Campus Politics

September 7, 2008 at 6:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Some things in the last day or two reminded me why I hated to get involved in campus ISoc (Islamic Society, equivalent to the MSA) politics while I was at university. It bothers me that different factions fight over meaningless things as if they were important, and are so busy going around labelling each other Sufi or Salafi or whatever that they never got anything done, and rejecting this Sheikh or that speaker on the basis of not finding their aqeedah sound, as if their own knowledge were sufficient to allow them to make those judgements. In fairness to those people, however, they are following the advice of their own adopted shuyukh, with which I don’t take fault – the thing I find blameworthy is the gratuitous abuse that happens, in the name of preserving the deen or something, that there is no excuse for in our adab.

I have often wondered if that was not a failure to understand the mind and ideas of those people in question. It makes me think of the way people reacted to the likes if Ibn Taymiyyah in his own time – they thought his ideas were dangerous, and it has taken us several hundred years to catch up to him in understanding – now, you wouldn’t find anyone questioning his theological soundness. So perhaps we should entertain the idea that we may not have reached a sufficient understanding that would allow us to correctly access their ideas, and the fault may lie equally in ourselves and our lack of knowledge.

People also forget that the differences between scholars are a source of mercy, not conflict: the universality of Islam necessitates a broad spectrum, in order that everyone might find their place on it. Everyone is at a different place in their personal development and closeness to Allah, so it has to be able to accommodate people of every kind and at every stage, from the ‘liberal’ muslim, to the ‘extreme’, and we calibrate to the happy medium via the Qur’an. What has to be understood is that these states are the result of the health of our relationship with Allah (where both extremes indicate low health).

When the hadith about the number of groups is cited by one group or another, they seem to think it refers specifically to them. I remember asking my dad about this hadith when I was younger (I was anxious I wouldn’t be in the right group), and his patient explanation that it didn’t refer specifically to one group, but that the group would consist of all of those people throughout the ummah who fit the criteria. There is also no indication of the size of the group, so to assume all but a very few special muslims are going to hell – well, that is SILLY. People should really not concern themselves about whether or not everyone else is going to hell until they’ve looked to themselves.

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Quakers

September 6, 2008 at 12:37 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I was reading qur’an on the bus today, and a lady came to sit next to me. Usually, when I’m reading qur’an, I don’t really pay much attention to my surroundings (not actually a good idea)(and because I need to concentrate on keeping it together), so it was a moment or two before I noticed the lady leaning in my direction. She asked me if that was a qur’an I was reading, and then asked me to read it to her. Of course, I was delighted (and a little embarrassed at reading qur’an to someone, but da’wah > embarrassment), and she seemed genuinely to enjoy it.

We got talking, and she told me she was a Quaker, and in fact on her way to a meeting in Friends House, as the representative for Dorset/Devon/somewhere. She even took out her meeting notes to show me, and the first item on the agenda was the abolition of torture. I’m always a little wary of small or fringe groups with apparently over-ambitious aims, so it was with a large dose of doubt that I asked how they planned to achieve that, and whether Amnesty International were involved. It turns out Amnesty International was founded by a Quaker. At this point, I suddenly realised she was doing all of the da’wah, and I wasn’t doing any! All of those stories of people enlightened on trains by anonymous Malaysians went through my mind, and of course, I had to honour the tradition, even though it is not my general method of working. The fact that she was genuinely interested helped, and by the time we had disembarked at Russell Square, we had exchanged phone numbers and addresses, with promises of Quaker Club coffee-meetings (that weren’t during Ramadan), and were firm friends. Yay to making friends on the bus! I think I shall send her an Eid card. If I haven’t already lost her address.

Also this afternoon, I went to farewell a former colleague who is retiring. While there, I mentioned my bus-encounter to my former boss, who does a lot of interfaith work. His church interfaith group would like a muslim to come and join their meetings, to talk to them about Islamic things, particularly current issues (although he said they would like someone sane? Mean old man). I feel hesitant to offer to do it myself, since I am not really informed on those subjects, and also, I usually let people do their talking while reserving my own thoughts, and nod and smile a lot. So I am probably not a good person to do it.

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