Friday, March 30, 2007

On his blessed birth


Addressed by God with exaltation,
a unique subject in heavenly syntax

In this way you attained the Station of Arrival
Veiled from gaze of onlookers, a secret sealed in silence.

Thus you gathered every honor without peer,
And traversed every station in solitude.

What preeminence you have been entrusted with!
Past counting are all the blessings granted you!

"Poem of the Cloak"
— Imam Al-Busiri

May God's blessings and peace be upon him, Ya Lateef!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mercy Springs from Mustafa's Mawlid

An exqusite reflection on the birth of the beloved, may God's blessings and peace be upon him.

From Wayfarer's Rest

With a whisper of the wind appears the first new leaf

And the trees tremble as life returns anew

Like a gentle breeze that grows to a tempest

A new song enters in my heart,

And lifts me on its wings.

Spring is here again.

The birds have begun to sing again. Looking out, I see tiny buds beginning to poke their way through the soil; branches bare all winter have dared to send forth their first green shoots. The wind blows warmer, the rain feels somehow fresher. It is unmistakeable – spring is here again.

How fitting that, as we approach the month of lights, the blessed month of mawlid, we should find ourselves entering the season of spring. For what more fitting time could there have been for the one whose birth signified the dawning of new hope for mankind, a new spring of tauhid after the dark and cold winter of disbelief; for the one who loved all things green and who revived dead hearts to life, than the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal (lit: the first spring)?

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mentioned that the Prophet (s) was born in spring and loved green. He continued that green was the first colour that the eye could perceive, and the last that it could make out; the middle of the spectrum of light. Green is also the colour of chlorophyll, which mediates photosynthesis in plants – the conversion of pure light into energy and nourishment that ultimately allows our continued existence. The parallels are manifest but beautiful nonetheless: he (s) is from the light of Allah, the first Prophet and the last, the moderate and median way, neither too harsh nor too lenient; he is the source of all nourishment and the means of continuation for all spiritual life. He (s) is, as the commentaries of the Quran mention, the solitary flowering tree in the midst of a barren desert – from whose fruits all men feast, and beneath whose boughs all find shade and rest.

The advent of spring fills one with gladness – a joy that the believer cannot but feel when he or she contemplates the arrival of the best and most beloved of all creation (s). Allah says in the Holy Quran: ‘In the blessings of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice,’ and, ‘make remembrance of the Days of Allah.’ al-Bayhaqi relates that the Prophet (s) said, ‘the Days of Allah are Allah’s Blessings and Signs, and the Prophet’s birth is a great bliss.’ For almost a millennium, Muslims have joyfully commemorated the arrival of our spiritual Spring with the celebration of mawlid.

Mawlid has three meanings: the time of the Beloved’s (s) birth, the place of his birth and the fact of his birth. However, for hundreds of years, the word mawlid has been used to signify the celebration of the Prophet’s (s) birth. Mawalid have been – and still are – held wherever there are Muslims; from the Islamic heartlands of Arabia, Egypt and Syro-Palestine to the very borders of the traditional Islamic lands such as Indonesia, the Caucasus and Western Africa. In the 20th century, the globalization of the Ummah and mass migration has seen mawlid celebrated in the most unlikely of places – from the rain-swept streets of the UK to the snowy mountains of Canada to the tip of Southern Africa.

It is beloved of the common folk of the community and cherished by the elect. Kings and rulers have used mawlid to connect to their followers; scholars have used it to educate the people. Such has been its popularity among the learned and the unlearned – so deeply has it touched the hearts of Muslims from every walk of life – that one would struggle to find a place that has not been graced by the celebration of the Beloved of Allah (s).

Rabi` al-Awwal Mubarak, dear friends. May Allah enlighten all our hearts with the love of his Beloved (s), ennoble our eyes with his (s) vision in this world and the next, and fill our limbs with the strength to follow his blessed way.

Oh Cherishing Lord! Through the honour of Sayyidina Muhammad in Your eyes, purify our hearts from every evil quality that distances us from Your witnessing, Your love and Your mercy, let us die as members of his (s) community and under his banner of praise, yearning for the encounter with You, Oh Lord of Majesty and Grace! Then peace and blessings upon the elect of creation, the Master of the children of Adam, the Beloved of the Lord of the Worlds, Sayyidina wa Habibina Muhammad, his family, companions, and all who light their hearts from his blessed lamp.

The Basmala

Muslim country musician turns stereotypes upside down

I personally don't believe it's permissable to listen to music with instruments other than the drum, but I do respect the khilaf (difference of opinion) on the matter and find this issue to be of utmost concern regarding conscious Muslim-American cultural production and identity creation.

I found this at HAhmed.com.

It's from the Austin-American Statesman

It was the twang that threw me. I'm talking serious cowboy voice. The kind that can only come from out on the range. The kind that still startles my New England ears.

"Miss Fleeeeynn?" he said. "This is Kareem Salama. I understand you're trying to reach me." OK, hold it. I happened to have this man's Web site up for a story I was researching. And I knew that Salama was a Muslim, a law student, and a country and western singer. And, of course, I had read his biography on his site, where he detailed his multicultural upbringing. His parents, who now live in Richmond, southwest of Houston, took him to Native American powwows and the county fairs and rodeos and made trips to Branson, Mo., and Opryland in Nashville, Tenn.

As I listened to him, I couldn't reconcile the twang with the chiseled Egyptian face on the Web site. Most of the Muslims I know have foreign accents. But why should I be so jolted by a thoroughly American Muslim?

Or should I say: A Muslim who, at least on the surface, seems to fit another American stereotype? More on that later.

Salama graciously answered all my questions and pulled back the curtain on an unexpectedly American portrait. It's probably safe to say your average Oklahoma boy isn't memorizing classical Arabic poetry and composing a melody for John Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning." And I'm guessing you don't see too many Muslims in 10-gallon hats at the Grand Ole Opry.

Salama acknowledged that "the vast majority of us (Muslims) don't fit the image of people have in their head."

"Although, I understand why people have that image in their head," he added.

Salama pushes past that. After he earns his degree at the University of Iowa, he hopes to pursue his law career in — where else? — Nashville. Maybe he'll give Toby Keith a run for his money, but Salama seems more interested in sharing a musical message he believes will resonate with people of all faiths.

When Converts Coalesced

It's strange how there is such a stigma attached to converts with regard to either "knowing what's up" with regard to Muslim social, cultural and political matters and knowing the deen (Islamic tradition) in-depth. I find this strange because not only are many of these converts those with the highest himma (spiritual aspiration) and irada (desire to know God and return to Him), but one the greatest generations of Muslims, most notably all the companions of the Prophet (may God's blessings and peace be upon him), were converts.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Muslim Unity: THE AMMAN MESSAGE

INVITATION TO ENDORSE THE AMMAN MESSAGE ONLINE

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


Dear Friend,

As-Salamu alaykum. We hope this message finds you well. In November 2004, King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan launched the Amman Message, a declaration aimed at clarifying the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam to the world. It is a message of devotion to God, love of the neighbor, goodwill, moderation and peace. Since then, the Amman Message has come to be epitomized in three major juridical and doctrinal points, each crucial to addressing the problems the Islamic world faces today.

1. The great traditional schools of jurisprudence, theology, and spirituality are valid from the point of view of Islam, and the followers of these schools, which include both Sunni and Shi‘i denominations, are all Muslims. Islam has fundamental tenets but is also diverse.

2. It is impermissible to declare any Muslim so defined as an unbeliever/apostate (a practice called takfir).

3. Only those with the proper moral and intellectual qualifications, and the proper methodology, may issue fatwas (religious edicts).

Since they were first introduced, these three points have been recognized and ratified universally, through fatwas and official statements, in meetings of the highest and most recognized authorities and scholars in Islamic law, from all denominations and schools of thought all over the world. This is a unique historical event. The statements and signatures from these religious leaders can be see on www.ammanmessage.com.

These three points are vital for the future of the Islamic world. We suffer from disunity and discord, and must reaffirm our unity as an Islamic ummah. We suffer from wounds and ignorant prejudice which would take us into conflict with many of those who would live at peace with us. We must denounce the practice of takfir (accusing Muslims of apostasy for interpretations and opinions different from ours), which too often opens the door to terrible crimes against our own brothers and sisters. Moreover, all such atrocities committed in the name of Islam are traceable to the fatwa of men totally unqualified, morally and intellectually, to issue one. It is thus imperative that the ummah speak with one voice in reaffirming true Islam.

We invite you to add your voice to this unique and historic international Islamic consensus. Please visit www.ammanmessage.com, where you can read more about the Amman Message and find many useful documents and links. Under ENDORSE you can add your name to the list of Muslims worldwide who have endorsed and supported the three points. Your endorsement is important for all our futures.

Yours Sincerely,
The Amman Message Committee,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Promoting Civic Involvement: Introducing unitedmuslims.org

From the creator of alt.muslim

As the editor of altmuslim.com, I try to focus our articles on items of interest to Muslims and others alike, in a manner geared towards open discourse and critical inquiry. And even though altmuslim.com is part of a larger Web endeavor through our parent company, Halalfire Media LLC, I don't usually write about the various other web projects that we work on. But I want make an exception, and give you an early look at a website that I hope will do a lot of good for both the Muslim community and the larger communities in which we live.

After two years of conceptual planning and two months of feverish coding, I'm proud to present unitedmuslims.org - a website designed to aggregate the energy and talent of the Muslim community and actively put it to use in making the world a better place. This week, unitedmuslims.org is launching simultaneously in the US, UK, and Canada, with more countries coming online soon.

There are many things that we as Muslims can do to head off a "clash of civilizations", but the most effective and dignified way, in my opinion, to "win the hearts and minds" of our fellow citizens is to show that we care about causes important to everyone, not just ourselves. This site was meant to introduce Muslims to causes in their community, and bring a visible Muslim presence to local community efforts.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Is the praying mantis
about to pounce on her prey?

Or is she raising her hands,
thanking her Lord for the day?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Americans get an "F" in religion

Click here to read the entire article.

An excerpt:

Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn't laughing. Americans' deep ignorance of world religions - their own, their neighbors' or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir - is dangerous, he says.

His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn't, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.

Belief is not his business, says Prothero, who grew up Episcopalian and now says he's a spiritually "confused Christian." He says his argument is for empowered citizenship.

"More and more of our national and international questions are religiously inflected," he says, citing President Bush's speeches laden with biblical references and the furor when the first Muslim member of Congress chose to be sworn in with his right hand on Thomas Jefferson's Quran.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What’s So Funny? Well, Maybe Nothing

From the New York Times

An excerpt:

Occasionally we’re surprised into laughing at something funny, but most laughter has little to do with humor. It’s an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along.

When Robert R. Provine tried applying his training in neuroscience to laughter 20 years ago, he na├»vely began by dragging people into his laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to watch episodes of “Saturday Night Live” and a George Carlin routine. They didn’t laugh much. It was what a stand-up comic would call a bad room.

So he went out into natural habitats — city sidewalks, suburban malls — and carefully observed thousands of “laugh episodes.” He found that 80 percent to 90 percent of them came after straight lines like “I know” or “I’ll see you guys later.” The witticisms that induced laughter rarely rose above the level of “You smell like you had a good workout.”

“Most prelaugh dialogue,” Professor Provine concluded in “Laughter,” his 2000 book, “is like that of an interminable television situation comedy scripted by an extremely ungifted writer.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Appropriating History

I heard some time ago a caucasian Muslim convert discuss "his" history; and by this history he did not mean Irish, German, Colonial, pre-Columbian, Victorian American or Christian history, but rather "Islamic" or "Muslim" history. This is important to note because when it comes to creating and shaping an individual's vision of the world and creating his place in it, the historical narratives that are passed down to us from our predecessors shape are consciousness. Simply, as John Randall Groves writes, "History has a role in the constitution of individual, social and cultural identity. History tells us who we are." Therefore, an individual who is German-American probably draws from German and American histories, and all the complex people, cultural traditions and events that shaped and continue to shape them, to create his or her identity and construction of self. This is because many of us look to the history and stories of those who came before us to gain orientation and direction in our frgamented modern world in order to understand the now and look toward the future.

This can be explained by understanding History, with a capital "H," or the official account, as a product of interpretation and point of reference of the offical "accounter" codifying History. For example, as some individuals in this country say that all Mexicans are immigrants to this country, one Mexican-American woman said she did not immigrate to the United States, rather the United States came to her when the US government annexed Mexican territory to create the state of Texas.

Furthermore, if one were to read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, the historical narrative absorbed would be much different than the one found in many contemporary history textbooks. This is because Zinn looks at history from the eye of the downtrodden and explains it via the discourses of class, racism, sexism and imperialism whereas other historians see America in a trimumphant light that is filled with benevolence and innocence. These "eyes" and "discourses" are the burial shrouds that allow us to embalm the very fragments of our collective pasts because no matter how far removed I am from Chinese history, it is very much apart of my collective identity because the US is an amalgamation of multiple national and ethnic narratives that coalesce into a political and social consciousness that has helped to create what some call "Americaness."

And this is why so many individuals are concerned with what a certain history is and how it is portrayed. Contemporary Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese and others, for example, consistently bring up the accomplishments of their Arab predecessors such as the invention of Algebra and the creation of one of the first universities (Al-Azhar) in the world in order to contrast the current political, social and cultural instability gripping the Arabic-speaking world.

So what happens when an individual's historical consciousness is fluid? What about "histories" that are not tied to language and direct cultural experience, but rather religious in nature that encompass whole groups and nations? Is there then such a thing as "Islamic history" as one history or is it a collection of histories of multiple groups of people who happened to find spiritual orientation from the Islamic tradition and ethos?

Hmmm...I'm lost here, does anyone know where I'm going with this?

Nawawi Foundation: What is the Islamic Tradition?

March 17, 2007 | What is the Islamic Tradition?

The Nawawi Foundation invites you to take part in an open discussion with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah on “What Is the Islamic Tradition?” at Oakton Community College on Saturday, March 17, 2007, from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

We often hear Muslims described today as Traditionalist, neo-Traditionalist, as against the Tradition or neutral toward it. The word, “Islamic Tradition,” is familiar to us all and frequently part of our discourse about who we are and what we ought to be as American Muslims. But what exactly is this tradition, and how should we relate to it? Is it truly relevant to our present situation? Are we bound to follow a particular aspect of it? How can we negotiate the Tradition to discover authority without authoritarianism? It is often said that religious extremism—whether Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or Islamic—is partly predicated on a “selective” retrieval of tradition that exploits it to support alien agendas. Is that a danger for us also, and, if so, how do we avoid it?

Please join us in this important discussion, and we welcome your insights and participation.

This cynical ideology of individual selfishness is a relic of the cold war

From the Guardian Unlimited's Comment is Free...

An excerpt:

The central tenet of the argument is that during the cold war an understanding of human nature as suspicious, distrustful and always operating out of self-interest came to dominate political thinking. From that emerged a narrow definition of freedom as "giving people the ability to get whatever they wanted". This kind of freedom has become the central political idea of the past 25 years, but it's a corrosive form of pessimism rooted in a bleak, simplistic view of human nature.

It all goes back to the bizarre world of cold-war strategists in America developing sophisticated ways to achieve the "delicate balance of terror". They seized upon game theory that originated in poker playing as a way of rationally calculating your opponent's moves and therefore your own. How many Soviet cities would you have to nuke to deter the Soviets from nuking New York? The theory was that the suspicious distrustfulness of both sides in the cold war created a kind of stability.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance

Excellent article from the New York Times

Under the glistening dome of a mosque on Long Island, hundreds of men sat cross-legged on the floor. Many were doctors and engineers born in Pakistan and India. Dressed in khakis, polo shirts and the odd silk tunic, they fidgeted and whispered.

One thing stood between them and dinner: A visitor from Harlem was coming to ask for money.

A towering black man with a gray-flecked beard finally swept into the room, his bodyguard trailing him. Wearing a long, embroidered robe and matching hat, he took the microphone and began talking about a different group of Muslims, the thousands of African-Americans who have found Islam in prison.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” said the visitor, known as Imam Talib.

The men stared. To some of them, it seemed, he was from another planet. As the imam returned their gaze, he had a similar sensation. “They live in another world,” he later said.

Only 28 miles separate Imam Talib’s mosque in Harlem from the Islamic Center of Long Island. The congregations they each serve — African-Americans at the city mosque and immigrants of South Asian and Arab descent in the suburbs — represent the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Yet a vast gulf divides them, one marked by race and class, culture and history.

Friday, March 09, 2007

First Muslim elected to Congress will share his story with the world

From McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, had little good to say about President Bush's foreign policy when he ran for office in 2006.

Now, two months into office, the Minnesota Democrat has plans to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top State Department officials to talk about showcasing his story as part of their public diplomacy efforts in the Muslim world.

"Hey, my country first. We can work out our political differences later," said Ellison, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. "I've said I'm willing to do whatever I can to make some friends for America."

Building on the international cachet he's built since taking his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's Quran, Ellison has been profiled three times by the State Department's overseas press bureau. On Monday he did a Voice of America interview from his office, where an American flag was placed conspicuously behind his desk for the cameras.

He's scheduled to follow up Thursday in a teleconference with Karen Hughes, the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy. The teleconference has been tasked by the White House to promote American values and confront ideological support for terrorism around the world.

Muslim commentators and administration officials say that, whatever controversy Ellison has engendered at home, he can help America's image abroad, especially in the Arab world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Seeds of Malcolm X Have Matured Pt. 1

A great interview with Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute conducted by Adisa Banjoko

An excerpt:

AB: As American Muslims look forward in 2007. What should they have at the front of their minds in terms of achievement?

ZS: I think number one thing Muslims should have at the front of their head, are the requisites of this society, and how Islam can address some of the needs of this society. For so long we have been focused on what (is) going on overseas. At the end of the day, we did not make those messes over there. At the end of the day we’re not going be able to fix it.

AB: When you say “we” you mean-

ZS: Muslims here in America. WE didn’t make those messes, we’re not going be able to fix them. If the people who are there, living that reality can’t fix it…Or, are extremely challenge to fix it…What are we going do from half way around the world?

The reason I say that though, is that our efforts to continually try and expend our resources and expend our spiritual, moral and political capital addressing those issues- we leave our own issues unresolved. By leaving our own issues unresolved, we create vulnerabilities for ourselves that impinge on our ability to do anything meaningfully for the brothers and sisters over there. So we can’t empower ourselves because we’re so busy trying to address the situation of powerless Muslims in other places.

So, I think that’s number one to put at the top of the agenda for 2007.

Secondly, I think we need to develop a moral agenda. Recently I read that you, like myself were reading Jimmy Carter’s book. Not the controversial one on the Palestine situation, but “Our Endangered Values”. I think as Muslims we need to develop a moral agenda. We need to see ourselves as apart of the moral consciousness of this country. Because we can’t constantly condemn the policies of this country, but then not bring our voice to bear in trying to direct the country on a different path in terms of its foreign and domestic policy.

Sands of Sorrow - Rare footage of 1948 Palestinian refugees

The Israel Lobby: Does it Have Too Much Influence on US Foreign Policy?

THE DEBATE

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Timeless Wisdom

A short story about Ibrahim ibn Adham from the book Tadhkirat al-Auliya' (Memorial of the Awliyya) by the eminent 12th century scholar and mystic Sheikh Farid ad-Din Attar.

Once Ebrahim passed by a drunkard. His mouth was foul, so he fetched water and washed the drunkard's mouth.

"Do you leave foul the mouth that has mouthed the name of God? That is irreverence!" Ebrahim said to himself.

"The ascetic of Khorasan washed your mouth," they told the man when he woke.

"I too now repent," the man declared.

After that Ebrahim heard in a dream, "Thou didst wash a mouth for My sake. I have washed thy heart."

Badula


Badula, originally uploaded by BeautifulIrony.

Taken in Mali, West Africa

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Identity formation and the external imposition of otherness

Minority identity formation is as much a process of defining what someone is as it is what someone is not. In this understanding of identity creation, the person defining whom she is focuses more on naming those things she is rather those things she is not. For example, the person might say, "I am Muslim, I am from this place and thus have a home in this culture, I value this and I value that." Therefore, the person probably will not say because I am this, thus "I am not Buddhist, I do not feel particularly at home in this culture, etc." And while the process of internal dialogue goes on, the person gives value to the many facets that make up the individual's composite identity, which are manifest outwardly as multiple components including behavior, publicly articulated opinions and ideas, clothing and appearance. As separate as they may be — as different as the tongue's utterances are from the clothes covering one's limbs — they all emanate from one composite self that moves through society as one particular entity that is not easily deconstructed into the many parts making her up.

This process of self-knowledge and self-realization is a very intimate discourse that involves the three components of the self — the body, the intellect and the soul — each faculty connected with the other in an intricate web of emotion, rationalization and spiritual insight. Each faculty is directly connected to the three dimensions of human existence — the horizontal (society), the vertical (Prophetic compass) and depth (spiritual ascent that is free of particular temporal limit). Each faculty, however, draws energy and the ability to operate not from itself, but from the source of all creation — God Most High — who fashioned each person and her corresponding components.

The above, however, is focused on intense internal keenness because it is the part of identity formation that deals with expounding upon what one is. And as was said before, typically, identity formation does not directly speak to what one is not although the process in itself establishes both what one is and what one is not. Therefore, many times, if one does not establish what one is not to others because it doesn't come up in conversations and is not manifest explicitly in appearance or that what someone is not doesn't necessarily mean she does not tolerate it, others might fill this vacuum of establishing what one is not or doesn't tolerate by externally imposing negative ideas and values created by the media or ignorant individuals that are anathema or antithetical to the dominant culture. This can lead to a creation of otherness because the external imposition is a dropping of heavy cultural, social and political baggage on the person going through the identity formation process.

As one says, "I am Muslim," another person might add without the permission of the person going through identity formation that because she defines herself as "Muslim" she is therefore not open-minded, liberal, thoughtful, American and so on. This leads some people to demand that Muslims "prove" themselves be it in terms of patriotism, comfort with dominant cultural norms and a "moderate" politically and religiously. If the person is not able to publicly "prove" herself, an unacknowledged otherness is attached to the person because people outside of this intense internal discourse are not privy to the internal conversations going on about what the person is and therefore don't know what the person feels or thinks. This might create false labels and understandings of the person and attach them to her unwittingly therefore creating a dissonance in how society at-large views a person and how the individual views herself.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Linguistic accommodation

It's rather curious that the central pillar of the Prophetic legacy is communication, yet Muslims invest the fewest funds in finding and training qualified spokespersons. We have many eloquent speakers in our communities, but when it comes to deciding who will sweat in the spotlight, we end up picking people who have a very poor grasp of grammar and more importantly local dialect – BUT of course, they take from the Qur'an and Sunnah — so it doesn't matter how inept they are at taking sacred truths and making them contemporary realities. It's very frustrating to hear people say "And God did not beget a son!" Who really speaks Old English anyways? And furthermore, while I have no desire to limit Muslim immigrants from the podium, I think accents have a big effect on how people perceive Muslims and the Islamic tradition, especially if audience members are more concerned with parsing each word to figure out what it means than with what the overall message is and how it relates to them.

I've found a lot Muslims who when speaking to non-Muslim audiences just drop scholar's names and terms such as sunnah (prophetic tradition) and tafseer (Qur'anic commentary) without any forethought as to how these terms will effect the audience in its perception of the message. And this shouldn't be limited to non-Muslim audiences. Even during a kutbah (Friday Prayer homily), when non-Muslims have been in attendance, there is still no real thought to how we can tailor this message so that it revives hard hearts, yet captures many more that have no real experience with the Islamic tradition or Muslims.

Not only does our lack of accommodation alienate people because Islam looks inaccessible to them with the language barriers, but also alien because common values are not named and thus unable to enter the discussion. This limits Muslim space in many public forums because we don't allow people of other faiths the ability to see that our spiritual tradition speaks to their concerns. Only when we begin to transcend myopic visions of what we as Muslims are comfortable with and begin to concern ourselves with makes members of the dominant culture more comfortable with our tradition and our place in this society, will we make strides in making Islam not only organically "American," but a tradition where all (immigrants, converts, indigenous Muslims) will have a place to shapes its further development. And making others feel comfortable is not appeasement or dilution, it is the pure and simple sensitivity that we want to be shown ourselves, especially when our sisters need to be accommodated at the local swimming pool or our brothers need to attend Friday Prayer.

This is important because as one female convert, who is also the MSA spokeswoman, said this evening in a presentation, "I can speak to those from without, but not from within" the Muslim community and thus tradition because no one will really take her ideas seriously. They just see her as another white convert who should heed Arabic speakers with training in engineering and not in the Islamic tradition and also as someone to proverbially pat on the back after she creates a press release or speaks to the local media. I hope she sees herself as someone who can and should be actively engaged in shaping the American Islamic tradition because if not, those that have the greatest grasp of what it means to be an American will have little do with carving a viable existence in this country for the next generation and generations to come to build on.

Of narratives and definitions

I hear many contemporary Muslims use the term "Traditionalist" to define themselves vis-a-vis other Muslim groups as someone who follows closely to the Islamic tradition, rather than modern re-formist movements (note the hyphen). But this is problematic because of the varied nature of our collective experiences and accumulated social narratives that help to define the values and visions of our society in the way we view the past and look to the future.

While Muslim-Americans may claim to be traditional and therefore opposed to the modern phenomenon of terrorism such as suicide bombings and other militaristic ideologies that facilitate the flames of hatred and thus violence, we must also remember that Americans of the dominant culture view tradition as something very questionable and therefore filled with many positives but fraught with many negatives. And this is important. Because we as humans have subjectively different narratives and interpretations of events in our lives and those that occurred before us, we thus have different narratives that help define the terms of discourse. As a Muslim associates the term traditional with positive things in Muslim history such as golden ages and sages, someone of another faith might associate very negative things with tradition such as the US legacy of slavery and racism. This is important to note because when two individuals enter into a discourse or dialectic, they need a lingua franca that allows for the terms of discussion to be the same therefore allowing the individuals involved to have a discussion that is substantive and helps bring understanding, rather than an argument about semantics that leads both sides to believe that dialogue is not an open highway but a cul-de-sac.

Generally speaking this is important because I think a lot of problems involved with bringing people to the table for discussion revolve around semantics issues that are never addressed. Never addressing the foundations of discussion stymies personal and societal growth. For example, many discussions surrounding terrorism never get very far because the discussion never realizes its potenitial of being an exposition of similar values including the sanctity of life and the need for security for all to a bickering match about who's a terrorist and who's not.

So when people speak negatively about traditionalism, we shouldn't see it as an attack on traditional Islam, but on the tradition they hold in their minds.