to pray a single cycle of the compulsory prayer let alone ‘everything’ such as how to cure cancer. Even Salafists know this idea is false, so to this they have added the comments of the ‘rightly guided’ Salaf, forgetting that most of the heresies in Islam including Sh’ism and others are directly traceable to the same ‘Salaf’ and opinions of scholars, thus introducing a truly vast and insurmountable corpus of varying but usually poor quality and attestation).
It might be going too far to say that Muslims do not take an interest in scientific issues as well as moral ones because they think that all of the answers are ‘already in Islam’, but the impression they gain from their religious leaders is certainly along those lines.
Sadly, I fear Muslims have gone too far along the lines of ‘naql not aql’- which is a formula Muslims bizarrely utter with pride that means Islam is a religion of imitation as opposed to intellect (despite God saying the opposite in the Quran – but what does He know!) to be lead back from this precipice without the loss of many lemmings. But at the very least, the Muslim propensity for ‘Islamicising’ the stupid and violent stuff they do based on revenge, nationalism, political motivations and just downright psychosis and stupidity tends to have the same effect as the Islamophobes assertions that the bad things Muslims do are due to their faith – putting religious window shoppers off and making Muslims, especially the thinking ones, ashamed of their community and faith, which is a necessary pre-requisite of apostasy.
Bringing religion into everything that you do has become a psychological identifier of ‘practising’ Muslims but it is in fact a handicap – far from being an antidote to secularism they have gone to the other extreme and brought Islam and religion into disrepute by reflexly involving religion in all the good and bad they do.
The Ability to Approach a Member of The Opposite Sex without Scrutiny, and Yes, DATE them if Needs Be (Yes, I said ‘DATE’): Muslims Must Stop Restricting People’s Ability to Find a Partner and Have Sex
Any system which brazenly opposes human biology, specifically those aspects pertaining to personal and species survival is doomed to failure. Muslims pay lip service to this by claiming that there is no monasticism in Islam but the reality is far removed. A generation of unwilling and unhappy virgins is found amongst practising Muslims and their desperation is such that fifteen year old schoolgirls are willing to leave England to go into a war zone…just to ‘get laid’
The fact that all practising Muslims are more than familiar with is that ‘Islam’ is making it practically impossible to get a partner of any kind of quality. This makes life miserable and Muslims are constantly distracted by their unfulfilled or poorly satiated urges. Most young Muslims spend their time looking in at the rest of society like a penniless kid looking at a toyshop window. At Christmas.
The recent Ashley Madison adultery website hack, apart from demonstrating that IERA Salafi segregation masters also allegedly like a bit on the side, showed something else shocking: out of 33 million profiles, less than five million were women. And even many of those were fake. You can bet that most of the ‘halal’ marriage sites are exactly the same (or try to attract women by making their memberships free unlike for men – about as fair as ‘ladies nights’ at nightclubs): that’s because you might have noticed that when attractive women want to cheat or find a partner, they can usually find a taker and thus don’t need to resort to these means. Muslims are living in a magical dream world where attractive men and women are in the ‘arranged marriage’ system or go to their local Imam to find a partner. As every American housewife knew from ‘I Love Genie’ onwards, the good ones are already taken.
Tragically, the magical thinking around the mating game disproportionately affects practising Muslims, who believe that God will find them a partner (though he made no such assurance, any more than he promised to find you a job or pass your driving test for you) and overlook the patently unrealistic formulas advocated to Muslims when it comes to finding a mate. I told a desperate not-so young man in mosque that he should start dating, while assiduously avoiding fornication, or likely with his lack of religious and family connections, he would be perennially single. I was almost lynched.
Quite apart from the fact that most ‘practising’ Muslims advocate that all of the means that could in any likelihood lead to meeting a guy/girl, from looking at them to being in the same room, are in fact haram or makhruh, (essentially ’illegal’ and ‘immoral’) even those willing to allow that much (a minority) started putting on their white hoods when I mentioned ‘dating’ because of course, dating means sex. Like it is impossible to just get to know someone and go out together, because you must have sex. We as a community have bought in to the dichotomy of the monoculture: there is only promiscuity or abstinence and if you see a member of the opposite sex and go out with them then the aim is to get them into bed as soon as possible as opposed to just getting to know them. But in the West, the only reliable way to get a partner is to approach someone you like, get to know them by spending time with them (yes, unsupervised, but not alone, for example, at the theatre or an art gallery) and then see if you want to get married. And this is not a decision that can be made in a single meeting or twelve or any fixed time – it depends how quickly and well you get to know each other. Some randy people will end up having sex in this process the same way that many unmarried people will start to masturbate compulsively, consume porn and become sexually deviant. Both have their dangers, not only the first scenario as scholars would have us believe.
The idea of curtailing all male female interaction because it may lead to fornication would be consistent if Muslims applied the same paranoia about sin to all aspects of morality (Muslims are noticeably less inclined to continuously audit people’s wealth to avoid non – payment of tithes or zakat as they are to monitor male female interactions to avoid ‘sin’, or to warn their children about reading Salafi literature because it may lead to killing people). This is about as stupid as banning books because some of them are ‘dangerous’ (the Saudis for example have ‘banned’ the Bible).
In any case, the idea that transgressions of a sexual nature are the worst things that can possibly happen to a person has become too ingrained in Muslims minds to address – the proof of this is that nearly all Muslims (wrongly) consider it to be valid that the punishment for adultery should be worse than for murdering a child.
Puritans of every bent and religion consider endurance of misery to be a sign of strong faith. In this they are mistaken, as the wave of Muslim apostasy will no doubt show once again. Labelling all pleasant sensations as ‘hedonism’ is banal and inaccurate but it is hard to deny that practically all Muslim groupings extant in the West are of such a puritanical bent. You have to already have a good knowledge of Islam to put up with this let alone try to fix it. Most others, quite wisely will see that this religion is making their life hard and restricting their choice of partner and not even providing them access to that restricted grouping either. They will make what is biologically the smart choice: look outside the community, with or without apostasy (usually with).
 ‘Islam and the New Central Asia‘ by Oliver Roy, the chapter on ‘The Sovietisation of Central Asia’ provides an excellent overview.
 Hammad ibn Salama reported from Qatada, from ‘Ikrima, from Ibn ‘Abbas, that the Prophet said, “I saw my Lord in the form of a young man, beardless (amrad) with short curly hair Ua’d) and clothed in a green garment.”
Ibn Hanbal made its belief obligatory: in his ‘Aqida III‘, ‘And that the Prophet saw his Lord, since this has been transmitted from the Messenger of Allah and is correct and authentic. It has been reported by Qatada from ‘Ikrima from Ibn ‘Abbas‘.
‘Aqida V’: ‘In one of the sound hadiths about the Messenger of God, it is said; ‘The Prophet has seen his Lord.’ This is transmitted from the Messenger of God. Qatada reported it from ‘Ikrima from Ibn ‘Abbas…. Belief in that and counting it true is obligatory‘.
This hadith is reported twice in Ibn Hanbal’s ‘Musnad‘, and ‘Abd Allah narrates it repeatedly from Ibn Hanbal in his ‘Kitab al-Sunna‘
Ibn Hanbal also reported in his ‘Musnad’:
”One morning, the Messenger of God went out to them [his companions] in a joyous mood and[with] a radiant face. We said [to him]: “Oh Messenger of God, here you are in a joyous mood, with a glowing face'” “How could I not beT’ he answered. “My Lord came to me last night under the most beautiful form (ft:a~san ~ara), and He said [to me]: ‘Oh Muhammad!’-‘Here I am, Lord, at Your order!’ He said [to me]: ‘Over what disputes the Sublime Council?, – ‘do not know, Lord.’ He posed [to me] two or three times the same question. Then He put His palm between my shoulder blades, to the point where r felt its coolness between my nipples, and from that moment appeared to me [all] that is in the heavens and on the earth.
 “…When half o a third of the night passes by, Allah descends to the lowest heaven and says: ‘No one asks more about my servants thatn myself. Who is asking me, so I can give to him? Who is calling uon me, so I can answer him? who is seeking my forgiveness, so I can forgive him?'”
In case you think I am caricaturing Salafis, here they are asserting the ‘reality’ and ‘literalness’ of this descent from no less of a Wahhabiu authority than Uthaymeen:https://islamqa.info/en/20081
 For example, many of the groups in Islamic history which were anathematised by Sunnis, including the Mutazzila or Kharijites as well as most Shia and even many early Hanafis, were much more impermissive and catholic in their choice of hadith. By Salafi standards today, they would be considered ‘hadith rejecters’ – not in the sense that they rejected all hadith but rather employed a great deal of scepticism before attributing things to the Prophet Muhammad. Hence defending the hugely more permissive attitude of Hanbalism and the Shafis towards narrations, including allowing hadiths to abrogate, specify and replace the Quran or the practice of the Sahabah or the jurists of Medina, became a badge of honour for these groups against their perceived enemies. In the colonial period, many scholars, including many well-known and sympathetic ones such as Goldziher through Watt to Juynboll cast significant doubt on the hadith literature. The ideological component of the response from most Muslims was a doubling down of efforts to defend the entire canon but most importantly the redaction of Bukhari. They have now found themselves held to this and are in the astonishingly difficult position of defending all of the hadith contained in Bukhari, and many more besides – a task which had previously proved impossible even against Sunni interlocutors such as Darulqutni and of course the Mu’tazzilite theologians.
 For example, fathom even the famous jurist Qadi Iyad’s explanation for the hadith of Moses refusing to submit to God’s command when the Angel of Death was sent to him at the end of his life: there is simply no connection between his explanation and the text of the narration. The same can be seen with numerous other cases such as the editing out the word ‘anus’ in the text of Bukhari and the utterly scandalous ‘explanation’ for the hadith of the sun bowing to the arsh (throne) found in modern ‘tafseers’ such as ‘Maraful Quran’ by the Deobandi sect.
 For Al Qaradawi’s apologetics on Bukhari’s narrations about the killing of non-Muslims, see here:http://www.onislam.net/english/ask-the-scholar/crimes-and-penalties/retaliation-qisas/175024-killing-a-muslim-for-a-non-muslim.html
 2:30 ”AND LO! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: “Behold, I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it.” They said: “Wilt Thou place on it such as will spread corruption thereon and shed blood – whereas it is we who extol Thy limitless glory, and praise Thee, and hallow Thy name?” [God] answered: “Verily, I know that which you do not know.”
Muslims, shamelessly, love to stop quoting at this point, to give the semblance of God using argument from authority. If anyone could, then it is He, but he doesn’t, and instead provides a QED:
2:31 ”And He imparted unto Adam the names of all things; then He brought them within the ken of the angels and said: “Declare unto Me the names of these [things], if what you say is true.”They replied: “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! No knowledge have we save that which Thou hast imparted unto us. Verily, Thou alone art all-knowing, truly wise.”
Said He: “O Adam, convey unto them the names of these [things].”
And as soon as [Adam] had conveyed unto them their names, [God] said: “Did I not say unto you, ‘Verily, I alone know the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth, and know all that you bring into the open and all that you would conceal’?”
This constitutes nothing other than an empirical demonstration and response to the Angels question, followed by ‘I told you so’.
So God can be questioned but not the scholars it seems. Maybe we should worship them then?
 Amy Chua, ‘World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethinic Hatred and Global Instability ‘, page 200 onwards.
 Ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî reports Sufyân ibn `Uyayna as saying: “Hadîth is a pitfall (madilla) except for the fuqahâ’,” and Mâlik’s companion `Abd Allâh ibn Wahb said: “Hadîth is a pitfall except for the Ulema. Every memorizer of hadîth that does not have an Imâm in fiqh is misguided (dâll), and if Allâh had not rescued us with Mâlik and al-Layth [ibn Sa`d], we would have been misguided.”
Ibn Abî Hâtim in the introduction of al-Jarh. wa al-Ta`dîl (p. 22-23); Ibn Abî Zayd, al-Jâmi` fî al-Sunan (p. 118-119)
And infinite other stories about girls going into war zones lured by catalogues of ‘Jihadi husbands’. In all honesty, you will not see even the most slut shamed girls in the West from non-Muslim cultures going to war zone to get sex.
 IERA’s Hamza Tzortzis was implicated in the adultery site ‘Ashley Madison’ hack – hilariously, he is trying to bury the story using new ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation, as Google informs you when you search for his name and Ashley Madison:
”The recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union has profound consequences for search engines in Europe. The court found that certain users have the right to ask search engines like Google to remove results for queries that include the person’s name. To qualify, the results shown would need to be inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, or excessive.
Since this ruling was published on 13 May 2014, we’ve been working around the clock to comply. This is a complicated process because we need to assess each individual request and balance the rights of the individual to control his or her personal data with the public’s right to know and distribute information.”
Nice to see that the ‘kufaar‘ system has some useful laws for Salafis after all!
Here is one of the few news stories you can still find about him and this affair, which he denies. But wants forgotten. Go figure.