The Sharing Group Discussion on Irshad Manji’s Islam

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

Sister Eleanor Grant posted this on The Sharing Group on the, 05th June 2015: “Rabbi to Irshad: Are you ‘really’ a Muslim?  She said, “I often get asked this question myself.  Well, less of a question more of an accusation.” 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Irshad Manji is not a Muslim.  Her theological positions makes it evident.  As such, her opinion on matters of the religion are irrelevant. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: How can you make that kind of judgement, Brother Terence.  Are you God’s attorney? 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I just did.  That is the purpose of studying ‘aqidah.  Where there are major variance in creed and an absolute discounting of the jumhur, there is no Islam because there is no submission.  One cannot claim submission to God by ignoring God’s Revelation.  That is hypocrisy. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: A very bold statement, Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, do you really think anybody is able to label a Muslim as such?  How are we really aware of this? 

Brother Kyle Williamson: Irshad Manji is not a Muslim. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Brother Kyle, it does not matter if I agree with her about Islam or not.  I have no right to claim she is not Muslim, and neither does anyone else. 

Brother Kyle Williamson: What makes her Muslim? 

Brother Fahim Ferdous Promi: What even are her beliefs? 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Good question.  What makes you Muslim? 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Brother Kyle Williamson, would you care to elaborate your reasons, please? 

Sister Eleanor Grant: She is a reformist, Brother Fahim. 

Brother Kyle Williamson: She does not even believe the Qur’an is the Word of God, for one. 

Sister Eleanor Grant, my belief in all the Sunni articles of faith is what makes me Muslim. 

Brother Fahim Ferdous Promi: Okay, that is a bit strange.  Believing in the Qur’an being the Eternal Word of God, spoken and recited verbatim, is one of the core tenets of Islam, right? 

Brother Kyle Williamson: Yes, which is why I pose the question to those who disagree what makes her Muslim? 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: This idea that we must accept everyone as a Muslim simply because they say so is nonsensical and impractical.  The religion has doctrines, guidelines and the Qur’an is Clear on many matters, explicit even.  People like Irshad Manji take the verses that she likes and ignores the ones she does not.  She makes wild claims about the Qur’an and the Prophet (s.a.w.) that are contrary to the truth.  Where is her Islam then?  It is a religion of her imagination.  For example, she claims that there are no limits to nikah.  This is contrary to the Qur’an.  She denigrates the status of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  That is also contrary to the Qur’an.  She has strong views on issues of jurisprudence, and yet, she has no knowledge of it.  She has ideas of “god”, but she does not know tawhid.  If Islam comes from the same root that gives us “salaam” and “aslam”, and her controversial manners affect the salaam, and she refuses the aslam, then what is the reality of her shahadah.  In her book, she does not even believe in the shahadah itself.  She has a vague conception of God, and some distant postman who delivered the Qur’an.  So where is her Islam?  It is a facade. 

It would be better for her and all of us that she admitted the truth: Irshad Manji does not believe in Islam.  She follows a separate, distinct faith that she chooses to call “Islam”.  She is not a Muslim since one cannot be a Muslim if one disavows the creed of the Muslims.  She does not believe in the articles of faith or the practices of ‘ibadah, and denies the status of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  To claim that such a person is a Muslim, and that her opinion on matters of the Diyn are somehow relevant, is either dangerous, foolish, or naive. 

Brother Colin Turner: If she does not believe that the Quran is the word of God, she is a disbeliever, plain and simple.  Give her as many tags as you like – “progressive”, “reformist”, “liberal Muslim” - the fact remains that in denying the Divine source of the Qur’an, she takes herself outside the fold of the believers. 

Brother Justin Taylor: She acknowledges the Divine Inspiration of Qur’an.  I do not know who this woman is.  I just watched a video of her before to see what the interest was about.  Hang on are all believers from Islam ?  What about the people of the book are they not believers also?  Would people describe good Christians and Jews as disbelievers ?  I am really surprised by the vehemence displayed towards her.  I think people want to be sure they are 100% right unless they are happy to eventually be told of what they differed. 

Brother Kyle Williamson: The Quran is not merely divinely inspired; is the literal Word of Allah.  Secondly we did not say she is not a believer; we said she is not a Muslim. 

Brother Colin Turner: To deny that the Qur’an is the word of God is to disbelieve.  It is kufr.  That may not make her a kafir, but as far as that particular principle of faith is concerned, she is a disbeliever. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: My favourite interview that includes her is by Mahdi Ridha Hasan.  In about the middle, she pontificates on “personal” ijtihad and equates Islam to whatever the believer thinks Islam is to them.  So in his follow up questions he asks, “So what is the difference between you and a Salafi?”  Her only response is to squawk.  He was spot on.  Salafis and progressives are two sides of the same coin who both trash a millennium of scholarship and carelessly water-down ijtihad into the hands of the layman. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I am not the sort to say that someone is or is not a Muslim on the basis of casual impression.  But I have read her works, I have listened to her interviews and I am aware of her position.  In any company of the learned, they would come to the same conclusion that she has left Islam.  As for whether she is a believer, only God Decides, but that is a different thing.  That status is only Given upon death when the books are closed. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: While their positions are different her strategy towards “Islamic reform” is the same as Ayan Hirsi ‘Ali. 

Brother Jon Beatty: The Reformist movement essentially uses the same types of arguments and scare tactics as Wahhabis that “Muslims are getting away from the Message” to intimidate people into accepting their dubious position on religion. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: You are right, Brother Jon Beatty, and they are also twins stemming from the same reactionary post-colonist thinking.  They claim to be polar opposites but the uncomfortable truth for both of them is they are two sides of the same coin.  There is only one media “Muslim” that irritates me as much as her and that's Thariq Fatah. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I have, thankfully, never heard of him. 

Brother Jon Beatty: They are birthed as a liberal reaction to the Wahhabi movement’s ever increasing media presence; they are as uneducated as the typical Wahhabi in traditional scholarship.  They assume that any secondary and tertiary text is somehow flawed and used to distort the Message yet they cannot even come to a proper scholarly conclusion on something as basic as prayer yet they want to be taken seriously as academics and intellectuals. Preposterous. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: He and Irshad used to be buddies until they made intellectual takfir on each other. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, he basically makes many of the same claims Irshad does.  If you “look” Muslim, or follow any traditionalist form of Islam, you are basically an evil and misguided person “chasing a mirage” of false Islam that leads to a violent Islamic State yet he claims to be a Muslim.  His book: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. 

Unfortunately, he gets too much airtime in Canada due to establishing Muslim Canadian Congress and his secular agenda.  There is nothing Muslim about his congress or himself.  His explanation of Islam and Muslims, like Irshad’s just creates more public confusion on who or what is Islam or Muslims and creates justifications for the public to perpetuate hate against Islam and Muslims unless they give up halal foods, throw off the hijab for a miniskirt, drink beer while watching hockey with your married gay best friends. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: You said, “Reformists are intimidating people into their position just like the Wahhabis do, using scare tactics.”  How is that, Brother Jon? 

Brother Jon Beatty: Your movement essentially holds the charge that “traditional” Muslims reject the “true” Message of the Qur’an that is a scare tactic for someone who is a believer.  You cannot prove your position with legitimate academics or scholarship, so you use those kinds of statements and tactics to attract followers who do not know any better. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Sister Jennah, have you heard Thariq or Irshad actually say that people should throw off their hijab for a miniskirt and drink beer? 

Brother Jon, how is saying that the Qur’an should be used as only source of guidance in Islam a scare tactic?  You would say the exact same thing to new Muslims about following Qur’an and sunnah, would you not? 

Brother Jon Beatty: None of you use the Qur’an only, most of you have not even read the Qur’an.  You are telling believers in the religion that acceptance of anything other than Qur’an is disbelief in the Message which for most says Hellfire.  That is a scare tactic, subversive or not.  I would tell new Muslims to find qualified teachers and not haphazard pseudo-intellectuals who think they know better than 1,400 years of scholarship. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: Yes, regarding hijab, it is in Thariq’s book.  It is available at most libraries.  He equates the hijab with being backward and unnecessary and implies those who support it are likely to be fooled into other “extremist” positions.  On his website, he is all for “personal freedoms” including the right for drinking alcohol and consensual sexual relations with no marriage necessary. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Okay, thanks, Sister Jennah.  I will have a read of that.  Does the Qur’an advocate not personal liberty? 

And Brother Jon, how do you know most progressives have not read the Qur’an.  I can assure you I read it every day and I study it very carefully. 

Brother Jon Beatty: On what basis do you study it?  Since you yourself have stated on many occasions that you reject the secondary and tertiary texts.  It is easy to see that most do not read it because it Says very Clearly to follow the Messenger (s.a.w.) but so many ignore those verses that do not fit into the mould of the Qur’an-only perspective. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Qualified teachers?  Brother Jon Beatty, so their qualifications are not due to studying the Qur’an, the Guidance from Allah?  Which would you agree is also available to every individual as it was sent down for “mankind”, and not particular scholars? 

Brother Ahsan Razvi: A year back, Thariq Fatah was in India, and the interesting part of his visit was that he had this massive support from Right-wing Hindu organisations. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Following the Messenger would be following his Message which was, of course, the Qur’an, since he is not present with us anymore.  Would this not be the correct way of following what he taught and followed? 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: While I agree with some of his assessment of the over glorification of the early Caliphate and that can led to troubles we have today with Da’ish - he wrote his book 2008 - he used the second half of his book to throw all traditional Muslims under the bus by lumping them with extremists or have extremist tendencies or even worse denying that “true” Islam has extremist tendencies.  Pamela Geller could not have said it better. 

Brother Jon Beatty: Sister Tyra, are you saying that mankind all have the qualifications to read the Qur’an in Arabic, and know all of the historical, cultural and linguistic understanding when reading the text?  If they do not, then no, they cannot interpret the Qur’an for themselves.  Whether the progressives like it or not, there are rules to interpreting a religious text and when you do not follow those rules you get huge misconceptions based on ignorance. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Qur’an does not advocate personal liberty.  It advocates liberty from attachment to the material world.  “Studying the Qur’an” would mean to me actually studying it, as in learning the Arabic, the context, the order of Revelation and its application.  Reading it like some book of poetry and then reflecting on your internal desires of what you want it to be is not studying the Qur’an, Sister Eleanor Grant. 

Quranists quote it out of context, throwing a translation of a verse here and ignoring another.  They have demonstrated a lack of understanding of the meaning of the words, coming up with fantastic “translations” that are not in line with the text, with the language and with the understanding of the people of knowledge.  It is wilful ignorance.  There has never been a Quranist scholar.  There has never been a Quranist intellectual.  There is nothing within this pseudo-movement that has anything of worth. 

Sister Jennah J'Amy McCracken: Brother Ahsan Razvi, the Canadian Conservatives love Thariq because they can use him to justify their fear and hatred of Islamists - Muslims. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Brother Jon can you elaborate on “rules to interpreting a religious text”, please?  Knowing Arabic is an advantage.  However, if I am unfamiliar with it, it is by no means a hindrance to understanding the Qur’an. I understand no scholar to have interpreted the Qur’an 100% but those who, holding the Qur’an with sincerity, wanting closeness with Allah (s.w.t.) is given its understanding because it is Allah (s.w.t.) Who Teaches the Qur’an should we want to learn. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Oh really, Brother Terence?  So when God Says, in Qur’an, that He has Given us free-will, what does this mean? 

Brother Ahsan Razvi: Sister Jennah, Thariq Fatah just feeds on the poison to anti-Muslim rhetoric and has been trying to create more fear against the Muslim minority in India, which could be very counterproductive. 

Brother Jon Beatty: There are rules of interpretation, ‘urf, context, history, is the verse general or specific, is it abrogated, and of course, language amongst many others and to derive a religious ruling that a society or individual can abide by.  You have to understand the principles of legal rulings, how the Qur’an is interpreted, any secondary evidences from the sunnah and compare everything first and looking at the strongest evidences as the principles of the madzhab dictate and only then can the individual deduce a ruling. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Allah (s.w.t.) Taught the Qur’an through an intermediary.  It was Gabriel (a.s.) to the Prophet (s.a.w.), and the Prophet (s.a.w.) to the swahabah, and so forth.  Did Gabriel (a.s.) or the Prophet (s.a.w.) come to any of you?  People have issues and confusion over ordering food at the restaurant.  They have issues with their life partners.  And then suddenly, in your akhirah, God “whispers” the truth in your heart?  That is deluded.  If we apply this type of understanding to everything, since “God is everywhere” why go for driving lessons?  God will teach you.  Why ask anyone for anything?  Why call the police or the fire brigade?  Why go to a doctor?  Why see anyone?  God will teach you. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: The Qur’an advocates liberty, free-will, with the caveat that we have to take responsibility for what we do and be willing to take the consequences of our actions.  It really is that simple.  I do not need to consult a scholar about that. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Very poor examples given, Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis.  People’s confusions are simply because they might not use their brain as its main function is to understand, learn and soak information.  Every qualified teacher is a human first before he became a learned individual.  Therefore, it is the same opportunity available to all humans.  We are talking about the Qur’an not driving, doctors or fires. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: I do not think the ancient people mentioned in the scriptures, such as the people of Noah, had to follow scholarly interpretations of the Message.  The Message was clear.  The believers jumped on the ship, the others perished. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Eleanor Grant, “liberty” does not mean “free will”.  Liberty” is from the French, “liberte”, and it means “freedom from authority”.  And that is exactly the Quranist mindset.  This “free will” in the Qur’an refers to us being Answerable for our actions.  So the Qur’an does not advocate liberty. The Qur’an Advocates following an authority, a guide. 

As for the case of the Flood, they had an authority, the Prophet Noah (a.s.).  That contradicts your point. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin, those are exactly the similitudes.  What gives you the assurance that your heart is not occluded?  Have you ever had your heart broken?  Was your heart so clear then?  And it is pertinent that you brought up the concept of a “qualified” teacher.  Are you qualified to interpret a translation according to your whims and fancies?  Please consider. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, with all respect to you and your intelligence and knowledge, the question is who is qualified then to interpret the Qur’an correctly and why is any particular individual deemed as qualified.  Whims and fancies cannot be taken into consideration by those whose intention it is to learn the Book of Allah. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: No, it does not contradict my point.  Noah (a.s.) was not an authority; he was a Warner. 

Brother Jon Beatty: So prophets are not authorities too? 

Sister Eleanor Grant: We obey the Warner if we believe.  The Warner of today is the Qur’an. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Are not the examples of every kind of Warners, Messengers and prophets given in the Qur’an?  Does the Qur’an not Make each example Clear by Revealing its results for those who obeyed and by those who disobeyed? 

Brother James Harris: Okay.  So the Qur’an can mean whatever I want it to mean, and scholars are merely pesky individuals who get in the way of my own personal interpretation.  If the meaning of a verse in the Qur’an can be given by any individual regardless of the logic of the argument, the book itself is thus rendered meaningless.  If I am the one who gives a verse its meaning, it has no inherent meaning. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Tyra Nasrin, this has been done before.  You might have forgotten, or more likely chosen to ignore it.  You should note that the Qur’an itself Tells us to take from those who know.  The sciences of the Qur’an begin with Arabic.  This includes nahu, swaraf and balaghah.  It requires knowledge of literary tools of the language and the Arabs.  The Qur’an itself States it was Revealed in Arabic to an Arab prophet. 

Next are the sciences of Revelation itself.  The verses of the Qur’an were not Revealed in a vacuum.  There is a context.  There is naskh wa mansukh, where the changing of circumstances cause some verses to be abrogated by others within set parameters.  There is a story behind every line, anecdote and tale there.  The Qur’an Itself Tells us to investigate and consider what was before.  There is a corpus of narrations that flesh out the circumstances of Revelation, the asbab an-nuzul.  They include the ahadits and the atsar.  This is a distinct, exacting science in and of itself. 

It is from this that we arrive at our religion as we know it.  That knowledge is built, one atop another, in an interlocking matrix such that one affirms the other, and anything that is doubtful is eventually discarded.  That is the miracle of the Qur’an.  First, there is the science of taswawwuf, where we consider our intent, and the Divine Intent.  It is about tazkiyyah an-nafs, the purification of the heart.  It is a purified heart that can understand the Qur’an.  From this, we extract the sciences of theology, of kalam, tawhid and ‘aqidah.  It is the science that separates the Muslims from the pretenders.  Finally, we come to the law, the shari’ah, and its application and formulation of rulings, jurisprudence.  One cannot learn the Qur’an in isolation, making up the religion along the way.  That is not Islam; that is a personal “ism” 

Sister Eleanor Grant, if prophets are not authorities, then you have contradicted the Qur’an.  What do you think “anbiya’” or “mursalin” mean? And where in the Qur’an does it state that the Qur’an is the “Warner”.  The Qur’an States, “We have Sent you as a Warner”, referring to the Prophet (s.a.w.), and thus making him an authority.  You cannot wiggle out of this with verbal gymnastics and semantics.  The Qur’an is a Clear Record, and the Arabic leaves no doubt. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Of course the Qur’an has inherent meanings!  Has anyone here denied that?  Who gave it those meanings?  Who has the power to convey those meanings to us? 

Brother Jon Beatty: Who needs Arabic, historical context, nahw, swaraf, balaghah?  Who needs legal rulings?  Just let a bunch of people who do not even read the book interpret it for themselves and reject what they do not want to follow and ignore what is clear and cherry pick verses that they believe are meant only for them.  If you do that, why even follow a religion at all?  Or claim a religious identity? 

Brother James Harris: You asked, “Who gave it those meanings?  Who has the power to convey those meanings to us?” You tell me.  I would be interested to know. 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: What is the difference between two individuals who study the Qur’an, one who has no title to his name and one who is known as a scholar, learned individual and qualified teacher, bearing in mind both have studying the Qur’an for the same number of years?  Who or what authority deems anyone a qualified teacher of Qur’an? 

Brother James Harris: The most qualified does not require a title, it is a person who has the soundest and most logical arguments.  That means someone who has done some study, but the issue of titles is irrelevant. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Perhaps Quranist believe that an infinite amount of monkeys sat somewhere and typed it all out and we can all just decide what words and phrases mean to justify what we wanted to do all along, and then blame God.  Why bother to have a religion? 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Great so as well as accusing me of not being a Muslim, you are also accusing me of being a liar, Brother Terence. Nice. 

Brother Jon Beatty: Do any of you Quranists have a fluent grasp of Arabic?  Or have you studied Arabic grammar even basic stuff like al-Ajrumiyyah? 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Who are the Quranists, Brother Jon and can you find such a word within the Qur’an or hadits? 

Brother Jon Beatty: Sister Tyra, I am talking about you and Sister Eleanor, the ones who claim ijtihad on the Qur’an based on whims and emotions.  Can either one of you read, write or speak fluent Arabic?  Do you have the basic rules of Arabic grammar? 

Sister Tyra Nasrin: Brother James Harris, he is a simple individual and thank you for jumping to conclusions via your assumptions. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Yes, Brother Jon.  I understand the rules of Arabic grammar.  There are countless people who understand Arabic but do not understand the Qur’an. 

Brother James Harris: So are you saying that if something is not mentioned in the Qur’an or hadits, then it does not exist? 

Brother Jon Beatty: Which texts have you read on Arabic grammar?  And where did you study Arabic? 

Brother James Harris: For me personally, it does not really matter where you have studied.  What is important is a proper argument. 

Brother Jon Beatty: I do not think she has studied anywhere, since she regards scholarship as a farce anyways. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: There is a huge difference between studying a language and accepting religious scholarship. 

Brother Jon Beatty: Sorry, but you reject religious scholarship purely because it does not succumb to your desires.  You have no legitimate reason to reject the experts of the religion and the language other than an issue of nafs.  I have never seen you post anything academic or of any substance to substantiate your ridiculous claims to how the Qur’an is interpreted. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: I am tired of debating with people who use ad hominem arguments. 

Brother James Harris: I have seen the same things keep getting pushed again and again on the threads regardless of how flimsy they are, and shown by others to be so.  Arguments are thus made purely on the basis of ideology, regardless of the facts.  Sister Eleanor, you have never once acknowledged that another person here has had a sound argument in relation to an issue if that person is a Sunni or Shi’ah Muslim.  That suggests to me your position is determined on the basis of ideology alone, even if your arguments are shown to be indefensible.  What is the point of discussing a matter if we are going to just push an ideology and ignore what others say? 

Brother Jon Beatty: You pick fights all the time, Sister Eleanor, and now the heat gets turned up on you to produce evidence for your position, you tuck tail and run.  If you do not want to get bit, do not poke the bear.  You pull this same game every single day and you get the same answers.  Now you are being asked to produce academic evidence for your position and you accuse others of ad hominem. 

Brother James Harris: I am afraid, Brother Jon is right about the issue of you leaving the argument without resolving it.  Ignoring what others say and leaving an argument without acknowledging this, and then turning up again to say the same things on another thread is intellectually dishonest. 

Sister Sabine Es Schwarz: Brother Jon, you said, “Do any of you Quranists have a fluent grasp of Arabic?  Or have you studied Arabic grammar even basic stuff like al-Ajrumiyyah?”  This has been discussed to death here.  A large number of so-called Quranists are native Arabic speakers, many with a traditional Sunni background.  ‘Aishah Musa’s book, which I have referenced numerous times, does a good job of analysing the Quranist movement and its various branches. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: Yes, my position is based on my ideology.  What is wrong with that?  I suppose my expectation that I can have a logical debate with people here is disappointing me.  I do not use personal attacks about people’s intentions and character in my comments.  So yes, I will tuck in my tail and run at this point. 

Brother Jon Beatty: You do not have logical arguments.  That is the point: you have never produced evidence ever. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I have read that book, Sister Sabine Es Schwarz.  Being fluent in modern Arabic or any of its dialects does not make one fluent in Classical Arabic, as Brother James Harris can attest.  Her points are flawed and easily refuted. 

Sister Eleanor Grant: I have failed to see evidence from you, Brother Jon.  So ditto. 

Sister Sabine Es Schwarz: My point is that many people insist that most “Quranists” are Western converts who have no clue about traditional Islam – but this is simply not true.  Regardless of how you feel about Quranism, such statements just show ignorance.  The last thread about this topic had over 500 comments.  I do not think there is much to add. 

Brother Jon Beatty: Sister Eleanor, that is because you do not read anything I type.  I produce evidence quite often.  You are mad because people do not blindly accept your position or your points, because you do not bring any.  You present yourself as some sort of intellectual and rational thinker, when in reality your positions are all over the place and you cannot keep one shred of consistency but you have this insane demand of being taken seriously.  If you do not like people coming at you with these arguments, then do not bring them to the table day after day and ignore what people are telling, particularly people who have dedicated years of their lives to studying the religion.  You are in no position to argue anything.



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