From a conversation Imam Marc had with Dr. Sherman Jackson about secularism and its effects on the Muslim imagination.
In today’s world where efficiency and competitiveness create a culture of racing to the bottom, there’s a temptation to view everything in our lives through the lens of performance. As Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein write,
“Your practice isn’t a performance. Judgment about whether a meditation session was ’good’ or ‘bad,’ or whether mindfulness is ‘working’ or not, isn’t helpful. In fact, this performance-based mindset misses the point entirely. If there is a goal to any of the practices it’s simply to learn. Bringing a learning mindset to this practice is the fastest route to growth and mastery”1.
Similarly, the prayer (or du’a, or dhikr) is not performance. That is not to say that the how-to of it is inconsequential (number of raka’at, the order in which things are said, the times in which they may be performed, etc.). This is where Islam departs from mindfulness, or any other philosophy, in that the how-to does matter but it still should not be mistaken for being all about a particular emotional experience (such as happiness, for example) or that if the salah is executed properly that this will guarantee us safety, protection, or our heart’s desire.
1. Goldstein, Elisha. “An Invitation To Mindfulness”. Mindful, 21 July 2017, pp. 2-3.
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”
“Revelation and Talking About Revelation”
“On Prophetic Authority”
“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
“On Being A Good Person and Being A Non-Muslim”
“On Modern Understandings of Religion”
“On the Hegemony of Western Norms: Wudu, Rationalism, and the Significance of Ritual”
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.
We continue with The Sherman Jackson Reader, a class taught on Saturdays by Imam Marc Manley at Middle Ground after Fajr prayer.
“I think that there’s this fine line between accepting that there are standards, but standards don’t come at the price of erasing human experience” — Imam Marc Manley
The following are a few notes to the audio lecture, The Sherman Jackson Reader: Literalism Part 4. The Sherman Jackson Reader is a class Imam Marc teaches every Saturday morning after Fajr prayer at Middle Ground.
On the topic of juristic induction and textual empiricism:
The way that Islam has typically been taught is if there’s a hadith, or a textual source, it is the solution to everything, and I must continue to bang my head against the wall until I can make it (the textual source) do what I want it to do.
We tend to look at textual sources as the solution to a problem versus a solution to the problem.