Category Archives: The National Articles

Weekly articles and pieces Sheikh Jihad writes for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi

We Need to Learn From Our Mistakes

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown ~ 06 Nov 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

An elderly scholar in the research library of an elite European university joined me at my table in the tearoom recently. During the course of our conversation he confided in me that Islam appears rather illogical to him. His choice of words caught me a bit by surprise; a significant portion of my own theological training was in logic.

When I asked him to elaborate, he said it just doesn’t make sense, what with all the terrorism and extremism. Before that moment, I really thought we were about to have an intellectual discussion about divine causality and determinism or something.

I responded that Christianity was equally enigmatic for me, what with the Inquisition, killing people because they don’t believe the exact same way and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, inspired by God to cut off people’s lips and ears. Even Robert McNamara, who before becoming US defence secretary during the Vietnam War helped plan the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which decimated 150,000 civilians, was a church-going Christian. I added that there are evangelical congregations that support illegal invasion and wreaking havoc on foreign populations as God’s work; not to mention western missionary groups arming and supporting secessionist movements throughout the Third World and inciting religious strife in East Asian countries. My interlocutor had enough; the conversation became more reasonable, more logical.

These people, we agreed, are no more representative of the Christianity of Christ than radical extremists who would harm civilians are of the Islam of 1.57 billion Muslims in the world.

Man is frail and imperfect. The Quran says: “Man has been created weak.” Mistakes will be made. But the best men are those who acknowledge the mistakes, seek forgiveness, give forgiveness and move on. Learning from mistakes helps to ensure that they will not happen again.

But creating elaborate explanations for why things took place, for example, the decimation of 150,000 people on two separate mornings, does not empower us to learn from the mistakes of the past, or to ensure that it never happens again. Were there not children in those two cities? Were there not women? How is this justified? Not just this particular example, but any other event of mass intolerance or illegal killing.

Our collective habit of fact-avoidance prevents a more enlightened, more peaceful future. And the tension and confliction of what actually transpired remains in the hearts of the witnesses. It brews there as long as the wider world avoids the facts, and continues to prefer made-for-prime time mythologies. It makes healing impossible and healing is always what is needed.

There have been successful models of acknowledgment, learning and healing. Truth and reconciliation programmes, the Holocaust consciousness campaign, have all helped to ensure that “never again” will such things happen on our watch.

Crimes that injure whole populations are wounds to the body of humanity. But fact-avoidance is the infection. It may be, that quite often, extremist violence is the very pus produced by a wound. If we continue to neglect wounds, they are sure to fester.

It’s about leadership, which is about responsibility and accountability. It’s just got to start.

We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. Learning can’t happen when we continue to construct elaborate mythologies around our collective consciousness.

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Domestic abuse is not condoned by Islam

Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown ~ 30 October 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

For anyone who might ask, “Does Islam condone domestic abuse?”, the answer is a resounding, “No, of course not”.

Violence committed against women by an intimate partner is a crime. Unfortunately, it is an all too common one worldwide. In the United States alone, 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by someone they know every year. It is important not to paint a picture that is tragically all too common the world over onto a single society.

For anyone, Muslims included, who operates under the assumption that Islam gives a husband licence to beat his wife, this is a misreading of the Quran.

The Quran says about itself that it comprises verses of clear and apparent meaning, muhkamat, and verses of ambiguous, unapparent meaning, mutashabihat.

The Quran goes on to say that only those in whose hearts is an illness pursue the ambiguous verses. The rule is that we understand the ambiguous verses in terms of the clear and comprehensive ones.

The single verse in question seems to allow for something called darb. This has been translated as “hit”. The problem is, the Quran said darb, not “hit”, because the Quran wasn’t revealed in English. What darb is in this single instance is ambiguous.

The situation becomes even more complicated when we see all of the more numerous references and injunctions to treat women well. “Treat them with loving kindness,” “Take heed for the good treatment of women,” “The best of you are the best of you to your families,” the purpose of the marriage bond is that “you might find peace and tranquillity in one another”. What kind of darb involves loving kindness, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t involve hitting.

The interpretation of any single instance of revelation must involve reading the entire tradition of scholarship as a whole, the Quran, the Sunnah, and the corpus of jurisprudential law.

We have explicit statements of the Prophet Mohammed reproaching anyone who might abuse his wife. The Quran states clearly that every “child of Adam” has been ennobled by the very fact of creation. This is inclusive of every human being.

The conclusion of jurisprudence is that it is unlawful in Islam to abuse, injure or insult the dignity of one’s wife.

At the same time, the Islamic view does advocate a male head-of-the-household model for the family. This demands of men that they be responsible leaders.

Leaders are also advised to take the opinion of those for whom they are responsible into consideration when making decisions that affect everyone. All the same, the leadership of any group is one, and the final decision about the well-being of the family lies with the leader.

Making the right match for marriages is important. Everyone, men included, can find someone in whose leadership they are inspired.

Injuring or abusing one’s spouse is a criminal act, full stop. When conflict and disagreement in marriage reaches a point where people feel they need to hit one another, that’s the point when it’s time for divorce. If we are ambiguous on this point, it will lead people to falsely believe that they have licence.

At any rate, we all know the real score here: we’re just asking our sisters, be gentle with the brothers, too.

Are Muslims Afraid of Their Own Shadow?

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown ~ 25 Sept 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

(This is the full, unedited version)


When we used to be American Muslims we hated our own freedom. In the phrase

of the time, “they hate our freedom,” American Muslims were both the “they” and

the “our”. Such a contradiction in terms is probably a good sign that there’s

something awry with the original premise. Not that that helps much in a country

that counts amongst its most popular shows, “Are you smarter than a fifth

grader?”

Now that the fear mongering in American right‐wing circles has gone viral

amongst the entire public, will Muslims succumb to the same fear? Will Muslims

begin to fear Islam just as much? Will they begin to fear their own selves? The

symptoms have begun to manifest.

The reason for this escalation of what is being called “islamophobia” is all too

familiar. Historically, when societies have gone through disaster or crisis they

have turned on their minorities like the pogroms of 19th century Russia or

Japanese internment in the 1940s. It is an almost ritualistic scapegoating

exercise that hearkens back to ancient times.

Americans are going through a period of uncertainty. Economic downturn and

joblessness are causing them to feel scared and question their future. It is

unfortunately unsurprising that they would seek out a scapegoat when the

impotency of right‐wing politicians to provide the promised solution shows

itself.

But if Americans are uncertain about themselves and their future, and happen to

lash out in desperation, it shouldn’t be a cause for Muslims to be uncertain about

their own selves or spiritual culture.

Unfortunately, in an unprecedented loss of nerve, many Middle‐class and elite

Muslims have contracted more islamophobia than the islamophobes. Distancing

themselves from their own religious and cultural identity in a bid to “pass” or fit

in. Even some Muslim countries are trying to marginalize religious practice and

culture or sweep it under the rug altogether as if it were a condition to prove

their worthiness to be picked from the line outside on the pavement to cross the

velvet ropes into the club of glamorous nations.

With the rapacious bellicosity of the state of Israel, the “self‐hating Jew” is a

historical relic. You now have the self‐hating Muslim all decked out for the

minstrel show.

Muslim elites have always tried to distance themselves from their religious and

cultural identity. But never to any avail. Leaving Islamic institutions and native

cultural discourse to embarrassing “lay‐readers” or fixated radicals eventually

backfires on us all.

Instead, Muslims should embrace a robust identity and invest in a rich heritage

that promotes a dynamic, effective, and ‘switched‐on’ discourse. When tomorrow

they sit at the table when company comes, everyone will see how beautiful they

are.

Muslims could gain from the advice of francophone American writer James

Baldwin, in a letter to his nephew in America, “Please try to be clear, dear James,

There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no

basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The

really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that

very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love. For these

innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history

which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be

released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable

reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know

better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they

know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this

case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of their

identity.”

New Taboos and Lost Words

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown ~ 18 September 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a global village. At least not when you’re from the wrong side of the tracks. People are constantly trying to judge you through the lenses of their own glasses. Didn’t their mothers ever tell them that it’s not good to share your prescriptions with others? It will ruin your eyesight and cause myopia.

Myopia, that’s the best way to describe the village when people start forgetting how to be good neighbours, or just become downright ignorant. People need to listen, understand and comprehend before shooting off at the mouth.

Hubris, self-indulgence, and narrow-mindedness have joined forces with irresponsible media and the scholastically impaired to give us all a new catalogue of taboos. As Muslims, we are losing meaningful words from the vocabulary of our worldview as they are being rebranded and re-shuffled by self-appointed pundits who have not thought to make an effort to understand them.

In our effort to join the cosmopolis of the new global village we are losing our words along the way. Words like “jihad”, rebranded by one-eyed “experts” in the valley of the couch potatoes as “holy war”. How do you get holy war from the linguistic root, “j-h-d”? It used to mean, “to make an effort”. Within the classical teachings of Islam it always meant, “to expend every effort to do what is right and preserve what is good”. Now one might say that “good” is a subjective construct. But come on, lying, cheating, and hurting others, other than Wall Street and a few transnational corporations … most normal people the world over are in agreement that those things are not good.

Recently we’ve witnessed anti-Muslim demonstrators holding up placards with the word “sharia” painted to appear like dripping blood. Wow, what’s “sharia”? Is it an evil set of draconion rules and regulations hell-bent on suffocating our happiness? Is it a catch-all for all things we think are mean or clash with our own “me generation” pop culture? Sharia used to mean a pathway that leads to a source of water. The Quran says, “from water We have made every living thing.” It also says: “For everything [in the cosmos] we have made for it its own sharia.” So if your Sharia is not leading you to something life-giving and wholesome, then it is not a Quranic sharia.

Look, I don’t mind if we criticise “the radicals”. Even though “radical” used to be a word held in somewhat high regard in the 1980s. It’s the bending and manipulating of our words and concepts that I have a problem with.

Because words like these are being made into new taboos, and with the help of visual media to be associated with viscerally negative connotations; there is an assumption that it is socially incorrect to use them. Muslims now feel they must adopt these assumptions by jettisoning these words, and unfortunately, the real and correct concepts behind them. In their own minds they are replacing them with the “re-definitions”.

This is very tragic. It’s not the way to rectify extremism or achieve enfranchisement, because where will it end? Even “hijab” has become a taboo concept at every metal detector, randomly, of course. What’s next, “mosque”, the Quran, your name?

The only viable solution is for Muslims to reclaim these words and re-establish the original concepts behind them. To retreat from our identity and the meanings that underpin it will secure complete loss. To move forward will require resolve, courage, intelligence, sensitivity and foresight.

If we retreat, the extremists win. Both the ones that run around with guns in the Ozarks or rant out their latent racial angst at “tea-party” rallies and the ones that run around with guns in caves in Afghanistan or bite and burn flags at pointless demonstrations.

Muslims Between Labels & Identity

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | 04 September 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

A myriad of affiliations abound in the life of a Muslim. Some people identify with their country, some with their favourite sports club. Others identify with their ethnicity or tribal loyalties, still others with their career or preferred musical genre.

But all these operations of “identifying with” are only skin deep. They can only go so far to explaining who a person actually is, let alone their worth as a human being. They are more like labels, brands or tags by which a person can be categorised in the appropriate file.

The question of “identity”, however, is a much different and deeper issue. First, it is one of the primary investigations of metaphysics in philosophy. It has to do with the essence or quiddity of a thing, meaning the qualities that fundamentally make it what it “is”, and without which, it would lose its identity.

In Arabic we call this the huwiyyah, the innermost dimension of a person that indicates his reality. The term mahiyyah is also used to refer to “that by which a thing is what it is”.

For example, Muslim scholastics accepted the definition of the human essence as “the rational animal”. But “animal” in Arabic means anything infused with life, hayawan. So it would mean a living rational entity. Or in the case of the human being we could say “the rational soul”; as ensoulment is the key differentiator from common animal life; and the rational mind is actually a faculty of the soul.

The 20th century German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, referred to the state of being particular to the human person as da-sein, “being there”; the defining principle of da-sein is that it is the only thing conscious of its own being, and for whom its own being is an issue for it.

Any discussion of Muslim identity must begin from this level of inquiry. It must be about “being” something, beyond labels and sound bites. Allah refers to people of spiritual consciousness as ulu albab, people of core, people of substance. This is more than a fashion, or a “stylisation”. For example, the realisation of ultimate unicity is defining for the Muslim. The consciousness that everything is returning to a single point of causal-ontological unity, and that this is the source of equilibrium in the universe.

Another example is that the meaning of peace in Islam comes from the human being’s submission to the natural order of the universe. Only the human being can resist order. So when he relinquishes resistance, he comes into harmony with the rest of the cosmos.

It is from here that the meaning of human being in Arabic obtains. Insan is the one who has achieved inner harmony by becoming fully human and so everything in the cosmos finds comfort (uns) in him.

When it comes to identity, finding the right place to begin the discussion is the goal. All I can offer here is a start. Bringing it to a conclusion is for others. Regarding the essence of the Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad famously described a good companion as like a perfume vendor. Even if you don’t purchase anything you still come away smelling fragrant just from his company.

Perfumes are made from the distilled essence of the plant or flower from which they come.These thoughts echo in the words of the poet who said, “If the fragrance of His remembrance is diffused in the West, and in the East is a sick man, he willed be cured from his illness.”

The Killing Fields of Iraq in Ramadan

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown ~ 28 August 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

Disgusted. This is the immediate impression upon receiving the news of this past Wednesday’s bombing spree in Iraq. One day after official American combat operations ended in Iraq we receive news that co-ordinated bombing attacks in 10 locations throughout the country claimed the lives of more than 50 people in a matter of hours.

Really? In Ramadan? Each and every target was a Muslim, including the women and children caught in the crossfire. The wounded and maimed were twice that number; each and every one of them Muslim.

These are not foreign combat troops who have invaded a sovereign nation in violation of international law to exploit its natural resources. Each and every one of these people was fasting. Each and every one of these people had plans for iftar that evening with their families.

Where is this taking us? What type of logic is this? To anyone that may still be impressed with such actions, I say: You are an embarrassment.

The Quran is explicit that it is forbidden for one Muslim to kill another; and the punishment for such a crime is damnation.

Islamic scholars have been under pressure to excommunicate any Muslim guilty of taking an innocent life in an act of terrorism. To this point, they have resisted such efforts out of deference to scholarly integrity. You see, to take an innocent life is a heinous crime and major sin that must be atoned for in the hellfire and its perpetrator subjected to capital punishment in this life – and their family to humiliation as an unintended by-product. But you see, none of this entails that the criminal has forsaken belief in God.

However, this is different. There exists a clause in Islamic law that anyone who rejects something necessarily known of the religion becomes a kafir (disbeliever). Anyone who would suppose it permissible to kill another Muslim would, by means of such a belief, put themselves beyond the pale.

This is the reality behind the Prophet’s statement that when two Muslims face off in conflict, one of them killing the other, both of them will be in the hellfire.

When will these ignorant people realise that in Islam, it’s not about winning? It’s about living one’s life in harmony with the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. It’s about making the right choices in the circumstances that have been thrown to you.

Part of that is knowing when to stop. Part of that is knowing how to accept defeat gracefully; without every principle of my faith also becoming a casualty. Truth may be the first casualty of war for a non-Muslim, but not a Muslim. No such war is worth fighting. If I win the battle having sacrificed and desecrated every principle given to me by my Creator (for whom I claim to fight), then I have failed, and I become a victorious loser.

Really? In Ramadan? Is this not enough to demonstrate that in no uncertain terms, terrorism can never be termed “Islamic”?

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt.6

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | August 13 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

In this series of articles over the summer, we have been treating the three elements that comprise a new way of looking at the identity of the Muslim. We spoke of the Muslim as “stranger-in-the-world”, being in the world yet not “of” the world; how he or she is not bound by affiliations or attachments, but instead, a moral-ethical agent. We spoke of the Muslim as a healer, mending broken relationships and restoring balance to the systems and ecologies that make up our world and society.

The third element that rounds out the calling of the Muslim in the world is the Muslim as educator or teacher. Knowledge and its people are praised throughout the Sacred Text. After the infamous Battle of Badr, prisoners of war were told by the Prophet Mohammed that they could earn their freedom by teaching 10 Muslims to read. Such is the emphasis on learning and teaching in Islam.

Ignorance is a barrier to freedom. A person without understanding of the reality around him is easily cowed by the darkness of what he does not know. He is easily manipulated and unable to chart his own course through the world.

The mission of the Prophet is over and over again described with the motif of bringing people from darkness to light. Ignorance and misinformation, in the way it curtails people’s options and possibilities is akin to the dark. Knowing, on the other hand, is daylight, unobstructed sight.

But there is more to it. Knowledge has become a commodity in our pragmatic utilitarian world. Education has become a business. For the consumer, it is often only a vehicle represented by the certificate or degree denoting that the right configuration of hoops were jumped. It has been reduced to a means toward more valuable, usually material ends.

The commoditisation of knowledge in the Muslim world is one of the factors that aids and abets extremism. Without an intellectual culture, the human being becomes a machine, devoid of meaning. Knowledge, the source of meaning, becomes no more or less important than its pragmatic utility.

In the Islamic conception, knowledge is an end in itself. The state of knowing and active contemplation of reality is a form of worship. The contemplative adoration of the divine presence is one of the highest forms of devotion. It is the state of the Muslim in prayer and is what Muslims are engaged in when they stand at night in the tarawih prayers of Ramadan. Of course people vary in their degrees of access to these vistas of meditation and beholding. It remains a factor of learning, teaching, and discipline.

Knowing, the active form of knowledge, is a fulfilment and completion of being human. The intellect and soul are what distinguish us from animals or inanimate objects. Many are the vegetables walking through life in a heedless daze.

Without knowing we are incomplete. Facilitating knowledge is the vocation and calling of the Muslim in the world. So much of what divides human beings and causes conflict between them is ignorance and misunderstanding. Ignorance is a source of discord in the world and knowledge is a source of healing. Of course, knowledge as healing presupposes the knowledge of the correct uses of what is known.

Abuse, and the abuse of knowledge, is a factor of correct or incorrect teaching and the organic or inorganic nature of the learning process. The emphasis that traditional Islam places on the relationship between the teacher and the student cannot be over-emphasised.

The Prophet famously said: “This material world is forsaken, and everything in it is forsaken; except the contemplation of the Divine Reality, and the teacher and the student.”

Looking into the Core of Ramadan

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | 21 August 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

We are all human. At one end of what that statement means, we share a lot in common with the animals. Humans can be bestial, callous, and capricious. But at the other end, human beings have the potential to be angelic – sensitive, enlightened, and caring. Ramadan is here to bring out the latter.

The pangs of hunger and the parchedness of thirst drive home a consciousness of purpose like nothing else.

For thirty days, one is very aware of his or her relationship with God. It is intimate, no one but you and God really knows if you’re actually going without. The meaning of dedication is brought to a visceral level.

Disciplining the soul to distance itself from animal passion lightens its being and lifts it away from the heavy, opaque, materiality of its existence and toward something more ethereal.

The thirty days of Ramadan are divided into thirds. The first third, we are told in the teachings, is “compassion”. The generosity of God in the lessons to be learned and rewards and blessings to be accrued at the opening of this month are without doubt merciful.

But one also learns compassion. It is difficult for anyone, whether they be wealthy or otherwise, not to gain a window, however discrete and temporary, on to the suffering of others.

If Ramadan is observed properly, a sense of gratitude is engendered, followed by a motivation to relieve the suffering of others. Our responsiveness to the plight of the flood victims in neighboring Pakistan is currently serving as a “key performance indicator” of how well we’re observing Ramadan.

This week, we have entered into the second third of the month; the one whose over-arching theme is forgiveness.

The Way of Islam is premised upon forgiveness. The acceptance of the sinner is foundational to the religion itself. The Prophet Mohammed said: “Every child of Adam is given to sin; and the best of those who sin are those who repent.” It is in Ramadan that Allah invites us to find that repentance, and He offers forgiveness in return.

Each and every one of us comes to Ramadan with baggage to atone for and we all hope that Allah will accept us, despite our religious blemishes and spiritual shortcomings.

As such, we ourselves should be forgiving people. We should be accepting and tolerant of the wayward transgressor; disapproving of sin while not shutting out the person afflicted with it.

The objective of Islam is not to make the believer a judgemental person. Remember that it was the Muslims who were the victims of the Inquisition. It would be counter-intuitive for the Muslim to become the inquisitor.

The Way of Islam has something different to offer the world. Instead of a judgemental religion, Islam offers a shift in focus toward the narration of the individual’s personal journey toward spiritual ascent and purification. Islam is about individuals refining themselves, disciplining their appetites, and ridding their egos from the handicaps and shortcomings that retard spiritual progress.

It is from here that Muslims seek to secure an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth. It is from here that Muslims seek a place free of unnecessary obstacles to purification and upward momentum.

Forgiveness abounds in Ramadan and makes its rounds. Let us all see what we can do to be part of that.

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt.5

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | August 07 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

This statement and others like it inspired generations of Muslim physicians to pursue learning, experimentation, and application in order to locate the cures to illness as well as promote the factors of good health.

From Avicenna to Rhazes, Muslim physicians were actively pursuing medical advancement and perfecting the art of patient care from 610CE onward. The Arabic language, Canon Medicinae of Ibn Sina – written in the 11th Century – was influential in Europe well into the 18th. In the 9th Century, al Rahawi drafted a text in medical ethics; and in 860CE al Tabari was the first to treat pediatrics as an isolated discipline.

Muslim public hospitals, known as bimaristans, were opened as early as 707CE. They were institutions dedicated to caring for the infirm and the complete restoration of health as opposed to merely isolating the sick and diseased from the public, as was the case with most hospices, asylums, or leper houses of the time.

A defining feature of these institutions would be the diversity and egalitarian nature of patient care. Patients of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds were welcomed and received treatment. With separate wards for diverse diseases and specialisations, dispensaries, laboratories, libraries, and outpatient clinics, these bimaristans would engage in advanced surgery and experiment with psychology, the identification of contagious diseases, optometry, cataract removal surgeries, as well as music as a form of treatment.

Islam’s concern for medicine goes all the way to its roots. Whole volumes abound in the classical literature treating the medical concerns and techniques of the Prophet Mohammed. The motif of healing itself is tangibly present throughout the Quran.

The Quran (10:57) informs us, “Mankind, there has come to you an exhortation from your Lord and a healing for what is in the breasts.”And again (Quran, 17:82), “We send down of the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy for the believers.” Regarding the medical usages of honey, the Quran speaks of the bee and how from within it comes a drink of varied colours and healing properties for mankind (Quran, 16:69).

All of these subjects have been treated exhaustively in other literature available to those interested. However, our purpose here is to expand the remit of the healing imperative in Islam to wider applications. We have mentioned earlier that Muslim identity is underscored by three properties; being a stranger-in-the-world, being a healer, and being an educator. In humankind’s role as steward-in-the-earth they are commissioned to maintain the equilibrium of all the ecologies of the world; whether social, natural, or urban (Quran, 55:7-9). The restoration of lost equilibriums is a particular modality of healing.

The Quran intimates that fraternity is an integrated element of the ontology of the believer. When this fraternity breaks down into rifts and divisions, the Muslim is mandated to mend those rifts in relationships (Quran, 49:10). Mending broken relationships is another modality of healing.

At the level of international conflict, resolution by the most peaceful possible means is the implied Quranic preference (Quran, 8:61). This prioritisation of diplomatic resolution is a modality of healing.

Finally, the classical literature of Islam is pre-eminently concerned with identifying types of spiritual illness in the heart and setting about curing them. This is a type of cardiac first response care, in a metaphysical sense.

Here we are on the cusp of Ramadan 2010. It is the month of compassion. It is the month of polishing the heart and illuminating the souls. It is the month of love, family, and fraternity. Let’s see if we can’t make it a month of healing.

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt. 4

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | July 17 2010 | The National

Our conversation for the past few weeks has been centred on revisiting the idea of Muslim identity.

The authenticity of such an identity has seemed to slip away into the cracks somewhere between reactionary rigidity and extreme liberalism. It’s stagnant and disingenuous any way you cut it.

For the past 10 years – of villainisation, invasion, “random” airport shake-downs and front-door breakdowns – many Muslims have been gripped by fear that this would lead to their very own Kristallnacht.

This fear has induced many to relinquish any semblance of an original identity that might cause them to be unique in a crowd.

On the other side, another group has proven that they can be as stubborn as mules; and about as intelligent, tenaciously clinging to post-colonial modernist ideology. In a post-modern world it’s about as ingenious or effective as a corpse filled with formaldehyde.

The environment produced by an ambiguous yet menacing “war on terror”, obsessive suspicion and perpetual energy wars have elicited a great deal of media attention and public interest in anything “Muslim”. This has enticed a third group out of the closet.

Having spent the majority of their lives striving to disassociate themselves with Islam, this group has stepped up to carry the liberal man’s burden. These new media darlings will courageously commandeer the discourse on Islam to win the grudging acceptance of the xenophobic hordes that think that Nova Scotia is in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the 1980s, before all this mayhem and confusion and the purple haze of aimlessness that it has produced, Muslims had – by default – developed the identity of “freedom fighter”.

The reputation of Islam was as of yet still relatively untarnished and Muslims everywhere were cast in the role of resistance to clear and present tyranny.

I’m not going to argue with that. The Muslim can be comfortable with the epithet “freedom fighter”. But without higher purposes as a guide, so the saying goes, “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s Sandinista.”

It is these higher purposes that inform the identity and calling of a people that would seek to bring about a better state of affairs in the world.

In what has preceded, we have proposed that the meaning of being Muslim pivots upon three aspects of identity. The Muslim is a stranger (in the world yet not of it), the Muslim is a healer, and the Muslim is a teacher.

A close reading of the prophetic personality of Mohammed bears this out.

Having focused at length on the first of these three, we begin with the second: Islam’s concern for healing.

In what follows we will look at the emphasis that Islam has placed on the medical treatment of the human body through its scientific legacy of medicine. But we will also look at the holistic concern for the healing of body, mind and soul; as well as the mending of rifts in relationships; and the meaning of healing to be found in the restoration of equilibrium to systems of any type and configuration.

Until then, this is Jihad Brown, signing off from Logan International Airport in Boston, and hoping to correspond with you next week from Los Angeles. Peace.