Sunday, December 18, 2011
Lampost Productions recently posted an excerpt from Imam Zaid Shakir’s latest book, "Scattered Pictures-Reflections of an American Muslim“. In the excerpt*, Imam Zaid highlights the misguided ways of the “Muslim Zionists”. The term refers to those Muslims who have made the establishment of the Muslim Khilafa, by any means necessary, into their life-long goal. The term Zionist is used pejoratively as a reference to the Jews who sacrificed all their Judaic principles and values in order to create the Zionist state of Israel. So we find these Muslim Zionists casting aside core Islamic tenets, foolishly convinced that the means justifies the end, in the hopes of creating an Islamic state.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Imam Zaid’s synopsis of this regrettable development, I do wish that he could have tempered his remonstration with a viable, holistic alternative. It seems that he throws out the baby with the bath water when it comes to the role of Muslims in contemporary politics. Are we to step back from the big stage of the political world and solely focus on reforming our selves? Is the world of international politics and global economics so hopeless and vile that our only chance at success is to relocate into our ivory towers and focus on individual acts of worship? And if there is space for Muslim in modern politics, is it limited to the confines of the established political machinery (ie. voting, lobbying, boycotts, political parties, etc.)
I recall seeing a similar approach (of avoiding feasible solutions) when it came to our scholars’ universal denunciation of terrorism. Most Muslims realized that killing innocents while claiming it to be an act of Islamic Jihad was haram. But no scholar ever offered a viable model on the role of Islamic Jihad in this modern day and age.
Similarly, Muslims throughout the world realize that the process of creating an Islamic society based on the principles of Divine Revelation must not violate those very same Islamic principles. I think it’s fair to say that most Muslims reject the approach of the Muslim Zionists.
But the question remains: How then can Muslims legitimately struggle to create a society based on the Quran and Sunnah? How can Muslims live Islamically, not only on the personal level, but also in the socio-politico-economic realms?
Have we begun to embrace the Western approach to religion and politics as purportedly stated by Prophet Isa (as) "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"? Is the S-word (Shariah) becoming as difficult a topic to broach as the J-word? Granted, there may be no practical role for Shariah and Jihad talk in our lives, but what exactly is the legacy we will be passing on to the next generation? Last year, in the midst of the furor over anti-Shariah legislation proposed in various states across America, many attempted to downplay the role of the Shariah as strictly a personal code of conduct.
Slippery slope, meet Muslims in the West.
To what end will we continue to emasculate and emaciate the pristine teachings of our dear Prophet (saw)?
For the record, just as I do not believe the mere abolishment of riba and the establishment of an economic system based on the Quran/Sunnah would, by itself, usher in a period of universal Islamic justice and Divine pleasure, I do not consider the struggle for the Khilafa and its re-establishment as a panacea for the countless ills plaguing the Muslims. That being said, the economic and the political struggles are equally as vital to our worldly and other-worldly success as our spiritual and social struggles.
Are we to attain spiritual nirvana before we are allowed to initiate pro-Khilafa or riba-free movements?
I say not all this in some jingoistic manner, attempting to rile up the masses with faux calls for Jihad and what not. My concern is rooted in the abdication of our collective responsibility to these foundational principles of Islam. While it is reasonable, even expected, that not every Muslim is capable of implementing the principles of Jihad or the struggle for a Shariah-based society, at the very least we must all commit ourselves to intellectually developing as well as preserving these ideals in a manner most pleasing to our Creator.
* I realize that I am basing my conclusions on simply an excerpt from a larger book, so I may have to adjust my analysis based on a complete reading.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
You all know the perfect picnic weather, right? Bright, sunny day with a cool, gentle breeze. Not too warm, not too cold. Colorful flowers dotting the landscape with an occasional fluffy, white cloud dotting the blue sky.
And if dark, gray clouds accompanied by a bitter, misty gust come rumbling across the sky, everyone packs up and goes scurrying for cover.
Well, not everyone.
Here in Saudi, where the scorching sun shines over the desert land for most of the year, a gloomy, dreary forecast – which most of the world despises - cheers up the locals and has them rushing out to the desert to snatch up prime picnic real estate.
They get giddy when the forecast includes light showers and a deep chill. When this type of weather strikes (which typically will last for a day or two), many employees call in sick, kids miss school, and college campuses are empty. Most of Riyadh can be found picnicking out in the cool, wet desert.
During my first six years or so, I used to get a real kick out of this phenomenon. I would laugh to myself, ‘How in the world can one enjoy a picnic in such overcast, gloomy weather?’
Only after having lived in the desert climate for almost 10 years have I begun to appreciate the citywide excitement when a cold, winter shower hits the area. You see, it’s a rare occasion, which brings with it the blessings of rain - much appreciated and celebrated in this dry, arid land. It is only in these rare moments that Saudis are able to bundle up, start up a nice, warm campfire, and enjoy the wet, misty air with a cup of Arabic coffee.
And the occasional drizzle on their picnic is a source of joy instead of dejection. The picnic temporarily relocates into the vehicle, or a tent for the more adventurous intent on camping out for the entire day, and everyone goes back out when the rain stops.
The ideal location for such a picnic is anywhere water has collected, which is why you’ll find rain-induced lakes (really just glorified puddles) in the desert surrounded by jeeps and trucks, with people huddled around a fire and children playing in the sand.
Having grown up in Baltimore, I despised the cloudy, rainy weather and was overjoyed when I initially moved to sunny Saudi. But it’s taken me almost 10 years to get over my honeymoon with the sun and now I too get “misty”-eyed (see what I did there?) when the weather turns gray and chill.