Zaytuna College Blog

Muhammad Ali: A Humble Mountain

Posted by Imam Zaid Shakir on Aug 9, 2016 9:44:36 PM


 

Imam Zaid Shakir officiated both the janazah and public memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky for Muhammad Ali, the most well-known American Muslim of the twentieth century. In this blog, he reflected on the experience.


I was honored to attend the waning hours of Muhammad Ali’s life along with his immediate family. Taking a brief break from the stream of Qur’anic recitation, invocations, and devotional songs we were dedicating to Ali, one of the Champ’s daughters asked how would I describe her father? After momentarily reflecting on her query, I responded, “This may sound oxymoronic, but I would describe him as a humble mountain.” All present agreed that the description was apt.

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Let Us Mock the Muslims (For We Traffic in Mockery)

Posted by Imam Zaid Shakir on Aug 9, 2016 9:40:54 PM

 

Mockery: Behavior or speech that makes fun of someone or something in a hurtful way.Mockery of entire groups has effectively been criminalized in Western societies. One would think thrice before publicly mocking Jews, African Americans, homosexuals or many other groups. Yet when it comes to Muslims, all bets, and societal protections are off. To quote Yeats, “we traffic in mockery.” From his moving poem, “Nineteen Hundred Nineteen”:

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, Poetry, Muslim mockery, Mocking Muslims

Zaytuna's Philosophy Class

Posted by Cindy Ausec on Aug 9, 2016 9:23:39 PM

The Philosophy class is focused on class participation and discussion of Philosophical concepts and texts (although there are exams).  It uses both survey books which are designed to give an overview of philosophy and three primary sources; one Greek and two Islamic philosophers. The students were very excited about being able to study philosophy and some asked for the book list in advance so they could begin looking at the material. 

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Topics: Philosophy, Philosophy in a Muslim College, Islamic Philosophy, Philosophy and Islam, Philosophy at Zaytuna College

The Ideology of Police Brutality

Posted by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali on Aug 9, 2016 9:20:39 PM

The Islamic tradition offers no support for anarchy or vigilantism. While one of Islam’s goals is to foster a society whose members willfully respect the boundaries of others, the working assumption from the earliest times has been that only a minority generally succeed in the mastery of the appetite and ego. This means that for the majority, unfortunately, extrinsic factors are necessary to regulate their behavior. For this reason, we find slogans like, “The sultan is God’s shade in the earth.” Similarly, it has been related that the caliph ‘Uthman said, “Verily, God inhibits through the sultan what He does not inhibit through the Qur’an.”

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Topics: Islam, Race, Justice

Violence and Defection From the Faith

Posted by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali on Aug 9, 2016 9:17:10 PM

According to one proverb, “Anything imposed by force cannot endure without it.” That is, without the real presence or threat of force in any given society, lawlessness becomes the norm. It is this principle which guides and defines the actions of law enforcement everywhere. No law is deemed effective unless its disregard results in some form of fine, imprisonment, or other form of punishment.

Islam endorses this principle with relation to crime committed against the members of society. It, however, favors a different approach with regard to crimes committed against God―at least, according to the Qur’anic teachings and the prophetic example. Even though for centuries Muslim jurists have upheld the view that an individual Muslim’s decision to convert from Islam to another religion is punishable by death, this is largely the result of an interpretation of the sound hadith, “Kill anyone who changes his din.”

The word, din, in this hadith is typically translated as “religion.” It is a word whose meaning was exploited by European colonialists as a justification for the forced conversion of a number of aboriginal peoples to Christianity. If those people did not have what European Christians considered “religion”, compelling the natives to convert was tolerable, since they didn’t know what was best for their selves anyway. In time they would hopefully come to understand the great blessing they had been given to them by their Christian benefactors. Karen Armstrong, in emphasizing the problem with translating a number of words as “religion” had the following to say her essay entitled, “The Myth of Religious Violence,”

The words in other languages that we translate as “religion” invariably refer to something vaguer, larger and more inclusive. The Arabic word din signifies an entire way of life, and the Sanskrit dharma covers law, politics, and social institutions as well as piety. The Hebrew Bible has no abstract concept of “religion”; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to define faith in a single word or formula, because the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred. The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: “No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English ‘religion’ or ‘religious’.” In fact, the only tradition that satisfies the modern western criterion of religion as a purely private pursuit is Protestant Christianity, which, like our western view of “religion”, was also a creation of the early modern period. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/25/-sp-karen-armstrong-religious-violence-myth-secular)

If it is true that din is much more than the private pursuit that we call “religion,” it is important to remember the geo-political state of affairs during the prophetic era when the directive was made to, “Kill anyone who changes his din.” During this time, populations lived under the presumption of war, not peace, unless neighboring peoples initiated an accord or strategic alliance. Din included not only a commitment to the groups understanding of God and worldview. It also entailed a commitment to the preservation of the social solidarity and collective security of the tribe or clan. To leave the group, often times meant to defect to the group’s enemies. At other times, it entailed a degree of neutrality.

In light of this old world order, it was quite reasonable for Hanafi jurists to divide the world into “hostile” territories (dar al-harb) and “friendly” territories (dar al-salam). It is such an order we need to consider in order to contextualize Qur’anic references to “unbelievers” (kuffar/kafirun) and “those who reject faith” (alladhina kafaru) as referring to “hostiles” as opposed to “friendlies.” If a given population lacked a treaty with another in the premodern world, this fundamentally implied that the wealth and lives of one’s neighbors were threatened with usurpation at any given moment. Since religion was separate neither from culture nor the social-political order, apostasy was seen as a sign of defection and a threat to the safety and stability of a given population. With this understanding, it follows logically that the true concern of the pioneer Muslim community was not necessarily an individual’s decision to cast off the strictures of Islamic law or creed. It was actually upholding standards which promoted communal trust and safety. This is why as reported in one incident after Anas b. Malik, deputized by ‘Umar b. al-Khattab to track down a defector, returned with the news that a number of apostates he was sent after had been killed in battle on the side of the enemy at Tustar, ‘Umar said to him, “If I had encountered them, I would have presented them the option of returning to Islam. If they refused, I would have merely imprisoned them.” ‘Umar’s reasoning shows that the decision to execute apostates was not a binding injunction to be applied in all cases, and that the reason for the punishment was not simply because of their apostasy. It was also because of defecting to the enemy’s army. In light of these considerations, Muslim scholars would serve the religion better by re-characterizing what was classically referred to as “apostasy” as its true meaning, which is “defection.”

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, apostasy, defection, muslilm scholars

President Hamza Yusuf on CNN: A Voice Against Extremism

Posted by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Aug 9, 2016 9:15:31 PM

At Zaytuna College, we're not only committed to educating tomorrow's leaders but to having a public impact today -- by providing intellectual leadership for Muslims as well as for a broader global audience.  

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, Islamophobia, extremism

Conversations on Race, Faith & The Next Generation Part 3: Who Owns American Islam?

Posted by Bilal Ansari on Aug 9, 2016 9:11:43 PM

Racial, cultural, and social divideshave been a disturbing reality in Muslim communities throughout the United States, despite the unique diversity of the American Muslim community. At the forefront of this divide are the two largest demographics of American Muslims today: indigenous African-Americans and immigrants. Since the immigration from Muslim lands began in the early 20th century, the complex, and often tense, history between the two sub-communities continues to be a barrier for second1 and third generation American Muslims trying to move the community forward in the 21st century.  Though most may agree on the unity of the community as an ideal, putting it into practice requires an open, and sometimes uncomfortable, discussion.

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, Race, identity, muslim identity, racism

Conversations on Race, Faith & The Next Generation Part 2: Immigrants & the New Racism

Posted by Bilal Ansari on Aug 9, 2016 9:10:24 PM

Racial, cultural, and social divides have been a disturbing reality in Muslim communities throughout the United States, despite the unique diversity of the American Muslim community. At the forefront of this divide are the two largest demographics of American Muslims today: indigenous African-Americans and immigrants. Since the immigration from Muslim lands began in the early 20th century, the complex, and often tense, history between the two sub-communities continues to be a barrier for second1 and third generation American Muslims trying to move the community forward in the 21st century.  Though most may agree on the unity of the community as an ideal, putting it into practice requires an open, and sometimes uncomfortable, discussion.

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, Race, racism

Conversations on Race, Faith & The Next Generation: Where Do We Start?

Posted by Bilal Ansari on Aug 9, 2016 9:08:24 PM

Racial, cultural, and social divides have been a disturbing reality in Muslim communities throughout the United States, despite the unique diversity of the American Muslim community. At the forefront of this divide are the two largest demographics of American Muslims today: indigenous African-Americans and immigrants. Since the immigration from Muslim lands began in the early 20th century, the complex, and often tense, history between the two sub-communities continues to be a barrier for second1 and third generation American Muslims trying to move the community forward in the 21st century.  Though most may agree on the unity of the community as an ideal, putting it into practice requires an open, and sometimes uncomfortable, discussion.

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Topics: Muslim, Islam, Race

“White” and “Black” Are Not the Only Options for Social Integration

Posted by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali on Aug 9, 2016 4:15:12 PM

Prior to the tragic events of 9/11, with a few exceptions, a common concern among Muslim mosque-goers in the US was the question of whether or not it was lawful to live in America. For many, the questions of whether or not it was permissible to call oneself ‘American’ and/or participate in elections and run for office were viewed as treasonous to the Islamic teachings. Two views were common. One contingent felt that since America was not a Muslim country and its military was actively involved in incursions into the Muslim world, these facts made being Muslim and American two irreconcilable issues. The second contingent felt that since blacks were not included in the “We” of “We the People” or the “men” of “All men are created equal” when America first formed, in addition to historical social alienation suffered at the hands of whites and the American government, there was no way to reconcile Muslimness with American identity. The former rationalization was popular among recent immigrants to America, while the latter view was popular among black-American converts.

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Topics: Islamic Jurisprudence, Islam, Islamophobia, Race, Justice, muslims in america, 9/11, social integration

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