Monthly Archives: July 2010

Friday Sermon: The Rights & Responsibilities of Brotherhood Pt. 7b: Prohibition of Desertion

Friday sermon delivered by Shaykh Jihad H. Brown on 15 January 2010, continuing the Brotherhood series.

Listen Here:

Download Here: Brotherhood Pt.7b [Mp3 – Running time: 31:59 | Size: 43.9 mb]


Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt. 3

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | July 10 2010 | The National

In what has preceded, we have spoken of how Muslim identity should be defined by a “grounded authenticity”, as opposed to ideology, “identity politics”, or orthodoxy.

If we look closely at the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, we can easily see that this identity pivots on three underpinning modalities; that of autonomous-uniqueness, healing, and enlightenment.

We began talking about autonomous-uniqueness and how it derives from the concept of stranger-ship in the prophetic “hadith” literature.

The Muslim is set apart from the crowd, not susceptible to “herd” mentality. She is thoughtful, and chooses her course of action based on reasoned consideration of both right and wrong, as well as priorities and goals. She is not a bystander; when a situation requires action or intervention, when others are content to turn away, she steps in to do the right thing.

The Muslim is part of the world yet not “of” it. He has one foot in this world and one foot in the “unseen”. He is detached from the material world – it is not the target of his aspiration – while he maintains a deep-seated concern for the well-being of its people.

The Muslim is awake to his moment and not sleeping through life. He is alive, his heart hasn’t died from cynicism or nihilistic-scepticism. The Quran refers to this when it asks: “Is the person who was dead and we imbued him with life and made for him a light by which he walks amongst the people like another, lost in darkness, unable to find a way out?”

The Prophet Mohammed startled his companions with a new twist on an old Arab saying. After driving home to them a new sense of fairness and responsibility, especially for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, he said, in a seemingly unexpected turn: “Come to the aid of your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed.” Dumbfounded, they said that, based on his teachings up to that point they could understand how to assist when he is oppressed, but how so when he is the oppressor?

“Stop him from his oppression,” he replied point blankly.

As a result of this perspective, the believer is not a party to conflict and in most instances will not take sides, but will remain an impartial observer. This is because in almost all circumstances of conflict, both sides are in the wrong in some way.

It is the calling of the Muslim as “stranger” to advise both parties in conflict as to the best course toward amenable and sustainable resolutions. The preference is always to move matters toward a diplomatic solution. The Quran says: “If your opponent inclines toward peace, then you also so incline.”

From her vantage point as “stranger” or of “autonomous-uniqueness”, the Muslim is a factor of balance in a world that abounds with catalysts toward chaos. “Islam” means submission to the natural harmony of the cosmos despite the rebellious element in the human ego. It is when people are convinced to relinquish resistance – to the natural order – and align themselves with “original harmony”, that peace prevails.

But this is not a mere détente, or “absence of conflict”, it is a sustainable and balanced peace of hearts and minds.

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | July 03 2010 | The National Newspaper

Last week we spoke about problems of ideology, identity and orthodoxy, specifically politicisation of religion as an ideology, or using it as a vehicle for identity politics, or the suffocating effects of “command and control” orthodoxy.

We mentioned the need for an alternative approach, one that could provide us, instead, with a “grounded authenticity”. What is required is an approach to religious experience that connects people to the source – the wellspring – of meaning, such that it can be effective, significant and rewarding in their lives.

What is required is a coherent and holistic system that makes sense of complex reality as well as suggesting a framework for an effective ethical programme to engage with that reality. This is what religion should provide.

Any faith-based programme should be rewarding and transformative in both the lives of those who subscribe to it, as well as the context of relationships around them.

Once we have freed the identity of the Muslim from political ideologies, ethnic utilitarianism and doctrinal policing, it becomes free to pivot upon three timeless meanings: autonomous-uniqueness, healing and enlightenment. It is my contention – upon a close reading of primary sources – that the core identity of the believer is found in their being unique, a healer and an educator.

It is this first quality of autonomous uniqueness that I would like to touch upon here. The believer is meant to be a stranger in the world. The motif of the wayfaring traveller abounds in primary literature, but it is the allegory of stranger-ship that I believe strikes the most profound chord. The Prophet mentioned that this Way (deen, meaning Islam) began as a stranger and will return as it began; therefore, the felicitous outcome will be for the strangers.

Just as the Prophet was unrecognised by his own people at the outset of his mission – even though they had always referred to him as the Truthful and Trustworthy (Sadiq Amin) – so too will the Way of Islam return at the end of time unrecognisable by its own people.

One could say that this is the situation of Islam today. For this reason, it is not only non-Muslims who stand to benefit from revisiting what it means to be Muslim, but Muslims themselves need to carefully consider this.

The meaning of “stranger” here is to be unique yet accessible, a free and autonomous soul yet disciplined, to be detached from the world yet concerned for it, unaligned and impartial yet faithful to fairness and truth.

At the heart of this “stranger-ship” is the Islamic concept of “freedom” (huriyyah). But far from being a modern political ideology, freedom here means freedom from attachments. Especially, attachments to things other than the Eternal; things that would divert the believer from higher purposes.

This freedom from attachments appears to imply a complete divestment from all other affiliations; however, this is not exactly the case. The Way of Islam accommodates affiliations, whether they be tribal, family, ethnic or even national. The difference is that the stranger is not owned by his affiliations; instead, he owns his affiliations and deploys them in the service of his higher purposes.

The Muslim “as stranger” is not susceptible to the “herd” mentality, nor are they a bystander. The consciousness of higher purpose leads to a conscientiousness of action. Faith becomes transitive, not just a source of individual benefit, but a driver that encourages the believer to be a functional asset to community and society.