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.


On Sensationalism, ISIS and Liberalism

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Revelation and Talking About Revelation

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On Prophetic Authority

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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

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On Modern Understandings of Religion

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

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


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.

A Muslim Reads The Hagakure – Part I

Hagakure/葉隱 (lit., Hidden by the Leaves or Hidden Leaves), is a spiritual guide for a warrior, as well as a lament, taken from a collection of commentaries by Yamamoto Tsunetomo—former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of Saga prefecture in Japan—by Tsuramoto Tashiro. While initially compiled in the early 1700’s it was not made publicly available until many years after.



“When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.” — Hagakure.

إنْ قامَتِ السَّاعةُ وفي يدِ أحدِكُم فَسيلةً فإنِ استَطاعَ أن لا تَقومَ حتَّى يغرِسَها فلْيغرِسْها
الراوي : أنس بن مالك | المحدث : الألباني | المصدر : صحيح الأدب المفرد

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:

“If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” — al-Albani’s Sahih al-Jami’.

“If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.” — Hagakure.

سمعتُ النبيَّ صلَّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّمَ ، قبل وفاتِه بثلاثٍ ، يقول ” لا يموتنَّ أحدكم إلا وهو يحسنُ باللهِ الظنَّ ” .
الراوي : جابر بن عبدالله | المحدث : مسلم | المصدر : صحيح مسلم
الصفحة أو الرقم: 2877

Jabir reported:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as saying three days before his death: ‘None of you should court death but only hoping good from Allah’.” — Sahih Muslim.

“A man is a good retainer to the extent that he earnestly places importance in his master … But even a person who is good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy will be a reliable retainer if only he has the determination to think earnestly of his master.” — Hagakure.

The beginning of “earnestly [placing] importance on [your] Master” is having a good opinion of Him:

إنَّ حُسنَ الظنِّ باللَّهِ عزَّ وجلَّ مِن حُسنِ عبادةِ اللَّهِ
الراوي : أبو هريرة | المحدث : أحمد شاكر | المصدر : مسند أحمد
الصفحة أو الرقم: 16/289 | خلاصة حكم المحدث : إسناده حسن

Narrated by Abu Hurayrah:

“Having a good opinion of God is from the goodness of worship.” Imam Ahmad’s Musnad.

Yamamoto’s “good for nothing and exceedingly clumsy” is reminiscent of the hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ gives advice to a man who feels overwhelmed with the requirements and obligations of the Dīn:

أنَّ رجلًا قال يا رسولَ اللهِ إنَّ شرائعَ الإسلامِ قد كثُرت عليَّ فأخبِرني بشيءٍ أتشبَّثُ به قال: لا يزالُ لسانُك رطبًا من ذكرِ اللهِ
الراوي : عبدالله بن بسر | المحدث : الألباني | المصدر : صحيح الترمذي
الصفحة أو الرقم: 3375 | خلاصة حكم المحدث: صحيح

`Abdullah bin Busr narrated:

“A man said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, the legislated acts of Islam have become too much for me, so inform me of a thing that I should stick to.’ He ﷺ said, ‘Do not let your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah’.” Jami’ al-Tirmidhi.

As for “one is able to live as though his body were already dead”, one is reminded of a passage from al-Ghazzālī’s Ihyā’ Ulūm al-Dīn:

ولن يتسير الاستعداد للشيء إلا عند تجدد ذكره على القلب

“Preparation for a thing will never be easy unless it comes with a renewing of its mention in the heart.” — al-Ghazzālī, Kitāb Dhikr al-Mawt (The Book on Remembering Death)

Islamic Spirituality – A Khutbah By Imam Marc Manley

Spirituality is often conveyed as an abstract notion. We don’t know what it is and thus we tend to make it all about ourselves; our feelings. Spirituality in the Islamic context can be thought of as being concerned with what Allah thinks about you on a daily basis.

Spirituality is a daily practice. A discipline. Not something we simply turn to when in the mood. This is why for some, their inability to connect with God isn’t due to them being cursed or not being enlightened; it’s that they have not established and regular relationship with Allah. Such persons tend to shun God when things get tough instead of shunning those things which interfere with one’s relationship with Allah:

تَتَجافىٰ جُنوبُهُم عَنِ المَضاجِعِ يَدعونَ رَبَّهُم خَوفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمّا رَزَقناهُم يُنفِقونَ

“Their sides eschew their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them.” Qur’an 32: 16

Being concerned about the one you love.

When you’re young and you desire a pretty girl or a handsome boy, this desire has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you.

Real love is when you are concerned with what the other thinks about you.

Spiritual discipline (Qur’an 70, verses 22-34):

  1. Salah: be consistent. In fact, be consistent in all of your devotions.
  2. Charity: give often or as much as you can, even if it’s little. The poor have a God-given claim to it: those who ask and those who are too shy to ask up front (Zakah). It is also good for your heart.
  3. Accept the reality that there is going to be a day of Judgement: don’t lie to yourself or anyone else, either through words or actions.
  4. Acknowledge who Allah is and that Allah’s promise is true: being fearful of Allah’s punishment in the fire does not preclude one of loving God. Imagine if one just runs around and cheats on his or her lover, all the while still claiming to love them?
  5. No one is safe from Allah’s displeasure/torment.
  6. Protect your private parts, except with your spouse, with whom you may indulge yourself.
  7. Going beyond this makes one a rule-breaker. God’s rules.
  8. Be respectful of the trusts and agreements you are given/participate in.
  9. Those who stand for the truth when they testify.
  10. And who guard their prayer (consistent with it and guard it.

Those who accomplish this will be the companions of the Garden. Respected and loved by God.

Part of the discipline of spirituality, of being concerned with how Allah thinks about you, if Allah loves you, if focusing your attention and your efforts on Him and not being distracted by the nonsense and foolishness of the world.