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Engaging Islamophobes

Engaging Islamophobes

Muhammad Abdul Haqq

As Salamu Alaykum!


I thought it would be a great idea to post a portion of an email that I sent to some friends as an introduction on how to engage, refute, and debate Islamophobes. It is sort of a preamble to my countermanual, a “manual” of sorts on how to deal with Islamophobia and Islamophobes of all types.

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I am writing to you for two reasons. The first has to do with how we engage Islamophobes. This is for those of you who continue to comment on Loonwatch. This in no way should be viewed as a personal criticism, and any resemblance to you personally is purely coincidental. I have noticed the tendency among us to debate anti-Muslim bigots with emotionalism rather than ‘ilm, as Allah tells us we should in the Qur’an. Yasir Qadhi highlights the issue very well in one of his lectures. In Islam there are primary issues, secondary issues, tertiary issues and so on. And there are issues that are completely inconsequential from an Islamic standpoint. For example, ‘aqeeda is primary in Islam and tawhid is primary in ‘aqeeda. Zabiha is primary in halal slaughter, yet halal is much more than just food. Yet halal food is secondary. Now in Islam just because a matter is secondary does not mean it is insignificant(We must stop thinking like Westerers who are non-Muslims). Rather this typology is utilized to point out how we Muslims get bogged down debating Islamophobes on secondary, tertiary, and even inconsequential matters.

I originally wanted to write on two subjects when I first started blogging: refuting the notion that Islam is essentially violent and creating a sort of “manual” on how to engage Islamophobes, whether it is daw’ah, debate(remember, daw’ah is not debate), or just everyday interaction. Alas I never got around to it, making the statement “reality and circumstances always foil planning, but never avoid making plans”, very applicable to my situation. Insha’Allah I am returning to the subject of debating Islamophobes, and I wanted to give some “tips” on how to go about it. Insha’Allah you will get some benefit from this.

Never get distracted by secondary or inconsequential issues with Islamophobes, since, chances are,  if they accepted any of the secondary issues related to Islam, they would already be Muslim. The aim of Islamophobes is two-fold:

1. They want to present Muslims as overly emotional psychos who cannot defend Islam in a reasonable manner. To this effect they bait us with serious but secondary matters in order to get Muslims entrenched in useless debates with someone who will never accept the Truth since their hearts are already hardened.

2. To slowly get Muslims to accept the Western paradigmatic framework and concede that Western=Universal. “Progressive/Liberal” Muslims have already fallen for it. They bend over backwards to show modern science in the Qur’an, when “modern science” believes in theories and not absolute Truth, such that what science accepts today can be challenged and even rejected tomorrow. Is this real science, when the word itself comes from a word that carries the meaning of “knowledge”? And these same Muslims are constantly trying to show Islam’s compatibility with democracy, freedom, human rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, et al without understanding that these words mean something completely different in Islam than they would mean in say a Secular Western context.

For example in Islam the concern is primarily “freedom from” whereas in a secular context the concern is “freedom to”. So non-Muslims are constantly bragging about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and sexual freedoms; in other words freedom to say whatever, believe and practice whatever. But in Islam it is about freedom from evil, such that the best speech is praised and evil speech is discouraged, and people are free to practice, in an albeit limited way, whatever religion but not to do evil in the name of that religion, and sexual immorality is roundly condemned. Integrated thought seems to absent in much of Western culture which seems to be why there is no thought put into the logical consequences of beliefs and actions.

Imagine if we were to say that a religion that believes murder is not only okay but compulsory should be given full religious freedom. This example seems absurd on the face of it, yet the extreme examples highlight that Westerners do not actually believe in freedom of religion, only in allowing religions that do not threaten or challenge their way of of life full freedoms, as evidenced by the hypocritical Islamophobic attitudes towards Islam. This is why the Islamic position is more correct: Freedom to believe whatever you want, but not freedom to do whatever you want, especially if it directly harms humanity or our environment, which has the most direct impact on human survival. So when you hear Islamophobes say that Islam does not allow freedom of religion, that is mere obfuscation designed to conceal the fact that not only does the West not truly believe in its own stated conception of religious freedom, but designed to conceal that the real goal is that we accept their “religion”.

Second example. Saying that Islam is too harsh toward homosexuality and adultery and promiscuity is merely an attempt to instill acceptance of immorality among Muslims in the name of “tolerance” and “enlightenment”. Imagine a culture that constantly calls our Prophet(sal Allahu `alayhi wasallam) a pedophile and a lech for his polygyny, when the aforementioned things, in addition to rape, prostitution, misogyny runs rampant in the West. Imagine the hypocrisy. Imagine the hypocrisy of Christians and Jews calling polygamy immoral and backwards, when their own religious texts do not condemn it. In fact, it is the superimposition of Secular and Atheistic values on “Judaeo-Christian” society that has duped Christians and Jews into thinking that polygamy is not part of their faiths? So you can see the futility of debating someone with such a blind, diseased and dysfunctional mentality, rife with hypocrisy, inconsistencies, and love of logical fallacies. So what is my point?

I think I can demonstrate that with a quote from an Islamophobic poster on none other than Loonwatch:

In the article “Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers” we find the quote:

“for a lot of Muslims, for them to be critical of their own religion would be like expecting Christian fundamentalists to look critically at evidence for errors in the Bible.”

Just look at what Khushboo said above:“I wouldn’t compare religion with politics. One is from God (sacred and unchangable re. Islam) and the latter is man-made and therefore, fallible.”

Not exactly a critical attitude is it?I don’t know. I’m not psychic. You may have a very different attitude. But if your attitude is anything like that, you simply aren’t capable of discussing the issues. That isn’t an insult or anything. It’s just a widespread problem found in various religions,” from “greg”.

What exactly is the virtue of being “critical” of one’s religion? In a postmodernist intellectual climate where “everything is subject to questioning and debate” and “there is no absolute Truth”, this is obviously a virtue, but can you not see the idiocy of ever believing that you can arrive at truth when you also believe that here is no such thing as absolute Truth? How can someone criticize Islam if it is not believed that anything ultimately can be true? What is the point of arguing with someone like this? In engaging a person like this we should directly confront their hypocrisy and inconsistency as well as their real agenda. For someone who holds that Islam can never be true, why else would they engage in debate except to try and convince Muslims to abandon Islam, piece by piece. And they do this by going backwards. Start with inconsequential issues then move to the primary issue of Tawhid once they have been exhausted and incessantly refuted on the other matters. Ask someone like this why you should be critical of Islam, yet they should not take a critical look at their own view? Why should we start by considering Western standards as the standard for all truth when the West has moved in the direction of “there is no such thing as absolute Truth”? Maybe it is them who should take a critical view of their own Culture and Intellectual framework rather than criticizing Islam. There should only be three reasons to engage Islamophobes in debate:

1. Correct the misconceptions about Islam

2. Address legitimate concerns about Islam

3. Expose the real agenda of Islamophobes, which is to take you away from Islam by any means necessary, rather than their stated goal of engaging in fruitful discussion.

You should be exposing Islamophobes rather than trying to prove the Truth of Islam. Remember, Debate is not Daw’ah.

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Barak Allahu Feek.

Wasalam Alaykum

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The Reality of Gender Equality in Islam

Portrait of a girl, 21st century, meant to loo...

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The Reality of Gender Equality in Islam

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq

Introduction

Praise be to Allah.

One of the most provocative and controversial topics in Islam, at least for Westerners, is the status of women in Islam; especially with respect to Western ideas of gender equality. Are Muslim women really oppressed, and if so, to what extent? In this series of articles we will attempt a discussion of the gender role perceptions among Muslims and non-Muslim Westerners. Many fail to see that the perspective of the observer determines to a large degree what equality means. In this world of cultural relativism, and relativism in general, an unfortunate consequent side effect is the subjectivism of notions of equality. Equality obviously may mean different things for Muslim women versus Western women, and even within the Muslim community Muslim women may differ in their respective personal views about what it means to be equal to men. This is taken as a given. Yet whenever a discussion of the objective reality of gender equality surfaces, the Western concept of it becomes the acceptable one by definition. We will attempt to briefly introduce the subject of gender equality here by looking narrowly at the topic from the perspective of the concept of spiritual equality in Islam.

First a distinction must again be made between what Islam is, based on the discourses found in the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet(as), and what Muslims actually do based on cultural practices and societally created and accepted norms. Many Westerners look narrowly at what has been done in the name of Islam and what continues to be practiced with respect to Muslim women and believe that this is what Islam truly advocates. Many examples include female infanticide, female genital mutilation, forced seclusion of women, forced marriages, sexual slavery, and forced/enforced veiling of women. And some Muslim scholars aren’t helping the issues when they make pronouncements and fatawa theologically justifying these practices. This topic will be approached and discussed from two main perspectives; that of the Muslim American female convert to Islam, and the perspective of male Sunni scholars of Islam. Other categories of Muslims will be looked at in other articles in the series. These perspectives will be compared and contrasted with the views of several Muslim intellectuals.

English convert to Islam, Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, is the author of over thirty books on the subjects of Islam and gender equality. She has written an article that was posted on the site Islamfortoday.com, which is a website for “westerners seeking knowledge and understanding of Islam”, as was written on its front page. It is “theologically” motivated and geared towards theologically motivated “western converts” to Islam, and it was founded by a “Western” former Christian. According to Maqsood, the Qur’an explicitly states that men and women are equal in the sight of Allah and that “men and women were created from a single soul and are moral equals”. No husband, or any man for that, matter is a woman’s master. This quote from the article summarizes her viewpoint on the issue:

While the spirit of Islam is clearly patriarchal, it regards men and women as moral equals.  Moreover, although a man is technically the head of the household, Islam encourages matriarchy in the home. women may not be equal to men in the manner defined by     Western feminists, but their cores difference from men are acknowledged, and they have  rights of their own that do not apply to men

The Muslim Women’s League is an American Muslim women’s organization that operates and maintains a website. One of their stated goals is to work to “implement the values of and reclaim the status of women as free, equal and vital contributors to society”. The articles on the site that deal with gender equality issues always begin by stressing that men and women are spiritual equals, and both are morally responsible for their actions in the eyes of Allah. Quranic quotes such as the following from the article, “Gender Equality in Islam”, are used to illustrate this point:

I shall not lose the sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or  woman; each of you is equal to the other[Qur’an 3:195]

According to the author of this article  “the Qur’an states that both sexes are deliberate and independent and there is no mention of Eve being created out of Adam’s rib or anything else. Even the issue of which sex was created first is not specified, implying that for our purposes here on earth it may not matter”, and the following quote from the Qur’an is used to emphasize the point:

O mankind! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who created you out of one living entity(nafs), and out of it created its mate(zawj), and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of Allah, in whose name you demand your rights from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, Allah is ever watchful over you![Qur’an 4:1]

The article aptly illustrates that the Qur’an, which contains the original, primary source of Islamic belief, practices, and ideals, does not support the idea of gender inequality between the sexes. So what exactly is the nature of this gender equality, one might ask:

As equal, independent creations of God, the ultimate role of men and women is to serve as vice-regents on earth, to worship God and follow His commands so that we may return to Him. Both men and women share this responsibility, which constitutes our basic role  in life. The Qur’an outlines the attributes believing men and women should try to live by, but in no specific way are told in what capacity each individual man and woman should practice these.

Say: Behold, my prayer, and all my acts of worship, and my living and my dying are for God alone[Qur’an 6:163].

This verse was addressed to the Prophet[saws] but serves as an inspiration to all, reveals that our vicegerency is not only spiritual, but must     be consolidated with actual service. The Qur’an does not distinguish between a man and a woman’s vicegerency. Each sex has the ability to contribute to successive generations, as implied by the term khalifah in the Qur’an(viceregeant). But that doesn’t limit a  woman’s vicegerency solely to bear or rear children. There is no judgment made in the Qur’an made against barren women a woman who chooses not to have children, or a  young woman who dies before childbearing with one that has many children. Only two of  the Prophet’s wives even bore children with him, Khadija and Mariya, [ra]. Other wives such as Hafsa, Aisha and Zaynab,[ra], did not bear any children, and there is no evidence  that they were discounted for this.

Dr. Jamal Badawi is a well known and respected scholar and author on Islamic topics. An online book, “Gender Equity in Islam” , was authored by him that can be found on the website jannah.org. A continuing theme in the Qur’an is the idea of the spiritual, therefore the fundamental equality between the sexes in the eyes of Allah. Like the previous writers he also utilizes well placed quotes from the Qur’an to illustrate the point of spiritual equality between genders.

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even against  yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah  can best protect both. Follow not the desires (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort(justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that you do.[Quran 4:135]

The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is right  and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayer and practice regular charity and obey Allah and His Messenger.On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for All is Exalted in power, Wise. [Qur’an 9:71]

And he mentions a verse we have seen before, with a slightly different translation:

O mankind! Reverence  your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature its mate(zawj), and from them twain scattered (like seed) countless men and women-fear Allah, through Whom you demand your  mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs that bore you: for Allah ever watches over you![Qur’an 4:1]

The idea that men and women are spiritually equal in Islam should be clear from these Quranic quotes. The question then becomes how do misconceptions about gender equality arise among non-Muslims, and why do Muslims believe “unIslamic” things about women and treat women “unIslamically?” Dr. Khaled Abou El-Fadl, an influential contemporary Muslim thinker and jurist reproduces a few quotes on pages 258-260 of his book, “The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from Extremists”, that summarizes very well some of the misogynistic views of some who call themselves Muslims. The first quote, which deals with the worship of Allah, is important because it shows how women are continually denied their right to worship Allah as they are instructed in the Qur’an, thereby robbing them of their spiritual equality and equal moral responsibility before Allah. According to Mohammed Arkoun in his book entitled “Rethinking Islam: Common Questions, Uncommon Answers”, and one can agree with his assertion, the persistence even today of different socialization practices for daughter and son reflects the mother’s internalization of an objectively unfair status reproduced through daughters to ensure the survival of the system above and beyond the moral and religious calling of the person recognized by the Qur’an,”(Arkoun 61).

As stated above, many Westerners look narrowly at what has been done in the name of Islam and what continues to be practiced with respect to women and conclude that Islam necessarily mandates this treatment of women. For Arkoun and other intellectuals such as Lila Abou Lughod and Amina Wadud, it is issues of power and control that determine the degree to which any Muslim society adheres to the moral objectives and spiritual principles found in the Qur’an. The views of these scholars do not differ much from those found on the Muslim operated websites that were discussed in the beginning of this essay. However it is clear that to some of the writers mentioned, such as Maqsood and Badawi, Islam is still to be considered from a patriarchal perspective, as both believe that this is the perspective from which the Qur’an conveys its message to all mankind.

Conclusion

The Qur’an cannot be used to advocate and perpetuate gender inequality in Islam, as shown by various quotes from this essay. Although no ahadith were quoted it should be clear that since no authentic hadith can contradict the Qur’an, the authentic sunnah of the Prophet(as) found in some hadith support the idea of gender equality. However, many other ahadith give the opposite impression when read out of context, or translated inaccurately. In other cases ahadith that are graded da’if(weak) or fabricated(mawdu) are used to justify some misogynistic practices. Gender inequality among Muslims arose as a result of historical processes that saw their beginnings in the inherited practices of jahiliyya, and socially accepted norms that contradict the Islamic objectives and principles of the Qur’an.

Of course this analysis is too simplistic as we have left out the complex power dynamics of colonial and post-colonial Muslim societies that gave rise to displays of power symbolism in which women are always the first victims. And many scholars are aware that women have continually been mistreated despite Islam. In future parts we will analyze the ahadith that speak to gender equality or give the impression of a sanction for gender inequality as well as go deeper into Western non-Muslim and Muslim perspectives on just what constitutes “equality” in general and gender equality in particular. We will also take a historical look at treatment of women in Islam, postulating that there is an evolution and progressivism that was seemingly arrested by historical developments. It should be clear from the preceding discussion, though, that men who do seek to dominate women through unlimited exercise of power over their lives have to bypass Islam to do so, while using Islam through an Islamic veneer that gives the illusion of Islamic legitimacy. They also afford to do so by hiding behind “Islamicized” sociocultural practices that engender in the minds of clueless non-Muslim Westerners and Muslims alike the belief that inequality between the sexes is divinely mandated. Allahu A’lam.