Category: Podcast

Isra and Mi’raj – A New Hope

Isra and Mi’raj – A New Hope

a’ra’ja/ya’ruju and a’ri/ja/ya’raju: one means to ascend, the other to limp or hobble along.

Mi’raj was an uplifting (lit.) event at a time when the Prophet would experience great emotional loss and hardship:

  1. the death of his uncle Abu Talib (who shielded his nephew from the Makkans who sought to harm him) and
  2. his wife of nearly a quarter century, Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her.

Think about all of the things that the Prophet saw on Mi’raj: Jibril, the Prophets, etc. All these miraculous things before his very eyes and yet what is it that Allah orders His prophet to do upon returning from Mi’raj? Leave Makkah. Leave his home. But not just leave his ancestral home for nothing: build a new home. Build the City of the Prophet: Madinah al-Nabi.

The Prophet, after having seen things, experienced things which leave no doubt in the mind and the heart, set out to make a new home with others. Mi’raj imbued the Prophet with an even stronger conviction in the belief in Allah. That conviction and belief mandated he bring others together: conviction in God brought about unity, not division.

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقاتِهِ وَلا تَموتُنَّ إِلّا وَأَنتُم مُسلِمونَ

وَاعتَصِموا بِحَبلِ اللَّهِ جَميعًا وَلا تَفَرَّقوا ۚ وَاذكُروا نِعمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيكُم إِذ كُنتُم أَعداءً فَأَلَّفَ بَينَ قُلوبِكُم فَأَصبَحتُم بِنِعمَتِهِ إِخوانًا وَكُنتُم عَلىٰ شَفا حُفرَةٍ مِنَ النّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِنها ۗ كَذٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُم آياتِهِ لَعَلَّكُم تَهتَدونَ

وَلتَكُن مِنكُم أُمَّةٌ يَدعونَ إِلَى الخَيرِ وَيَأمُرونَ بِالمَعروفِ وَيَنهَونَ عَنِ المُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ المُفلِحونَ

Hope

Just when things seemed bleak, Allah made a way out for the Prophet. But it wasn’t all milk and honey. He lost his wife, his uncle. But because he was hopeful, he gave so many others hope and brought so much good to the world.

Sharing – Its Important and Therapeutic Aspects

Sharing – Its Important and Therapeutic Aspects

As parents, many of us go to great effort to teach our children when they’re little to share.

We do so not only because it’s nice but because we have more meaningful lives when we do things with each other.

We benefit when we give up something and give it freely to another.

We experience joy in others experiencing joy when we give up something and give to others.

But then something curious happens when we get older. We grow attached to the world. We grow attached to things. No longer do we think about sharing what we have with others but instead covet things and retreat into selfishness.

This same person will either look baffled at the world, unable to understand and recognize his or her contribution — no matter how small — in making it the way it is (what does it even mean when we say “the world*”? He or she retreats into cynicism saying,

“the world* has always been like this,”

attempting to free his or herself of any culpability as to why it is the way it is.

*Surely not the birds and the bees.

What does it mean “to be Muslim”? Is it purely and solely an individual pronouncement of la ilaha illa’Allah? What role does culture play.

وَاتلُ عَلَيهِم نَبَأَ إِبراهيمَ

إِذ قالَ لِأَبيهِ وَقَومِهِ ما تَعبُدونَ

قالوا نَعبُدُ أَصنامًا فَنَظَلُّ لَها عاكِفينَ

قالَ هَل يَسمَعونَكُم إِذ تَدعونَ

أَو يَنفَعونَكُم أَو يَضُرّونَ

قالوا بَل وَجَدنا آباءَنا كَذٰلِكَ يَفعَلونَ

قالَ أَفَرَأَيتُم ما كُنتُم تَعبُدونَ

“Recite to them the story of Ibrahim when he said to his father and his people, ‘What do you worship?’ They said, ‘We worship idols and will continue to cling to them.’ He said, ‘Do they hear you when you call? or do they help you or do you harm?’ They said, ‘No, but this is what we found our fathers doing.’ He said, ‘Have you really thought about what you worship,”

In fact, culture can be thought of all those good things we want to pass along to the next generation, not just wealth:

“Culture is the total sum of what humans want to pass from one generation to another.”1Sandor Ellix Katz

This is why we can say, while Islam is not culture pursue, Muslims certainly do and indeed want to have a culture.

One way to change this is by sharing.

أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ النَّبِيِّ، صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّا نَأْكُلُ وَلاَ نَشْبَعُ قَالَ فَلَعَلَّكُمْ

تَفْتَرِقُونَ

قَالُوا نَعَمْ قَالَ فَاجْتَمِعُوا عَلَى طَعَامِكُمْ وَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ يُبَارَكْ لَكُمْ فِيهِ

The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ said, “Messenger of Allah ﷺ we eat but we don’t feel satiated”. He said, “perhaps that’s because you eat separately?” They replied, “Yes”. He advised, “Well, then gather together for your food and mention Allah’s name over it, you will be blessed in it.”Sunan Abu Dawud, #3764

Notes

1. Katz, Sandor Ellix. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World. White River Junction, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.

Music, The Ontology of Religion, and What Does Difference of Opinion Mean?

Music, The Ontology of Religion, and What Does Difference of Opinion Mean?

In this episode of the Middle Ground Podcast, Imam Marc, on the road, discusses music, the question of its permissibility and beyond. His remarks are in part inspired from remarks in a Q&A session by Mufti Abu Layth, may Allah reward him.

“Before you approach religion, you have this ontology of religion. You already have an understanding of what religion — with a capital “R” — is going to provide for you, or provide for people.”Mufti Abu Layth


Music: Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet, The Journey.

Meaning Is What Makes Us Truly Alive

Meaning Is What Makes Us Truly Alive

We come into the world with our eyes closed.

We have to open our eyes to find meaning and purpose, not just happiness.

All worldly happiness has limits and limitations.

ثُمَّ سَوّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فيهِ مِن روحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۚ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ

“Then He constructs each person in their mother’s womb, then breathes into him something of His spirit. Then He endows you all with faculties of awareness: hearing, sight and feeling.Yet, for all of these gifts, you’re hardly thankful at all!”Qur’an, 32: 9

قَالَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي وَأَنَا مَعَهُ حَيْثُ يَذْكُرُنِي

وَاللَّهِ الَلَّهُ أَفْرَحُ بِتَوْبَةِ عَبْدِهِ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمْ يَجِدُ ضَالَّتَهُ بِالْفَلاَةِ

وَمَنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ شِبْرًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا

وَمَنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَىَّ ذِرَاعًا تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا

وَإِذَا أَقْبَلَ إِلَىَّ يَمْشِي أَقْبَلْتُ إِلَيْهِ أُهَرْوِلُ

“Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said:

‘I am as My servant thinks of Me to him. And I am with him as he remembers Me.’

The Prophet further said:

‘By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than were one of you were to finding that which he holds most precious (the object of his search) in a waterless desert.’

God continues saying, ‘When he draws near Me by the span of his hand I draw near him by the length of a cubit.’

‘And when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit I draw near him by the length of a fathom.’

‘And when he draws near Me walking I draw close to him hurriedly’.” — Sahih Muslim, #2675

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A Return To Meaning

A Return To Meaning

In this episode, Imam Marc speaks about how ritual and meaning are increasingly seen as things not only trivial or perhaps juvenile, but also something scornful, a reminder of a not-so-distant past many would like to pretend never existed, when life was not able to be safely and comfortably quantified.

The loss of meaning’s appreciation can also be linked to western educational institutions:

“Its emphasis on specialization meant that most professors considered the question of meaning beyond their purview … The question of how to live, after all, requires a discussion of abstract, personal, and moral values. It does not belong, these professors argued, in colleges and universities devoted to the accumulation of objective knowledge … An increasing consensus in the academy is that faculty members should not help students discern a meaningful philosophy of life or develop character, but should instead help them master the content and methodology of a given discipline and learn critical thinking.”1

This can be seen manifesting in the Muslim community in a number of ways, such as how Muslims (especially western Muslims) approach the month long ritual of fasting in the month of Ramadan. Social media will shortly be a flurry with posts recommending this or that suhur (or pre-dawn) smoothie which promises to reduce or even eliminate fatigue and hunger. How odd that the practitioners of a faith would want to minimize the experience of one of its most important rituals: but that is precisely what we see happening with Islam in the West. Increasingly we seem to be saying, “ritual and religious experience, particularly those that ask us to give up something or daresay, even experience something uncomfortable, we don’t want any part of it. Either it changes to accommodate our desires or it gets jettisoned!”.

For me, this is why I think so many are trying to find way to validate what would otherwise been seen – according to post-religious secular norms – as ridiculous, by legitimizing and substantiating fasting for one month as something healthy. According to this new logic, to the extent that Islamic rituals can be confirmed by empirical/scientific observations, they may be tolerated. But to the extent to which they can’t (wearing hijab or growing a beard, for example), then they condemned as backwards and even potentially subhuman (hijab again).
One of the fundamental on the long differences is the pursuit of emotions versus the crafting with meaning. is the pursuit of emotions versus the crafting of meaning. The pursuit of emotion attempts to extract, for example, happiness, either from objects or activities like superfoods or yoga, alcohol or sex. But those who seek to craft meaning transcend objects and experience and see meaning in them; they see God. This should not be mistaken as a form of shamanism, in the Muslim sense, for Muslims do not believe God is inside their superfood smoothie or tantric sex, but rather see any such objects or activities as the result of God. The former tends to be rooted in an idolatrous materialism which places conditional value on things (things here being objects, activities/experiences). To the extent that an object, activity, or experience makes that individual happy it is deemed to be good regardless of what Revelation may have to say about it. Whereas the latter sees beyond this triumvirate and knows the source from which, for example, blueberry smoothies and alcohol, come from, thus allowing them to apply wisdom.

Notes

1. Smith, Emily Esfahani. The Power of Meaning: Crafting A Life That Matters. Kindle ed., Crown, New York, 2017.

The Sherman Jackson Reader – On Belief and Rationality For Muslims in the West

The Sherman Jackson Reader – On Belief and Rationality For Muslims in the West

In this episode of the Middle Ground Podcast, we share some more insights into our Saturday class, The Sherman Jackson Reader, this time discussing such topics as belief, non-belief, and the hegemony of western constructs such as rationalism, and what are its consequences for Muslims and what our potential reactions might be. Full length clip at the bottom.

Excerpts

On Sensationalism, ISIS and Liberalism


[Direct download]

Revelation and Talking About Revelation


[Direct download]

On Prophetic Authority


[Direct download]

Belief vs. Religion

ما تَعبُدونَ مِن دونِهِ إِلّا أَسماءً سَمَّيتُموها أَنتُم وَآباؤُكُم ما أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِها مِن سُلطانٍ ۚ إِنِ الحُكمُ إِلّا لِلَّهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلّا تَعبُدوا إِلّا إِيّاهُ ۚ ذٰلِكَ الدّينُ القَيِّمُ وَلٰكِنَّ أَكثَرَ النّاسِ لا يَعلَمونَ

“If you don’t serve Him, then you’re serving nothing more than names that you and your ancestors made up, and God gave no one permission to do that. The right to command is for none save God, and He has commanded that you serve nothing besides Him. That’s the straight way of life, but most people don’t understand.” — Qur’an, 12: 40


[Direct download]

On Being A Good Person and Being A Non-Muslim


[Direct download]

On Modern Understandings of Religion


[Direct download]

On the Hegemony of Western Norms: Wudu, Rationalism, and the Significance of Ritual


[Direct download]

For other khutbahs and podcasts, see the Middle Ground Podcast.

Notes

Kahn, Jonathan S., and Lloyd, Vincent W. Race And Secularism In America. New York, Columbia University Press, 2016.

Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth Of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict . Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

The Sherman Jackson Reader – Insights Into Practice and Spirituality

The Sherman Jackson Reader – Insights Into Practice and Spirituality

I teach a class entitled The Sherman Jackson Reader at Middle Ground. It’s a class where we use Dr. Jackson’s articles, books, and scholarship, to spark meaningful dialogues, conversations, and ask pertinent questions. The following are two short excepts followed by the full length clip. Enjoy, and perhaps join us some Saturday after Fajr!

“Spiritual Savings”


[Direct download]

“Pulling On Faith”


[Direct download]

It Takes Heart To Do The Right Thing

It Takes Heart To Do The Right Thing

وَنُريدُ أَن نَمُنَّ عَلَى الَّذينَ استُضعِفوا فِي الأَرضِ وَنَجعَلَهُم أَئِمَّةً وَنَجعَلَهُمُ الوارِثينَ

“And We want to empower those who were being oppressed in the land, to make them leaders, and to give them an inheritance in the earth.” Qur’an 28: 5

ما جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِرَجُلٍ مِن قَلبَينِ في جَوفِهِ ۚ

“God hasn’t placed two hearts in any man’s chest,” Qur’an 33: 4

مَنْ قَتَلَ مُعَاهَدًا لَمْ يَرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنَّ رِيحَهَا تُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ أَرْبَعِينَ عَامًا

“Whoever kills the one with whom there is a social contract will not smell the scent of Paradise though its fragrance is perceived from a distance of forty years.”Prophet Muhammad

For the story on Ibn Ali Miller, see Imam Marc’s article, “Islam’s Capacity to Empower”.

Netflix’s Iron Fist – Converts and Authenticity

Netflix’s Iron Fist – Converts and Authenticity

In this episode, Imam Marc discusses Netflix’s new series, Iron Fist, and relates it to the struggles of Muslims converts and their challenges of authenticity.

Improving Our Relationship With Allah Today

Improving Our Relationship With Allah Today

“When your Lord took out all their descendants from the loins of the children of Adam and made them testify against themselves ‘Am I not your Lord?’ they said, ‘We testify that indeed You are!’ Lest you say on the Day of Rising, ‘We knew nothing of this’.” Qur’an, 7: 172

إِن كُلُّ مَن فِي السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ إِلّا آتِي الرَّحمٰنِ عَبدًا

لَقَد أَحصاهُم وَعَدَّهُم عَدًّا

وَكُلُّهُم آتيهِ يَومَ القِيامَةِ فَردًا

إِنَّ الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَعَمِلُوا الصّالِحاتِ سَيَجعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحمٰنُ وُدًّا

فَإِنَّما يَسَّرناهُ بِلِسانِكَ لِتُبَشِّرَ بِهِ المُتَّقينَ وَتُنذِرَ بِهِ قَومًا لُدًّا

وَكَم أَهلَكنا قَبلَهُم مِن قَرنٍ هَل تُحِسُّ مِنهُم مِن أَحَدٍ أَو تَسمَعُ لَهُم رِكزًا

“There isn’t a single being in the heavens nor on the earth except that it must come as a humble servant to the Compassionate. He’s counted them and numbered them all precisely! Every one of them will come before Him alone on the Day of Assembly, and He’ll bestow His love upon those who believed and did what was morally right. Thus, We’ve made this Qur’an easy on your tongue, so you can use it to give good news to those who are mindful of their duty to God, as well as warn those people who are given to senseless opposition. How many generations before them have We destroyed? Can you find a single one of them still surviving or hear so much as a whisper from them?” Qur’an, 19: 93-98

إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَالَ: مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا، فَقَدْ آذَنْتُهُ بِالْحَرْبِ، وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ، وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ، فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ، كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ، وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ، وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا، وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا، وَإِنْ سَأَلَنِي لَأُعْطِيَنَّهُ، وَلَئِنْ اسْتَعَاذَنِي لَأُعِيذَنَّهُ، وَمَا تَرَدَّدْتُ عَنْ شَيْءٍ أَنَا فَاعِلُهُ تَرَدُّدِي عَنْ نَفْسِ عَبْدِي الْمُؤْمِنِ، يَكْرَهُ الْمَوْتَ وَأَنَا أَكْرَهُ مَسَاءَتَهُ

Allah said in a Holy Narration (Hadith Qudsi),

“Whoever is hostile to one under My protection, I will be at war with that person. My servant doesn’t draw closer to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have made mandatory upon him. And My servant continues to draw nearer to Me with extra works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about seizing the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.” Sahih al-Bukhari, #6502

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