The Islamists?

I have no right to comment on Egypt as I have almost no knowledge of the details other than through western media which I don’t fully trust. In the words of a friend of mine:

“I think one of our biggest faults as westerners is the arrogance that we think we can judge others… in completely different countries… in completely different life circumstances… that in reality… are beyond our understanding.”

This is not a comment on what has developed in Egypt, rather it is a reflection on our own views as Western Muslims. From scrolling through facebook comments, the analysis of many people is often dangerously black and white, oversimplifying the issues going on in the middle east. The most worrying trend is something that has been antagonised by much of the media – the trend to categorise and box movements and people by religion or ideology. Whether is sunni vs shia, Islamists vs secularists, we often fall prey to the simpliciation we see widespread in the media. However, what is more troubling is the trend to generalise and demonise the “other” as faasiq (spiritually corrupt) or even kaafir for disagreeing with ones own opinion

I recently read a long post by my respected teacher Sheikh Ashraf Saad, a man whom I studied with for 7 months in Cairo and witnessed the highest levels of knowledge, sincerity, spirituality and Imaan (belief). In his comments, he highlights some of the problems he had with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, not all of which I agree with, but his final statement resonated with me and is worthy of great reflection:

الجماعة ليست الإسلام قطعا ومن كان ضد الجماعة ليس ضد الإسلام بل نحن كما سبق ندعوكم لإعادة فهمكم للدين والمجتمع

Rough Translation:The Muslim brotherhood are not the sole representatives of Islam. If someone is against the Muslims Brotherhood, it does not mean they are against Islam. We, like people before us, are inviting you to rethink your understanding of the religion and society”

His sentiments are similar to those of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah on his TV interview following the revolutions. The marrying of Islam with a political party becomes dangerous when it becomes the sole representative of the faith, because its natural conclusion is that any non-supporter of the party becomes a non-muslim (see the video below in Arabic – 38mins)

Rough Translation:

Sh. Abdullah: I do not wish to divide people into two groups; Islamist and non-Islamist

Presenter: But this is the terminology which exists?

Sh. Abdullah: This is something inherited from the dictatorships which came before. The reality is they are all Muslim. Why do we take them out of Islam? Why do we say they are “Islamist” and they aren’t? Al-Nahda called themselves Al-Nahda and not ‘The Islamic party’.”

Islam is not a cult, it’s a belief. Your belief is not defined by what political party you follow.

And Allah knows best

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