The Sharing Group Discussion: What Form of Islam Can Survive in Britain?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Brother Tim posted this on The Sharing Group, on the 26th January, 2015: “If I were to say that Muslims only have three options today: Islamism as a revolutionary political religion, Salafism as a reaction to corrupt western influence, and Sufism as an inner this worldly mysticism; would I be missing anything out?”

Brother Kyle: I am sure I could come up with a few more if I think about it.

Brother Muqtedar Khan: None of the above.  Just be secular.  Your definition of Salafism is very benign.  It is vicious even towards Muslims.

Brother Dawud Khuluq: There's room for a revolutionary Bathini anarchism in my opinion.

Brother Trevor Skinner: I would quibble with your definition of Sufism, Tim.  I do not think inner mysticism covers it.

Brother Skopeo Ummah Fr-De: I would say: learn more about the Qur’an and the Prophet (s.a.w.); the lack of knowledge is disastrous, and changed Muslim countries into places of corruption, intolerance and extreme poverty.  Both are ways for a stronger and better Muslim community.

Brother Colin Turner: What about, just Islam?  In other words, an inner, other-worldly mysticism, and an outer, this-worldly, God-aware communitarianism.

Brother Muqtedar Khan, ‘just be secular’?  Where in the Qur’anic message is the exhortation to be secular?

Brother Muqtedar Khan: I did not say it is Qur’anic; it is also an option available to Muslims.  A servant does not move closer to the ruler except that he moves further away from Allah (s.w.t.).  Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) reported that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever lives the life of a Bedouin will become coarse.  Whoever preoccupies himself with sport will become neglectful.  Whoever goes to the gates of the ruler will endure tribulation.  A servant does not move closer to the ruler except that he moves further away from Allah.”  This is swahih from Musnad Ahmad, according to Imam al-Mundzir (r.a.).

It is recorded in Shu’ab al-Iman, that Rabi’ah (r.a.) reported that ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) said, “Beware of the gates of the ruler.”

Brother Colin Turner: If it is an option, it is a dangerous one.

Brother Adam Kishanov: Or we follow the Qur’an and the sunnah, and we continue to do so until Allah (s.w.t.) takes our Earthly life.  That is the one I choose.  I do not need anyone telling me how to live my life and believe how I believe.

Brother Tone: I would choose another word instead of ‘Salafism’, as Salafism itself, as a movement, is itself the product of Western influence.

Brother Trevor Skinner: I agree with Brother Colin, except that the English word ‘mysticism’ which is used to translate to taswawwuf has an “elusive atmosphere about it, whereas taswawwuf is a regular science with its set laws and a full scheme in detail.  It is based on palpable experiences which can be reproduced, like in any other science, under set circumstances.”  This is by Shaykh Aftab ad-Din Ahmad, from the introduction to Futuh al-Ghayb.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Salafism cannot be the outer part of Islam since it is anti-Islam, a pseudo-religious movement.  And Sufism is far more than an internal state, as Brother Trevor Skinner said.  I would also be wary of Islamism since it is a nebulous term.  One man’s Islamist is another man’s zindiq.  A better term would be ‘adl for the political movement, taqwa for the external, and ihsan for the internal.

Brother Jon Beatty: Futuh al-Ghayb?  What is that, Brother Trevor?

Brother Harry Elfrink: I think, to relegate Sufism or irfan as ‘inner mysticism’, suggesting it cannot be an exterior movement, is a disservice.  Ultimately, taswawwuf is based on your spirituality, both innate and outward; observances of morals, and more.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Jon Beatty, Futuh al-Ghayb is a book by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (q.s.).

Brother Jon Beatty: Jazakallah, brother.

Brother Abu Bakar Ramli Abu: Dear Brother Adam, forgive me if I am wrong, but in saying so, do you not think you are creating your own madzhab?

Brother Tim: I am most grateful for your thoughts everyone as I have had sleepless nights worrying about the question, ‘What form of Islam can survive in Britain?’ against a background of right-wing anti-Muslim politics and reluctant immigrant Muslim integration.  I had come up with the following which only leaves one solution: Revolutionary Islamism, a political-religious ideology which contains a lethal admixture of decadent sensate and decadent ideational culture, militarily or ideologically hostile to the West with the capacity to operate covertly within civil society in the long term interests of creating a totalitarian Islamic political caliphate which imposes maximalist shari’ah.  Closest to the leftist revolutionary western tradition which helped shape it with more affinity to Jacobinism, Nazism, Fascism, Marxism and Maoism.

Or, Recoil Salafism, a reformist attempt to revive a purist ideational form of Islam in reaction to the sensate West and in metaphysical and ethical competition with its worldview.  It thrives in multicultural western societies that cannot perceive that its petrified religiosity is a competing worldview aimed at constructing an alternative maximalist shari’ah-compliant rival civil society.  It is easily co-opted by Revolutionary Islamism as it becomes increasingly politically assertive of Muslim identity and is deliberately infiltrated by Islamists.

Alternatively, Moderate Sufism is an inner this-worldly mystical spirituality which suspends any involvement with Revolutionary Islamism and Recoil Salafism in order to act openly in partnership with the people of the West so as to enjoy the best of sensate and ideational cultures for the common good, whilst critical of decadent tendencies in each.  A minimalist shari’ah may remain a guideline to ethics but is balanced by philosophical engagement and spiritual-humanism.  It may be socially conservative but tends to be spiritually libertarian, interested more in in the inward transformation needed for the transcendental ideals of the good, the true and the beautiful to be realised in culture.

Sister Fatima Ali Elsanousi: And why should we be trapped in our Muslim identity?  Can we not just simply be humans and be ‘more’ engaged?  I noticed many of Arabs living in the West are so passive- in our communities wherever they are and doing the good as the community I live in defines it?  I just feel that we still think in the mindset of ideas that emerged a long time ago and were suitable at that time.  I have always thought that a good 21st century Muslim should not have signs for being religious as it is defined by society.  Instead we should be defined by our good actions instead of the facade of being religious that some Arabs do extensively, like not making eye contact with women as if he were trying to prove a point.  What do you think, Brother Tim?  I talked about the Arab community because that is what I know about.  I am not sure if what I said is relevant to the British community 

Brother Said Allan Bak: I do not understand why the Sufi option has to be minimalist shari’ah.  In my understanding, there can be no real taswawwuf without shari’ah; no inner purity without outer practice.  Maybe I have misunderstood Brother Tim’s post?

Brother Tim: You might be right historically, Brother Said Allan Bak, but traditional Sufi orders had to find an accommodation with their governments too which might explain their avowed orthodoxy.  I say ‘minimalist shari’ah’ because it developed hand in hand with an expanding Islamic empire meeting the needs of a medieval Muslim governed civil society, acting as a kind of metapolitics.  When shari’ah is deployed ideologically in Revolutionary Islamism and Recoil Salafism, it is highly politicised and used to eliminate difference within and without.  Why would anyone ever think a maximalist shari’ah would ever be compatible with European traditions that have their own history, philosophy, politics and ethics?

Brother Redhuan D. Oon: There is gross misunderstanding about ‘secularism’ or the separation of State from Church.  It reads as the separation of corrupt institution from decent rule over people.  I support such a fundamental description of secularism.  By the way, I am a Zen Muslim.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: As in all things, al-‘itidal, balance is required.  Since the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), there has been an inevitable specialisation of the various facets of the Diyn that were once mastered and embodied in the individual of the khulafa’.  But as the ability to master the wide reaching extent of Diyn, a separation of responsibilities occurred.  From the perspective of the Sunni, this is expressed in the painful transition and separation of the realm of political from that of the realm of spiritual when the Umayyad resumed the former whilst the inner khilafa’ remained with the Ahl al-Bayt.  Thus, henceforth, the process of departmentalisation ensured.  We should guard against the desire to find one presentation or effort the preserve an aspect of Diyn, and make it representative of the entire Diyn.  I prefer to see our Diyn today as a whole far greater than all its parts; all different fractions pulling this way and that many actually stepping outside of the hadd of Islam, but with the husn adz-dzann and ud’iyyah, we pray for all those praying towards the Ka’bah.  Like the pious man who told the serial killer he could be Forgiven if he left for another town where many pious people reside, the principle is that we should resist the inclination of prescribing what an ‘organic’ life force is.

Brother Tim: Moderate Sufism is organic and balanced, and can never be a prescription unless a physician of the soul is around of course.  When I call it an option, I mean that there is no compulsion but it may be rather foolish not to respond to the invitation.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Sufism has generally been considered a strand of Diyn rather than its entirety.  It does not deal with dealings and customs as such but rather the perfection of the quality of ihsan in these matters.

Brother Tim: But it is the strand the world needs most and I sense is the key to the kind of Islam that can take route in these isles.  I would never have become interested in Islam if I had started at the beginning, and trying to be Muslim as somehow politically different and superior is a recipe for disaster for ethnic minorities.

Brother William Voller: I would say there is a reformation right now, just as severe as the one in Europe.  There are three broad groups; the Puritans, the Moderates and the Traditionalists.  Words like ‘Salafi’, ‘Sufi’, ‘Shi’ah’, ‘Sunni’, ‘Hanafi’ and so forth, can actually be put in any of these.  Essentially, there are two irreconcilable poles reacting to modernity; the Moderates accept it, the Puritans reject it.  This conflict between the two opposites will define Islam, the Traditionalists are benign to the future of Islam.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Back to your question on what form of Islam will survive in the UK, and perhaps by extension, elsewhere, that depends on the people.  What form do we want to survive?  I would like something with a spiritual foundation and a greater emphasis on a relationship with the Divine.  Muslims have devolved their religion to mere sets of laws.

Brother Tim: How are the Traditionalist benign, Brother William?  That is interesting.

Brother William Voller: Brother Tim, they have no interest in modernity either for or against and as such will just quietly idle by while the war rages.  Just in case words cause confusion, the groups are: for modernity, neutral to modernity, and against modernity.

Brother Tim: It is the legalistic mindset of Islamists and Salafis that I am drawing attention to Brother Terence.  In the UK, that is what people see on the outside and I fear it is true on the inside.  In any case, do you mean Traditionalist as in adherents to the Perennial School?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I find this idea of Perennialism limiting.  It supposes that everything is equally valid.  Rather, we understand that there is an overarching, overwhelming Truth beyond any expression of faith.  Everything is limited in the face of Unlimitedness.

Brother Tim: Okay, thanks, but do you mean the likes of Guenon, Schuon, Nasr?  If so, they are a deep response to modernity but I agree they have chosen not to react.  I see Traditionalists as bearing seeds but not actually sowing them until the time is right.

Brother Terence, it is as if Traditionalists have agreed between them that apologetics and polemics between religions is a waste of time compared with the destructive sensate assault on ideational cultures.  So preserving metaphysics in the long term is more important than pushing back the tide of modernity.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Puritans are, ironically, those that usher in rapid modernisation.  It is as if the acceleration of changes necessitates clutching at an imagined distant past.  It is an appeasing facade of antiquity, like the gothic and classical architectures that housed the power engines of the Industrial Revolution.  Long polyester jubbah are an aspect of modernity just as plastic domes are that essentially hold out an embrace to rapid modernisation.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Why do we have the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity?  We should not be pushing back any tide.  We should be directing it.  God is not limited to a certain epoch.  Our conception of Him may be, certainly our understanding of the Divine Intent is most lacking.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The assumption that modernity is incompatible with Islam is dangerous but equally is the assumption that it is not.  The pace of change is so rapid and unprecedented the caution implicit in the world of Gai Eton, Nasr and Lings is something we should consider carefully.

Brother Tim: This is why my proposal above is seeking the best of both worlds in a British context.  The British people have not got time to watch another Reformation, let alone take part in one.

Brother William Voller: Legalism is fine, unless that is all there is!  Personally, I would like to see more of an ethical approach, less ‘this is haram’, but more the use of it in that way is immoral.  Which actually is how, I would argue, Islamic law is characterised.  I would think, Brother Tim, anyone who reacts with modernity in a positive creative way are the Puritans, probably like those you mention.  Anyone who reacts in a negative destructive way are the Traditionalists.  The Moderates just carry on uninterested and remains unchanged.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Yes, this is interesting.  The Puritans were first to propagate the e-shaykh; they are the biggest users of media.  It is more the material side they accept but the ‘intellectual’ side they reject.

Brother Haydar Gallaghan: Obviously a 4th stream where the vast majority of the Muslim community resides is a cultural and secular space that creates identity comfort zones out of ‘Islamic’ centres while allowing people to privately live as western as they want to be.  Most people are just trying to make a living and take care of their families.  The human being is the most remarkably adaptive of God’s creatures, and most of us have easily adapted to secularism.  All in all, there is a lot of complexity within communities that would resist simplifying into three discrete streams, or themes if you like.  The Qur’an Calls us to the middle way, which is either the most simple or most difficult path.  As is obvious to this observer, simple is difficult because we are not simple people.

Brother Tim: Very interesting thought, Brother Haydar.  Maybe this is a blind spot of mine unless that is an implication of my definition of Moderate Sufism as an integral middle way?  If it is a 4th stream, I want to call it something like Acquiescent Secular Islam as it seems to be about how any spiritual perspective is politically positioned by a sensate modernity AND postmodernity.

Brother Alexander Zoltan Homoky: Brother Tim, to my mind you have missed out something: Islam as the primordial way.

Brother Tim: Whoops!  That is an interesting one too, Brother Alexander; Islam as the primordial way is certainly part of a Perennial or Traditionalist frame of reference which we touched on above.

Brother Alexander Zoltan Homoky: And Brother Tim, I do not see that Perennialism or Traditionalism need be addressed.  You can if you wish, but we can stand on our own feet without -isms at all.  A way of being, not really a theology so much.

Brother Tim: I sees to mediate or moderate ‘new Right’ metapolitics which tends to cast Islam as the ideological enemy of primordial Europe par excellence, a Europe betrayed by a decadent liberal modernity, so I do need to articulate a theology of sorts, Brother Alexander.

Brother Alexander Zoltan Homoky: I see your predicament.  Perhaps the issue can be illustrated better with examples of action and conduct, rather than theology.  Localised justice and vision for the people, the necessity simply feeding caring and protecting them all, allowing them to worship and grow, living closely with the earth and water, knowing themselves; if one were to explore old Celtic ways from Europe as a whole, I believe that we would find common ground.  The issues may come with Greco-Roman comparisons.  Especially Roman, whose dominating and mechanical ways may conflict

Brother Tim: But what if I am a Greco-Romano-British Druid?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The idea of ‘being’ being so much more than what can be expressed is a question the category of which we are indoctrinated never to ask.  It is the idea that we have to understand what worship is to worship is where things started to go really pear shaped.

Sister Catherine Larsson: Can you clarify please? I am interested but unable to follow.  Brother Tim, what do you mean by ‘mediate or moderate ‘new Right’ metapolitics’?

Brother Tim: ‘New Right metapolitics' can be understood by looking at this kind of book which focuses on the influence of the French Groupement de recherche et d'études pour la civilisation européenne, ‘Research and Study Group for European Civilisation’, also known by its French acronym, GRECE ,an ethnonationalist think-tank, founded in 1968 by the journalist and writer Alain de Benoist.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Generally, we assert that there is purpose to our life and in a way, that purpose is worship.  But it is an error to claim we know what this servitude and worship is really.

Brother Colin Turner: Sometimes, instead of pondering endlessly what kind of lover we are, we should just concentrate on loving.

Brother Tim: Good point, Brother Colin, but only Moderate Sufism allows for loving the other as Revolutionary Islamism is based on hostility, and Recoil Salafism on competition.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Hostility is not absent from the prophetic way; Jesus (a.s.) evicted the corrupt from the temple.  Competition was alive amongst those who best understood the Divine Message.  Just as the oceans are vast, so is the expanse of Diyn.  We must endeavour to understand, but if our understanding does not diminish in relation to our ignorance of what Diyn is, then we are trying to understand something other than Islam.  In Britain, there is a great potential for a synergy that will bring something new, like the decadence of Persian Empire transformed into the culture culminating in the peak of the Abbasid or the Eastern Roman culminating it the peak of the Umayyad.  Decadence can be transformed but let us not impose our understanding on how it will be done.  Give birth to the new.  And one could also see the Ottomans as culmination of the coming to Islam of the central Roman Empire as well as the Mongol dynasties.

Brother William Voller: I was reading your definitions again, Brother Tim, and just thought that Revolutionary Islamism and Recoil Salafism were, maybe, the same?  Maybe, starting again, and thinking very much of boxes, we could say there is politics, law, philosophy and mysticism.  For each of these, one takes a stance of those using modern versions to create anti-modern versions with an Islamic badge; those welcoming modern versions and wishing to create modern versions with an Islamic badge; those who see Islam as complete and make no use of modern versions, repeating classical versions; and those that deny it as part of Islam.

So rather like Myers Briggs, you have a 16 point scale.  So, for example, maybe ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab was in terms of politics, among those who see Islam as complete and make no use of modern versions, repeating classical version; in terms of law, of those using modern versions to create anti-modern versions with an Islamic badge; in terms of philosophy and mysticism, among those that deny it as part of Islam.  Maybe Sayyid Quthb was in terms of politics, law and philosophy, among those using modern versions to create anti-modern versions with an Islamic badge; and in terms of mysticism, of those who see Islam as complete and make no use of modern versions, repeating classical versions.  These are just some initial thoughts knocking on the outside of a box looking to get in but I realise I am in a box knocking on a door looking to get out.

Brother Colin Turner: But what about what I outlined, Brother Tim?  What about, just Islam, an inner, other-worldly mysticism, and an outer, this-worldly, God-aware communitarianism?

Sister Mahshid Turner: Or we could just be Muslim.

Brother Tim: That just begs the question, Sister Mahshid.  In public discourse, the category ‘Muslim’ is not self-explanatory and does not enable people to differentiate different cultural forms of Islam.  It is almost an essentially contested concept so identifying as Muslim is the cause of as much confusion as clarity.  It does not even say anything amongst Muslims either, for that matter

Sister Mahshid Turner: Great!  There would be no categorisation, no nice little boxes to be targeted and manipulated.

Brother Tim: But it's actually a big box which is being targeted and manipulated, partly because of that kind of refusal to categorise.  It is the reason why Islamists give everyone else a bad name and why this group seeks to clarify the meaning of Islam on a daily basis.  It is also why certain brands of ‘Muslim’ are not tolerated here.

I fear Brother Abdulkareem C Stone’s comment above about including hostility & competitiveness is part of the same problem.  That kind of ambivalence is what attracts fear and suspicion in the west at the moment.

Sister Mahshid Turner: I beg to differ.  It is through labelling that they are easily able to stereotype and manipulate.  Does divide and rule ring any bells?  It is my humble opinion that we should respect our small differences within the fold of Islam - those who adhere to the main principles of Islam.  The journey of a Muslim is not static, therefore realistically it cannot be pin-pointed and categorised.

Brother Tim: Does not talk of divide and rule, a socio-political statement, indicate you conceive of Islam as a political entity?  I see Muslims asserting a mythical political identity or hiding behind the need for separate political representation as one of the key political issues of our times in the West and one of the most counterproductive for Islam.

Sister Mahshid Turner: Can we make any statement that would not be considered as socio-political?  The point I am making is that in order to be able to manipulate you need to categorise, similar to the idea for example, of ‘niche market’.  A bit like the punk culture who started out with their own ethos and then became nicely embedded into the status quo.  The unknown is much more difficult to manipulate.

Brother Tim: And when the malicious and malevolent hide in the unknown they corrupt it.  The true adherent to the unknown would not even mention it and certainly would not call it ‘Muslim’ in this day and age

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: We still have to digest what exactly post modernism is.  Focaut, Satre, and Heideggar are figures we have yet to resolve.  There were many problems with Aristotelian categorisations which were assimilated in to the Muslim worldview.  Plato’s dualism also has had a fundamental influence on classical Islamic thinking.  The damage done to that world view by Nietzsche has still to be resolved.  Postmodernism is a foot note to his works.  Heideggar, in many ways, shows us thinking as we commonly consider it is not suitable for really gaining a real grasp of what it is to be.  So if we cannot really articulate what it is simply to be, how can we articulate what it is to be Muslim?

Brother Colin Turner: Postmodernism is a myth; it is just a self-indulgent return to relativism in all of its forms.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: A great deal of certitude has been established on post-Socratic thought, a certitude that ushered in the belief that the entire nature of phenomena can be understood through reason.  That is, in essence, modernism.  The crisis of objectivity was and is really.  So much of what we take as objective is resting on the edifice of Greek thought.  Our classics are imbued with Artistoleanisms.  We have always tended to be swayed by the Hellenistic worldview and Scholastism.

Shaykh ibn ‘Arabi (q.s.) was getting far nearer to the truth with his work on wahdat al-wujud.  The idea of experiencing the truth of tasting it has a certain resonance with much of what the postmodernists were saying.  I have no problem with Allah (s.w.t.) having Objective Knowledge even if others have but what I like about the postmodernist is their attack on the claim human reason can obtain objectivity.

Brother William Voller: I would concur with Brother Tim that in English, we say ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’ to mean all, whereas with Christianity and peoples, we have all manner of categories such that Irish IRA Catholics would not be considered to attribute blame to all of the Euro-Christian civilisation: “This Muslim believes in murdering infidels”; “you are a Muslim”; quod erat demonstrandum, “You want to murder infidels.”  It becomes an obviously false argument if we are a different categories.

Brother David Rosser Owen: Sorokin’s generations in Chicago could work in the UK too, except for the resistance of the dominant ethnic group among the UK’s Muslim communities acting as a serious brake to acculturation.  I believe that this is exacerbating the sub-culture of anomie and dissociation among their youth and rendering them vulnerable to the blandishments of the Wahhabis with their simplistic, black-white-no-shades-of-grey paradigm.  Also there is a resistance within that community to accepting ‘ulama from any other community.  I feel, because I lived through it, though first-hand impression can often be wrong I admit, that the importation of the Tabligh al-Jama’at into the UK and their sweeping aside of the established British Muslim institutions in the 1960s and afterwards acted to further the resistance to acculturation.  This ethnic exclusivity is unIslamic as is their insistence on being described by the epithet ‘Muslim’ rather than the cultural descriptor; and the behaviour of many of the members of this community describes the reality of Islam for many of the native inhabitants of the British Isles.

Brother Tim: In my view, it is a form of naive romantic nationalism to insist that all Muslims are one.  Just picking up Brother David Rosser Owen’s point about cultural forms of Islam resistant to immigrant integration, which is the practical concern behind the original post, and my purpose for differentiating them, what if the Deobandi and Tabligh al-Jama’at movements in the UK are closest to the ideology of Zionism than Islam?  That is not as bizarre as one first might think.

A review of Faisal Devji’s Muslim Zion said, “Pakistan, founded less than a decade after a homeland for India’s Muslims was proposed, is both the embodiment of national ambitions fulfilled and, in the eyes of many observers, a failed state.  Muslim Zion cuts to the core of the geopolitical paradoxes entangling Pakistan to argue that India’s rival has never been a nation-state in the conventional sense.  Pakistan is, instead, a distinct type of political geography, ungrounded in the historic connections of lands and peoples, whose context is provided by the settler states of the New World but whose closest ideological parallel is the state of Israel.

A year before the 1948 establishment of Israel, Pakistan was founded on a philosophy that accords with Zionism in surprising ways.  Faisal Devji understands Zion as a political form rather than a Holy land, one that rejects hereditary linkages between ethnicity and soil in favour of membership based on nothing but an idea of belonging.  Like Israel, Pakistan came into being through the migration of a minority population, inhabiting a vast subcontinent, who abandoned old lands in which they feared persecution to settle in a new homeland.  Just as Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state, Pakistan is the only country to be established in the name of Islam.  Revealing how Pakistan’s troubled present continues to be shaped by its past, Muslim Zion is a penetrating critique of what comes of founding a country on an unresolved desire both to join and reject the world of modern nation-states.”

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: How can a person living amongst a socio-political construct not assert an identity within it?  We affirm the status quo or challenge it, we attempt to influence it or not, as we are socio political creature our position becomes part of our identity.  Salafi and Deobandi essentially affirm the status quo and encourage disengagement from directly challenging the hegemony of today.  Dress codes, especially concerning women, are stressed almost, I fear, as a way of occupying ourselves with matters other than really asserting a stronger socio economic identity.  The Deoband, for instance, have been the most sophisticated in Islamising banking from their centre in Karachi.  For me, Imam Taqi ‘Utsmani is the foremost Deobandi of today.  He has put forward the most convincing way in which we can assert our identity as Muslims without challenging the dominant hegemony.

As for the above Zion argument, there is validity to it, I, for one, heard at a Jama’at al-Islami masjid, the extraordinary claim that Pakistan was the first Islamic state after Madina.  But as to the assertion that the Tablighi al-Jama’at is Zionist in spirit, I find it strange.  In many ways, they are more 20th century than the Zionist ideology.  We find, in the strain of Islam leading out from Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad ‘Abduh, Muhammad Rashid Ridha, Hasan al-Bannah, Sayyid Quthb and Abu al-‘Ala al-Mawdudi, all Deobandi in essence.  They are far more postmodern, rooted in multiculturalist relativity that imploded at the beginning of the 21st century.  Their idea is that all culture can be reinvented or rehashed as all cultural religious expressions are relative just as long as the economic hegemony is never challenged.  The Salifist Deobandi teaches that our political reality is determined by our adherence to Islamic rituals; the political reality will correct its self once we correct our belief and practice.  ibn Ladin split from the Salifist policy of non-involvement in affairs of state.  Those that took over the Ka’bah in the 1970ss were distinct from mainstream Wahhabi doctrine.

So the Wahhabi movement does not want an Islamic state as such but rather, ironically, they want the opposite: for Muslims to hold on to an ‘identity’ but be fully incorporated into the status quo of the dominant hegemony , until our beliefs become so pure and free of shirk that Allah (s.w.t.) ‘Decides to Grant an Islamic hegemony’.

Brother Tim: I shall reflect on that, Brother Abdulkareem.  Thank you.  This is a personal issue as I am keen to distance myself politically from both the leftists who attacked me in Leicester and the conservative Muslims who thought they could take on the Town Hall politically, leaving me as a head teacher caught in the crossfire.  It is now clear to me that multiculturalism and Deobandi ideology are both dysfunctional in the UK.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: Well, as it stands, Leicester is the default model for British Islam.  It is a very sophisticated model and will take the lead for some time to come.  But it is rooted in multiculturalism and subsequent ghettoisation.  In many, ways it is far more insidious but its detrimental effects are far too subtle than simply branding it together with Saudi religious doctrine.  I reject the lumping of Tabligh al-Jama’at Deobandi with Wahhabism because it is far too simplistic and actually strengthens the Deobandi position by making its opponents seem unsophisticated in their argument.

Brother Colin Turner: The ‘states in the Muslim world which incorporate aspects of shari’ah in their legal systems’ are by and large states which have never been decolonised and which are run almost exclusively by Western lackeys and proxies.  The lip-service paid to the shari’ah is there to fool the gullible, and to an extent it works.  But not all will be fooled.  While Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), among others, said that the Muslim ummah may well see itself constituted as a multiplicity of states, emirates and sultanates, the unscrupulous observation of the shari’ah was not only a desideratum but an absolute imperative.  He also said that the caliphate was the ideal, and this has been echoed by most of our great scholars and thinkers. ‘Innama al-mu’minua ikhwan’ is the core of our oneness, and those who submit to Islam submit to the middle way as adumbrated by the Prophet (s.a.w.), whose ‘city-state’ at Medina was a blueprint - embryonic, perhaps, but a blueprint nonetheless - for pan-Islamic political unity and, as a corollary, a pan-Islamic political unit.  This remains the ideal, the normative fix, if you like, on paper.  It should remain our ultimate goal; anything less is a cop-out.

Brother Tim: I am not overly fond of Madina or Leicester so perhaps I am ‘copping out’.  Anything premised on religious world domination leaves me cold.  How would you say that the Deobandi model is more subtle and insidious, Brother Abdulkareem?

Brother Colin Turner: Who said anything about ‘religious world domination’?  The world has to be dominated by something.  Why not belief and submission?  So long as this is achieved organically, bottom-up, why would you oppose that?

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: I do not think Leicester presents any challenge to the dominant hegemony and has no to pretence to world domination.

Brother Tim: I hope I am not challenging belief and submission that is organic and grassroots.   I am just ultra-sensitive to how that is open to abuse from ideological constructions of Islam which have political agendas including rival ethnocentric civil societies, fostered under the protection of multiculturalism.  There is a book I intend to read to help me work through this which challenges both the idea of an Islamic state as a contradiction in terms and the nature of a modern state which radically compromises the moral framework of Islam: The Impossible State - Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament by Wael B. Hallaq.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The process of withdrawal from the apparatus of ‘the State’ in order to achieve autonomy from its autocracy is a delicate operation.  There have to clear aim and objectives that are viable and in recognition of the real world today.  The imagined utopia of ‘Madina’ is not so.  We have to retrace our steps to try and find a real source of autonomous power more resonate with Islamic values.  Recognition of the value of aristocratic and monarchical families is a step towards this.  We have to reassesses European history and disillusion ourselves with the Enlightenment values that turned in to the reign of terror.  The Deobandi attitudes that paint brushes out history except for a highly romanticised vision of what Madina was essential give carte blanch to the dominant ideals of the day.  We need, as a community, to understand our context to use language and history as a tool to empower us.

Brother Tim: I am trying not to project my own personal issues onto the world stage but very often, I gain perspective on my own preoccupations by taking a more macro-historical approach.  So for me, the categories are not about putting people in boxes but are more concerned with reading the signs of our times so that I can discern better how to make a modest difference as a somewhat idealistic teacher, God willing.

Brother Abdulkareem C Stone: The Deobandi and the Salafi share, at their being, the underbelly of thoroughly modern and corruptive forces.  They attenuate rebellion rather than rally forces against corruption.  Inverting the nature of corruption from its actual causes to an imagined immodesty of feminity.

Brother Tim: Has anyone done a study on how the Deobandi creed developed from an anti-British Indian nationalist reform movement, post Indian Mutiny, to becoming the mentors of both the Taliban and 80% of British-trained ‘ulama?

Brother William Voller: Anyone read Barbara D. Metcalf’s Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900, published by Princeton Legacy Library?

Brother Tim: I am conjecturing that the same theology that empowered Muslim resistance to British rule is the same as that which empowers South Asian immigrant resistance to integration in Britain, but I am prepared to be proved wrong.  And they decided the reason the revolt against the British failed was because their Islam was not pure enough.  In other words, a politicised puritan cultural form of Islam.  So they shed the richness of Mughal high culture, the integral Islam of India, which the British reprisals also did much to destroy, and made their faith political.

Brother William Voller: I have not read the book, Brother Tim.  It was just was one I wished to read and seemed poignant.  Interesting conjecture by the way.


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