February 26, 2009

Plain Vanilla Islam

Kay recently asked me at Jay Solomon's blog, The Zen of South Park what I thought of the label "Western Islam," and whether it exists or will exist. This is my reply to her:

Does “Western Islam” exist or could it exist in the future, insha’allah? I would certainly hope not! Islam doesn’t need any innovations of that sort, especially if it’s along the lines of the disaster that was “progressive Islam.” Islam, as it was created and continues to be practiced, serves the needs of Muslims worldwide best without any need for bida. I know that for some people, the temptation to meddle with Islam by attaching other man-made doctrines is strong, but a desire to create a westernized version of Islam is not only wrong, it’s irrelevant. One of the benefits from my travels is that I’ve had the chance to meet Muslims from all over the world (at least two dozen countries so far, and not just from Asia or the US, but a lot of African and European Muslims too). And the one thing that has impressed me the most is just how consistent their understanding of Islam is. Most of the differences I’ve come across in other Muslims is purely cosmetic: changes in dress, foods, and so on. But Islam as they practice it is almost universally the same, regardless of where they’re from. So I’ve no desire to see “Western Islam” (or any other modified form of Islam) created. Plain vanilla Islam, pure and simple, is the only Islam I’ll support.

10 comments:

bambam said...

So let me see, so simple plain vanilla islam would be sunni salafi islam ? or maybe it would be malki ? oh no is ismaili islam ? well maybe its ithna3ashari (the twelfth sect) shiite islam? do you pray with a rock from karbala2 infront of you ? or do u pray 3 times a day or 5 ? OR maybe its like nation of islam islam, that could be labeled western islam.
Some how its amazing how misleading such vanilla statements could be...

JDsg said...

I find that the definition of who's Muslim and who isn't from the Amman Message works well for me.

"(1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali), the two Shi'i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja'fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash'ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.

"Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any other group of Muslims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him), the pillars of faith (Iman), and the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion."

bambam said...

I was commenting on how vaired islamic belief and practice is across the board when you were trying to say I prefer only one kind (i'm presuming its sunni hanafi) so not sure what your reply was about ...

JDsg said...

I wasn't trying to say anything about what you thought; I was saying that, as far as I'm concerned, "plain vanilla Islam" is encompassed by the definition of who a Muslim is under the Amman Message. For example, so what if the Malikis don't cross their arms during salat? Or the Shia have rock or clay from Karbala in front of them as they pray? Pointing to the madhhab as "evidence" of differences between Muslims doesn't wash with me. Those are trivial differences as far as I'm concerned. Issues like how many times one needs to pray per day or heretical sects are more important issues IMO, but even there, for the latter, that issue is addressed in the last paragraph in the Amman Message I cited above.

Regardless of how you feel about the variety in Islam, once again, in my experience, the vast majority of Muslims I've met worldwide have a very good understanding of Islam (the plain vanilla variety), and those who try to create innovations within Islam don't seem to have a very good grasp of Islam to begin with. Personally, I'd say their nafs are getting the best of them.

Kay said...

Hey!!!!!!...I have never been to "Zen of South Park" blog before EVER...I swear to God. So I have no idea who it was that asked you that question, but I can assure you that it was NOT me who wrote this:

"JD—marriage counseling book sounds like a great idea.!
It is interesting to see the concept of “Unity within diversity” in Islam—In that although the core values of Islam are the same globally, it nevertheless has the tolerance and flexibility to accomodate those traditional/cultural/social (and legal) practices not in conflict with its basic principles. One can see this in Asia. What do you think of the label “western Islam”? Do you think it exists or will exist?"

JDsg said...

My apologies! I'm surprised then that there should be two Kays who are blogging Muslimahs. I had always assumed that the other Kay was you.

Kay said...

When I went to check out the comments that the other kay wrote, there wasn't a link when you clicked on her name, so I couldn't see if she had a blog or not.

Haha no worries. There are millions of blogs out there so I wouldn't be surprised if another one called kay exists ;-).

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George Carty said...

Could the Maliki madhhab be described as "western Islam", as it was the most popular in the Maghrib region (which literally means "the west" in Arabic)?

Of course, it has nothing to do with "Western" in a geopolitical/civilizational context...

:)

JDsg said...

George: I wouldn't consider the Maliki madhhab to be "western," especially as Imam Malik, for whom the school of thought was named after, was originally from Yemen and lived most of his life in Madina.