A Summary of Recent Stoniness

A belated Ramadan and Eid Mubarak to you all.

I have recently moved and had no internet, hence my delay in moderating and blogging.

Two recent posts here have discussed spiritual abuse within Islam, particularly the abuse meted out to women. The most recent post provoked a detailed discussion. Here is a summary of my thoughts as a conclusion.

1)Despite it being the blessed month of Ramadan, several people that I linked to have been receiving death threats and other harassment both on and offline. Yes, really.  So when people wonder why more people have not spoken out, please bear this in mind.

2)Pretty much every big name Sheikh/Imam/Whatever you can think of has been asked to speak out about this. None of them have.

They all know about it and have done so for years and yet, whatever other good works they have done, they chose to remain silent on this.

3)Is it the movement itself, or the movement mentality that is destructive? The Western Muslim community has lurched from fad, to fad, from speaker to speaker. Is it that we haven’t found our way yet, or is there something more self destructive?

The book buying, the lecture attending, the travelling. Are we developing piety or just trying to buy it,  participating in an ‘Islamicised’ version of Western consumerism?

4)I used to think the Ummah’s greatest problem was lack of religious knowledge. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

How knowledgable do you have to be, to know you should not divorce on a whim, that refusing to support your children is wrong?

Does that really take years of learning? Do you really need someone to hold your hand while you grasp those basic concepts?

5)The destruction and instability of Muslim families will lead more children out of Islam then any amount of pop culture.

If children are raised seeing Islam as a positive thing, they will respect it and follow it, even if they have a few meanderings on the way.

If they see it as a source of misery and chaos, they will run far, far away. Especially our daughters.

So beware of those who call for the destruction of families in the name of piety.

6)Islam has been around for a long time now. There have been far tougher times for the Ummah then this.

7)Despite what anyone tells you, though there may be struggles, being a good Muslim is easy. I generally don’t hadith toss, but I’m sure everyone know the hadith that basically states performance of the five pillars = jannah.

Those who make it sound much, much harder then that, tell you how much you need them in order to succeed…. what are their motivations?

Allah the Most High is closer to us then anyone else could ever be.

He is the Most Loving and Most Merciful.


32 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for your sanity.

    “The book buying, the lecture attending, the travelling. Are we developing piety or just trying to buy it, participating in an ‘Islamicised’ version of Western consumerism?”

    I begin to wonder this myself. To me, I see it as favoring the professional Muslims who have money, and leaving out the ones who cannot afford such things.

    “Despite what anyone tells you, though there may be struggles, being a good Muslim is easy. I generally don’t hadith toss, but I’m sure everyone know the hadith that basically states performance of the five pillars = jannah.
    Those who make it sound much, much harder then that, tell you how much you need them in order to succeed…. what are their motivations?”

    To go with the above, it seems that some motivations may be to make Islam into an elite religion, or a sophisticated religion to showcase against the media’s representations. But again, this favors the professional Muslims and not so much immigrant/working class Muslims.

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      Yes, there is a definite undertone of classism at work. How many times have you heard about “poor, uneducated Muslims”, despite the fact that many of the most pious Muslims are those who have the least?

  2. “4)I used to think the Ummah’s greatest problem was lack of religious knowledge. I was wrong, wrong, wrong.”

    It’s both, the lack of religious knowledge and the lack of acting upon religious knowledge.

    “Do you really need someone to hold your hand while you grasp those basic concepts?”

    Yes, converts do. How else will they learn about Islam, the manners of Islam, the rulings of Islam, etc?
    Many of those “shuyukh” people have issues with are converts.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with converts, obviously, masha’Allah may Allah reward them all immensely.

    Secularized Muslims have similar problems, but not as deep as converts.

    They need someone to teach take them by the hand and teach them Islam. It’s not just the shahada, it’s also Prophetic character. Someone who isn’t willing to give child support lacks more than just knowledge, he lacks a certain trait that should be ingrained in Muslim men. Chivalry. You won’t get it just by knowing your fiqh, If you weren’t raised with it.

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      I don’t know what kind of swamp you think converts come from, but I can assure you that the majority of us know that spousal abuse, child abandonment, e.t.c is wrong.

      In fact the big problem here is that people have been twisting Islam to make such wrongs seem right.

  3. Gand? Seriously?

    “Take us by the hand”, hey? Wow. Wonder how many “backwater” converts you’re friends with or actually had a chance to know on any deep level.

    Your comment was completely insulting. As if Islam is only passed on properly through genetics or something.

    • I believe that Gand may have been referring to people who come to Islam from social milieux where criminality, irresponsibility, serial relationships, high divorce rates and shirking of parental duties is almost seen as normative. We all know these communities exist ( especially in the U.S.) and converting to Islam may not always, in and of itself, undo deep-rooted social problems that often span generations

      • This corresponds to the hadith of the Prophet, Sal Allahu alaihi wasallam: “Those among you who were best in Jahiliyyah, are the best among you in Islam, if they attain religious understanding.”

  4. […] Good Points All Around Some food for thought from Safiya.  […]

  5. I guess our ulema chooses their fights.

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      But this isn’t about Mawlid or any of the other nit picking issues of itikilaf that create so much scholarly debate.

      What has occurred is genuine oppression and ill treatment. We’ve heard so many stories of spousal abuse, cult running, theft, so many ‘holy men’ with decidedly unholy behaviour, yet no one speaks out.

      Worse still, many of the ulema were actually the first to know of such misdeeds, yet they have still chosen to remain silent.

      What kind of leadership is that?

      • Safiya,
        I agree with much of what you’re saying, but I don’t agree that there are “so many ‘holy men’ with decidedly unholy behaviour.”
        There are a handful of “holy men”, yes, but not “so many.” Nuh Keller murids are not “holy men”, he even said so himself. (Which is proof against him, since they’ve sat at his feet for some 10 years and haven’t gained anything beyond what a 12 year old Muslim kid has- except for spiritual pride and arrogance)

        As for leadership, who ever said there IS leadership? There isn’t any leadership in the Muslim Ummah, there hasn’t been for decades. What leadership are you complaining about exactly?

        Another point is, you, like most people, use the word ulema to easily. The majority of these people, these “shuyukh” are NOT ulema, at most they are daees, people who make dawah to others. NOT ulema.

      • Salaam Alaikum,

        I’m using the word ulema somewhat disparagingly, I agree that certain individuals seem to come by their titles rather too easily. We could do with a consensus as to what level of study is required to be a Sheikh as it’s currently not a protected title.

        The problem of those in positions of power abusing it are widespread throughout the Muslim community, not just amongst the tariqat.

      • A set level of authority would require political patronage. This works in Muslim countries current or former, e.g. Ottoman sultanate conferred patronage on Abdullah Quilliam; secular Turkey has a religious ministry of affairs.

        I don’t think that would work in minority contexts today.

  6. Thx so much for u and others publishing about NK and Co. I have left tariqa thanks to reading all you guys blogs. My wife had been telling me the same stuff for years. But it took me years to admit it to myself. It then suddenly all crystallised. This so called tariqa is a women-hating cult, and the marriages destroyed, women hurt etc and people turned off their deen altogether. May Allah reward U. It is about time some of our big scholars/leaders say something though!!

    • Don’t get carried away by all that women hating business. After all, Nuh’s tariqa is run by women. The problem with his cult is more than just the oppression some women have been facing. Distorting Islam is a far greater oppression, by it these people have oppressed men and women, children, and parents.

      • Salaam Alaikum,

        “Don’t get carried away”… I’m well aware that the tariqat have affected more then just women, but I still reserve the right to get as carried away as I want.

      • I most certainly am not getting carried away by the women hating business. That’s definitely probably the no.1 obsession with this group. And the women running it – are they behaving like women, according to their own teachings, and selective reading/misreading of shariah? We have two of the biggest “feminists” running the show, all the while telling every other women to be submissive past the point of abuse. Yes I agree with you that Islam is also being distorted (but the biggest distortion is effecting women, children, families, and parents, as well as pushing people to leave Islam). Even the women who run this group seem to hate women. They favour the men without getting the other side of the story. And all the advice on raising children, when they don’t have any (not meaning to go below the belt) but they are messing up kids lives. All this extreme disapline – robot children, Stepford wives… and men who are allowed to sin, because everything is the womens’ fault.
        As for distorting Islam, they remind me of the Pharasees mentioned in the Bible – following all the “technicalities” of the Law, but missing the point, finding the “loopholes” and being such hypocrites, with the backbiting, bad advice, and destroying peoples marriages, etc etc.
        All the while forgetting common decencies that the average Muslim knows…sorry if I sound a bit annoyed.

    • No, their no.1 business is not hating women. You’re missing the point.

      Their no.1 business is distorting the teachings of the Prophet (saws). Their no.1 business is emphasizing their leader’s holiness and de-emphasizing the Shariah, so that when their leader says things that are contradictory to the Shariah, his murids follow him blindly.
      When these people tell their murids to divorce their “mentally unstable wives” they obey. When their leader says “don’t focus on the Prophet”, they obey. When their leader says, “I don’t have time to sit and eat with Arabs,” they follow suit. When their leader puts up a sign on his door saying “This is private property, Do Not Disturb,” the murids follow suit. They neglect the Prophet’s warm and welcoming nature and instead adopt this cold, distant nature un-Islamic approach.

      When someone complains to the holy sheikh about the increasing doubts in their faith and he says, “those are misgivings from the devil, give them a miss, you’re doing fine”, they put their trust in him and obey- then soon enough leave Islam entirely. When murids don’t see the holy sheikh go out of his way for his family and friends, they follow suit and end up with broken kinship bonds.
      Who in their right mind would want to follow a religion like that?

      So, no. Their no.1 business is not women hating, it’s distorting the noble Shariah.

      • Assalamualaikum Gand,

        No, there no.1 twist is the women thing. How can you say that they are not focussed on Shariah!!?? It’s the most shariah focussed sufi group u will find. How many million times do u hear NK say “Weigh up everything in the scale pans of the shariah” and “if you see me deviate from the shariah then leave me” etc etc (well he does give some good advice). What they do is hide behind the externals of shariah (heavily focussed on womens issues etc). They then miss the subtlties of shariah, such as having time for ur Muslim neigbour. These kinds of things can also be called common decencies, and most normal Muslims wouldn’t even call it “shariah”.
        And yes, you’re right, in the process they have distorted the shariah to what suits their bent. In fact they are so focussed on shariah (or their brand: no photos, no TV, women stuff etc) that u find Islamic shairah so miserable you end up wanting to leave Islam. I am not going to have an argument about this – that’s really not prductive, and not really conducive to Islamic brotherhood. You know, I know, lots of people know, that families are being destroyed, and there’s something majorly wrong with this group, and people need to get out of it.
        All your observations are corrects, about things that go on, and yes u do end up focussing your whole life on NK, HH, BK, but all the while they say “scale pans of the shariah” and “the focus is not the person of the sheik in our tariqa” (or so they say/ used to say). So I think ur missing d point.

  7. @ Sabiwabi, refer to Ilyas’ response.

    There are converts who come from good solid backgrounds, healthy families, etc. But there are many more converts that don’t… these converts need to sit down and study more than just Fiqh (if they even do that, Nuh Keller’s murids hardly get finish the basics). Nuh himself needs to sit down and study beyond more than just fiqh. They all need to study what makes a man, what actions are considered unmanly, what actions deem a man unworthy of bearing witness.
    You won’t study in Fiqh that it is unmanly to sell to your friends and family products, for instance, at the same price you sell to strangers. In fiqh, it’s valid, but in terms of manliness, it’s lacking. Just look at how expensive Nuh Keller’s Dalail Khayrat print is, and who are his best buyers? His murids. People that are supposed to be as close to him as his children.

    These things have to be taught to people so that their understanding of Islam goes beyond just the fiqh of things.
    You may be able to get away with things in terms of halal/haram but that doesn’t mean you’re doing what’s best. Doing katb kitab without your parents consent, keeping it a secret, etc. That may be halal, but it’s also considered unmanly.

    That’s what is meant. Converts need to study these things. Secularized Muslims need to study these things as well.

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      I get your point, but there are a lot of born Muslims, from practicing families who also don’t know these things.

      A lot of the things you list are common sense/decency, but people are led away from trusting their instincts on the grounds of “nafs”

      • Assalamu Alaikum Sister Safiya,

        What brother/sister Gand has mentioned is actually a problem of ‘Nafs’, as gut feelings or ones instincts are often rooted in ‘desire’.
        I get Sh. Nuh’s spiritual and intellectual teachings, but I don’t understand why he charges such a premium for his knowlege – the knowledge that Allah Subhanahu wa’Taala has given him. Alhamdulilahi Rabill’alamin.
        Essentialy he is cutting off the lesser paying Muslims from the tariqa’s learning materials, who in most circumstances are way more pious and desirious of Allah Subhanahu wa’Taala then their better-fed brethren.

        I think the problem might reside in trying to fulfill or orchestrate certain aspects of the physical desires of the nafs on the basis or subtle technicalities of fiqh; as I have mentioned him criticise the tariqa of Imam a’-Ghazzali, saying that “we of the Shadhili Tariqa don’t break off the head of the nafs …we allow it what is permissible to the extent of Shariah”.

        I haven’t made my way through all the Suhba recordings, but I personally found the Virgina Suhba to be quite informative, and definitely felt a transmition of ‘noor’ or barka in a very abstract way after coming in association with the Sheikh’s teachings. Definitely an Iman-booster and a window into the subtleties of the Ruh and the higher spiritual states during Salah.

        Anyhow, that’s just my two cents, but after reading these posts I probably will never go to Kharebsheh, act upon any marriage advice, or give Bayah until I have analyzed all the Tariqa learning materials and audio recordings on the basis of the Quran and Sunnah.

        Jazak Allah Khair

        sincerest rgrds,

  8. Salaam ‘alaikum,

    You may choose not to publish this comment, as the public value is probably very low. However if my understanding here is correct, it may benefit you personally.

    In the last couple of years a number of blogs (notably Umar Lee and more recently Salafi Burnout) opened up the can of worms that is the salafi movement. With few exceptions, these bloggers have documented grave harm brought upon the African-American Muslim community, especially those most socially and economically vulnerable and most especially the women in that community, who have essentially been treated like no more than sexual playthings. The men in that community have spread diseases, produced fatherless children, destroyed families and left Muslim women and children more impoverished than they already were. Many of the leading Imams have also been accused of running the same money scams that inner-city Christian preachers have long been accused of. And because of the way that the children are being raised, seeing this behavior from the ‘brothers on the minhaj’, many of them will likely grow up to repeat this cycle.

    But despite the seriousness of this epidemic, your dire warnings and passionate posts focus almost exclusively on a small group of expats living near Sheikh Nuh. Why? Is it because they are similarly situated to you (in terms of class, race and/or education)?
    Is there some particular problem that you have with this Sheikh (or rather the women to whom he’s given authority)? Do you feel that those other women (the African American Salafi sisters) and their children have been adequately represented on the aforementioned blogs, such that your voice is not needed there but is here?
    Or is it simply more appealing to talk about “Sufi scandals”?

    One last thing, unless you’ve personally talked to the scholars that you’ve accused, you can’t possibly know for sure that they’re aware of what’s been alleged. Or, conversely, some of them may know more than you and I about what has really transpired.
    Bad enough you’re so fixated on this one Sheikh, you needn’t also throw the rest of the Western scholars under the proverbial bus without at least reaching out to them.

    Wasalaam ‘alaikum

    • Salaam Alaikum,

      Actually my article refers to the dubious ‘salafi’ sheikhs too. Lots of powerful people knew about the joyriders and thieves and still didn’t intervene, so these men we able to go from mosque to mosque, spreading fitnah. I do not think any sect or group in the ummah has it’s hands clean here.

      Finally, I reserve the right to be concerned about whomever I please.

      • Assalamualaikum,

        Safiya, I second that! Ilyas, the reason that I am focussing on NK’s cult, is because, as I’ve said, I’m an ex-murid. I know the stuff first hand.

        Obviously I am not going to be going on about every other problem in the Muslim community. But as for NK & Co. I’ve experienced it first hand, and seen others messed up worse than me, so I feel I have a moral obligation. Besides, one needs to vomit out all this rubbish, it’s called cult survival therapy.

        So, also I reserve the right to be concerned about whomever I please (I don’t think Allah is going to ask me about every other bad sheik/imam/ etc that I’ve never even met on the Day of Judgement.)

        BTW as for Muslim leaders, I have noticed recently that some are now seemingly distancing themselves (by action, not yet words). I am also working on this area, but of course I cannot divulge details.

  9. […] on October 1, 2009 Assalamu alaikum, … because my comments would be too long to post on the original post… 1)Despite it being the blessed month of Ramadan, several people that I linked to have […]

  10. […] really powerful post by Safiya at Outlines about some of the issues facing Muslim families in the west. Recommended. […]

  11. I use to say to people, “I just want to be a work-a-day Muslim, you know, do the pillars and try to be a good person, insha Allah. Not a ‘professional Muslim'”. I was surprised how many of my fellow Muslims seemed to think my vision wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t say it was so much a matter of consumerism, as peformance. The pious too often need to proclaim their piety with sermonic voices and clothes that make them look different. I thought the whole idea was that we were supposed to love God because God is just fabulous. Instead, piety is too often (political) theatre.

  12. Salaam,

    This is a very powerful piece.

    “The book buying, the lecture attending, the travelling. Are we developing piety or just trying to buy it, participating in an ‘Islamicised’ version of Western consumerism?”

    Quite. Though I’d argue consumerism is no longer that ‘western’ any more. It seems global, and Muslims are no more immune from it than any other peoples.

  13. […] Safiya has a comment on her post about the abuse suffered by women in religious groups (linked below by Willow): We could do with a consensus as to what level of study is required to be a Sheikh as it’s currentl… […]

  14. Safiya, the problem with us, Muslims in whatever country is simply that there is that we lost the simple meaning of understanding Islam in it’s core and used to quarrel about things that don’t help us to develope forward.

  15. Salam aleikum,

    Safiya I noticed many of the links have been deadened. If you could email me (muslimology at gmail dot com). I think its about time there is a manifesto or agreement signed by all ulema about how they will treat female Muslims.

    You may also like to check out this playlist of lectures of Women OF Islam (historical examples): http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB1E201F283779401&feature=plcp It is a good refutation of Muslims who try to put down women.

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