The “Teddy Bear” Crisis (Expanded)

  notes

Imam Zaid Shakir


Posted Posted on 2007-12-05

34 Comments

The recent “Teddy-Bear” crisis in Sudan illustrates the failure of many Muslims to understand a stark reality; one that if left misunderstood will probably lead to a lot of unnecessary bloodshed in the Muslim world, and destroy the opportunity for many western, non-Muslim people to benefit, at a mass level, from the many positive aspects of Islamic teachings. That reality is that the strategic preeminence of the Muslim world is long gone, possibly forever.

Were it not for oil, only three Muslim nations, Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia would be among the world’s fifty largest economies, in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Turkey, a nation of 70 million people, ranks nineteenth. However, its GDP is equaled by Sweden, a nation of 9 million people. Egypt, which ranks fifty-first, also has 70 million people. Its GDP is smaller than that of New Zealand, a nation of 4 million people. The twenty-two Arab states combined have a GDP smaller than that of Spain. It has to be understood that military strength is a function of economic strength.

In strategic terms, it is certainly true that Muslims have proven to be dogged guerilla fighters able to wear down and expel invaders in debilitating wars of attrition. However, the ideologically-driven conflicts of the twenty-first century, unless current trends are drastically changed, will not be guerilla wars. They will be conventional wars, which may involve tactical nuclear weapons used against Muslim peoples and their armies. These wars will not be wars of occupation. Rather they will be wars whose purpose is to utterly destroy what will be presented as an irrational, imperialistic force that poses an existentialist threat to the West, Israel, or India. In this latter type of warfare, Muslims have been systematically routed in recent history, and the strategic gap between Muslims and any potential rivals in the Twenty First century, in this regard, is rapidly widening. 

How does the “Teddy Bear Crisis” fit into this discussion? It could be viewed as an attempt on the part of an embattled Sudanese government to project power vis-à-vis the West. As that power cannot be realistically projected in a strategic sense, it was exercised against a hapless Western citizen, Ms. Gilliam Gibbons, who became an inadvertent symbol of western hegemony. That pathetic exercise of power, which here in the West only generated more hatred, misunderstanding, animosity, and in some quarters just plain pity towards Islam and Muslims, represents a failed opportunity to present western people a view of the loftier legal and ethical teachings of Islam. Such teachings are increasingly lost as our community, globally, becomes ever more deeply entrenched in a stultifying literalism and an empty legalism that drains the religion of its ability to speak to a global audience at a principled, ethical level.

The great Egyptian poet, Ahmad Shawqi, mentioned in a line of verse, “Nations are none other than the ethical systems that support them. When that system goes they will soon follow.” This line articulates the very essence of the Islamic mission. The Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, mentioned, “I have only been sent to perfect good character.” [1]  Therefore, real religiosity is to be found in character and higher ethics, not in the mere conformity a legal code divorced from all other considerations. Unfortunately, increasingly throughout the Muslim world we find calls for the strict implementation of the law, unqualified by a healthy interaction with ethical ideals. The result of this situation is the legal travesties we increasingly witness in that world, ranging from the punishment of rape victims, to the recent teddy bear situation.

Were the Sudanese government not trapped in such legalism there would not have been a crisis. Fundamental principles of our religion and its law would have prevented such a sad episode. First of all, while we are bound to protect the honor of the Prophet, peace upon him, we are also taught that actions are judged based on the intention accompanying them—Al-‘Amalu bin-Niyyat. In the case in question no insult was intended, particularly on the part of the teacher. The fact that the idea to name to the teddy bear Muhammad came from the children in the class and not from the teacher along with the fact that they were trying to honor the toy by choosing the best possible name for it clearly witnesses to that.

Secondly, ignorant people are not held accountable for actions they undertake while not knowing that they are Islamically unacceptable. Such individuals are to be pardoned and educated, not punished and castigated. God mentions in the Qur’an, The servants of the Merciful walk with reverent humility across the earth, and when the ignorant address them they respond, peace. (25:63) AlQadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabi mentions that one of the meanings of the ignorant in this verse is “non-Muslims.” [2]  Imam Tabari comments, “When they are addressed by those ignorant of God concerning the things He dislikes of reprehensible speech, they respond with good speech, and an appropriately upright level of discourse.” [3]  Imam Ibn Kathir adds:

When ignorant people speak foolishly to them with foul language they do not respond in kind. Rather, they pardon and overlook [those slights] and only speak well, as was the case with the Prophet, peace and mercy of God upon him, the abuse of the ignorant only increased him in forbearance. [4]

 

Ibn Kathir mentions the prophetic example. This is very important, for the Prophet, peace upon him, responded very differently to those who intentionally ridiculed and defamed him with the objective of undermining and belittling the prophetic office, and those who abused and insulted him out of ignorance. In the former cases his response was firm and stern, while in the latter case he was gentle and forbearing. One of the clearest examples of this is the instance when a desert Arab approached the Prophet, peace upon him, grabbed his cloak and pulled it so hard that its edge scratched the base of the Prophet’s neck, peace upon him. The man then said, “O Muhammad! [5] Order that I be given charity from the wealth God has deposited with you!” The Prophet, peace upon him, turned to him, smiled, and ordered that he be given something from the public treasury. [6]

Although this issue does not get to the heart of the matter at hand, it sheds insight on the spirit that should govern how we understand the law in such instances. To merely see the law as a set of strictures that must be dogmatically enforced under all circumstances is to make a mockery of the religion. The above incident and many similar ones also gives us insight into what the Prophet, peace upon him, might have done is such situations as the one we are commenting on.

A related issue is the fact that in many areas of the law new Muslims are exempt from certain rulings. In many different issues we will read the caveat, “…and he/she knows of the prohibition [of a certain action].” If he/she does not know then they are not liable for their actions. If that is the case for a new Muslim, what then should be the case of a non-Muslim?

Just as a case can be made for the ignorance of the teacher in question, a case can be made for the fact that she made a mistake by Islamic standards. The legal definition of a mistake is the unintended consequence of an intentional action. She intended to honor the bear with a name that would evoke tenderness and concern for the animals that the bear represented. However, she inadvertently slighted of the Prophet, peace upon him. Mistakes of this type involve no sin with God, and in the view of the majority of scholars they involve no legal consequences.

The Prophet, peace upon him, mentioned in this regard, “God has pardoned—for my sake—from my community, that done in error, forgetfully, or through coercion.” [7] God mentions in the Qur’an, There is no sin on you for mistaken actions, rather [sin accrues] for that which you undertake intentionally, and God is oft-Forgiving, most Merciful (33:5). Similarly, God does not take you to task for carelessness in our oaths, rather He takes you to task for the intention of your hearts, and God is oft-Forgiving, most Forbearing (2:225). Our religion teaches us that an error is not held against the one committing it. If it is accompanied by an effort to do good then that effort is actually rewarded. The Prophet, peace upon him, stated, “If a judge asserts himself and arrives at the truth he will have two rewards. If he asserts himself and errs he will have a single reward.” [8] The scholars mention that in the latter case he will be rewarded for his effort, even though it resulted in a mistake. These narrations express aspects of the divine law that are indispensable if it is to maintain its lofty status in this age of overly polemical, antagonistic political discourse.

Muslim authorities, even more than individual Muslims, have to think of the long-range consequences of their actions. One of our legal principles is considering the implications and ramifications of our actions—an-Nadharu ila al-Ma’alat. In this case, the actions of the Sudanese government have created a situation where a stark contrast can be drawn—a contrast amplified by skillful journalistic techniques—between the principles and compassion of Muslims and non-Muslims.

The Muslims are presented as so uncompassionate and inconsiderate of any higher human virtues that they will victimize an unwitting innocent person in an effort to uphold the law and allegedly defend the honor of the Prophet, peace upon him. The non-Muslim is presented as so principled and compassionate that she will forgive those who have actually oppressed her, and plead for understanding and empathy for Muslims. The impact of such a contrast on unsuspecting non-Muslims, and increasingly many Muslims is extremely unsettling.

A final aspect of this issue we wish to discuss is the nature of civil society in the Muslim world. In classical Islamic society, civil society was extremely strong as opposed to a weak and decentralized state. The actions of individual citizens were the key to social order and a high degree of civility and social morality (Akhlaq) prevailed. In such an environment, reporting crimes and misdemeanors to state authorities was a last resort. The institutionalization of a western model of the authoritarian state into the Muslim world, one of the worst aspects of the western political tradition, has altered the nature of that type of civil society.

Now we have the idea that the “Islamic” state is to be the ultimate arbiter of all things Islamic, great and small, despite the fact that the divine law discourages elevating transgressions to state authority for adjudication. Had civil society been stronger in Sudan, the “teddy bear” situation would have been handled in the local neighborhood, and stayed there. The parents of the children involved would have informed the teacher and their children—who actually suggested naming the bear Muhammad—of the inappropriateness of their actions and the affair would have ended. Even if those outside of the circle immediately involved had learned of the situation they would have realized that it was best left as an affair isolated to the school and individuals in question.

In a global village where the real battle is the battle for hearts and minds is this sort of narrow-minded legalism the best Islam can offer? I think not. However, as long as we continue to prioritize politics and strategic affairs, our decided weakness, over principles and prophetic ethics, our potential strength, we are going to move from shameful crisis to shameful crisis and we will find our religion floundering in the wake of frantic mobs, massacred civilians, and non-issues elevated to the status of definitive statements of our commitment to the defense of our Prophet, peace upon him, and our religion.

At the end of the day, in light of contemporary global realities, our best defense of the Prophet, peace upon him, will never come through the mindless enforcement of a sterile legal code divorced from the principles that give it real meaning and substance. Rather it will come through living lives that reflect the fullness of the prophetic teachings and using those teachings to shine rays of light on an increasing dark and troubled world.

Notes:

[1] Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (Beirut: Mu’assasah ar-Risala, 1999/1420), 14:513.
[2] Al-Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, nd), 3:451.
[3] Imam Ibn Jarir at-Tabari, Jami’ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1997/1418) 9:408.
[4] Imam Abu al-Fida’ Isma’il b. Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Adhim (Beirut, Sidon: Maktaba al-‘Asriyya, 1996/1416), 3:305.
[5] Addressing the Prophet by his first name as opposed to an honorific title is an insult to him. Appropriate addresses would be terms such as O Prophet! O Messenger of God! God has commanded the believers in the Qur’an, Do not address the Prophet as you address one another (24:63). In other words use proper and honorific terms of respect for him
[6] Sahih al-Bukhari, #5809; Muslim # 1057
[7] Ibn Majah #2045; Ibn Hibban # 7219
[8] Al-Bukhari # 7352

 

 


Comments
By Muhammad on December 5, 2007 at 8:51am

Salam Imam Zaid I need some practical advice... I am so glad you mentioned this topic area. At my curent workplace I am the only Muslim individual and Alhumdulilah my name is Muhammad. My colleagues asked me about the whole issue and I pretty much said that the way the Sudanese handled it was very poor etc.. However, I started to talk about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and it hit me after work, how much responsibility I have, and maybe how I am not living up to standards. I remembered the dua, 'O Allah enter in my heart, eyes hears light....'--however what can I do practically to try and exemplify the reality of the Prophetic character--so at least they can be inclined towards Islam... Really, your article is a written format of the thoughts that were in my mind, esp. about her intention etc, and that the spirit has been removed by the Muslim in dealing with others. What would you advise me....? Thanks You So Much Wassalam

By Omar Salem on December 6, 2007 at 2:18pm

Thank You Imam Zaid for addressing the issue in a dignified manner, may people understand issues such as these in this light. Sallam Wu Alakum

By A.H. Sellars on December 6, 2007 at 2:53pm

As salaamu alaykum I just want to share a reflection I had after reading your article as well as Shaykh Hamza's on this same subject this afternoon. "Defending the Prophet" with behavior contrary to his way is like trying to inflate a balloon after punching holes in it. -You waste time and breath -You work against your intentions -You increase the size of the holes (damage) -You look like a fool -Instead of aiding the purpose and cause of the balloon, you debilitate it -Nobody would trust you with their balloons or anything else! We need to take more Surah 'Asr vitamins. thank you for your scholarship & time, A.H. Sellars

By Matthew on December 6, 2007 at 4:00pm

Mash'allah! If only the message of true Islamic Scholars and real Muslims were spread! It is a shame that this sort of message cannot be shared widespread in this nation as the very essence of this case is shared. Jazakallah Khairun for another wonderful piece.

By Abu Hamza on December 7, 2007 at 3:51pm

Jazakumallahu khairan Imam Zaid, for the nice article. If I may share a few comments, and hear your feedback on them it would be great: Allah the Most High says in Surah Baqarah: "And do not take the Signs/Verses of Allah as a mockery." We often make mention of the Prophet's kind and forgiving nature, in condemning the actions of our Muslim brothers. It is true that the Prophet never held a personal grudge, and even forgave Abu Sufyan, and his wife Hind, who once chewed on the liver of the Prophet 's beloved uncle Hamza. However, what should be mentioned is that while his kindness extended to personal transgressions against himself, he held firmly when it came to compromise on religious principles. They way this case was handled, in a court of law, with lawyers and a judge, and not personal attacks, is an indication that it was not a simple knee-jerk reaction by Muslims to what happened. Isn't it the resonsibility of an Islamic government to protect religious symbols? Omar, may Allah be pleased with him, was firm in protecting the religion, and this was a result of his gheerah for justice and the truth. While the Prophet did not permit Omar to act on this gheerah, the Prophet did not condemn him for it either. Rather, the Prophet praised him for it, in one instance saying "Oh Omar, if the devil himself was walking on a path and saw you coming, he would take another route!" What we lack as an Ummah is this gheerah for the religion and signs of Allah, especially for those of us who grew up in the West. I appreciate that Shaykh Hamza tried to explain why this would be considered mockery of the signs of Allah. What we see today is enormous pressure on Muslims to change classical Islamic positions on mockery of Islam, apostasy, shariah, and we should be careful. Incidents like this distract us from much more important things. While both Muslims and non-Muslims have been enamoured by the hype of this story, 800,000 destitute Somalis, mostly women and children, are on the brink of starvation, disease, and destruction. A friend of mine from Somalia told me that as the cities are no longer safe as a result of the war, these Somalis have abandoned everything to live in refugee camps. The recent torrential rains worsened their conditions, to the extent that flood waters have even brought crocodiles that are attacking them. Who knows how many countless souls will be lost, children sticken with illnesses, babies malnourished, while we enjoy our philosophical debates about a teddy bear. May Allah guide us to love our Muslim brothers and sisters, from all over the world, and strive for true justice. And Allah knows best.

By Sister on December 7, 2007 at 4:06pm

As-Salaam jazakallah! may we all learn from this inshallah!

By Ayesha on December 8, 2007 at 12:07pm

As'salaam Alaikum Imam Zaid, Thank you for these articulate and eloquent reminders of the Prophet's way in treatment of others. The Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) was most gentle towards women, especially his wives. It is sad and frustrating that some Muslim men would treat women harshly and unfairly. Of course, these actions are due to individual choices and laws of nation states; they are NOT laws of Islam. The Shariah law is not black and white. It is meant to extend mercy, wisdom, common sense and justice; NOT rigorous, unyielding punishment. Unfortunately, the teddy bear debacle and other shameful events and mistakes by Muslims are repeatedly talked about, exaggerated and broadcast on every Western media station as yet another stain on Islam.

By Hume on December 9, 2007 at 4:04pm

Jazakallah Khair Imam Zaid for a well written article and getting to the heart of this matter. I would also like to take note of what Br.Abu Hamza has written in his commentary. Although the punishment applied to the teacher was harsh and she did not know what she did, we still have the "gheerah" in this day and age to react with the same passions as Islam calls for. Unfortunately, in this situation the Sudanese gov't could have been more reprimanding and less about inflicting punishment in such a manner. Inshallah, we can learn and better deal with such issues in the future. May Islam be elevated by this ummah to the high status it deserves...Ameen.

By Nasir on December 9, 2007 at 5:14pm

Great article! Very sophisticated.

By Jana Bint Dawoud on December 10, 2007 at 1:28am

As Salaamu Alaikum, Imam Zaid, Following on the heels of the Saudi rape debacle, this case made me wonder (yet again), whatever happened to "erring to the side of mercy"? But I'm glad you pointed out the creative journalism at work in this drama. While they claim to have never heard of such a thing, many Christians instinctively understand the prohibition against naming children, pets, or toys after God. It is common practice amongst English-speaking Christians to avoid using the name "Jesus" (SAAS) for their children. They will use Moses, Daniel, John, etc. but never "Jesus". To most of them, "Jesus" is another name for God. And since they would never name a child "God", they equally avoid naming him "Jesus". (Spanish-speaking Christians are the exception... Jesus Rodriguez, Jesus Martinez, etc.) However, this example does raise a question from a Tawhid point of view. IS it actually possible to "blaspheme" by misusing a prophet's name, or does blasphemy only apply to the misuse of Allah's name? SHOULD we avoid using any prophet's name for something we love, the same way we avoid using Allah's name or attributes? And is this actually haraam, with a prescibed punishment in the Shari'ah? YSII, Sr. Jana bint Dawoud

By cindy on December 10, 2007 at 12:02pm

thank you Imam Zaid for the nice article. You really articulated what I was feeling about the issue. Muslims have to be more understanding to the nonmuslim minorities in their countries in the same way they demand it from the larger western socities when they are the minority

By Hadia Mubarak on December 11, 2007 at 10:46am

Although I've seen Muslims take all sorts of positions on this affair from a political perspective, this is the best articulation of the Islamic legal perspective I have seen on the issue. Very inspiring! May Allah swt reward you.

By Imam Zaid Shakir on December 12, 2007 at 12:51am

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Muhammad, I think the best way you can represent the Prophet, peace and mercy of Allah upon him, is by studying the prophetic biography and then in every challenging situation you find yourself in ask yourself, "What would the Prophet, peace upon him, do?" I think that is a practical measure you can take to help yourself deal with the situation you describe. As-Salaam 'Alaikum Sister Jana bint Dawoud, In response to your question, yes, as Muslims, we can blaspheme by misusing a prophet's name, especially that of our Prophet, Muhammad, peace and mercy of Allah upon him. However, there are considerations governing the issue that I attempted to mention in the article. Further discussion of the issue is mentioned below. As-Salaam 'Alaikum Abu Hamza, First of all allow me to commend you for your thoughtful and insightful reply. Such critical feedback is very important. Never hesitate to provide it. I would like to say in response that I am very much aware of the Somali situation. The post before this one, "God's Justice Will Not Forever Sleep," dealt specifically with that issue. I do not disagree with the point you make about mockery of God being a legal ruling, my point is that as a legal ruling it is governed by a legal philosophy, legal objectives, legal maxims, and contextual considerations. Once the law is divorced from the framework these collectively provide, it loses much of its power and beauty. I will give you a brief example to illustrate this. Since one of the key issues in this discussion is blasphemy, consider the hadith of the man who losses his mount with all of his provisions on it in the middle of the desert. When he despairs of it returning and considers that he is doomed, suddenly he looks up and finds it before him. He then proclaims, "O Allah! I am your lord and You are my servant!" The Prophet, peace upon him then adds, "He erred [in this way] due the intensity of his happiness." On the surface this man is guilty of blasphemy and shirk, the highest of all crimes. However, would it be conceivable in any way to think that the man should be punished for his "transgression?" No, because the context surrounding the error moves it beyond the realm of a punishable offense. This is the point I was trying to make in the article. The Prophet, peace upon him, understood these legal nuances, and they informed his application of the law. As I mentioned the Prophet, peace upon him, was disrespected -in ways that denigrated the prophetic office- many times. He was disrespected by known enemies, by ignorant desert Arabs,and by jokers among his companions such as Nu'ayman. His response varied in each instance. He responded harshly and firmly to the enemies, he generally ignored the desert Arabs, and he laughed at Nu'ayman. All of these responses occurred in Madina after the establishment of Muslim political authority. He is providing many rich examples of how the law is to be applied. Such a nuanced understanding of the law, and a deep understanding of the current international political climate we are in, and the role that the media plays in that climate are critical for advancing the interest of the Muslim people. This "teddy bear" situation and similar crises are not used by the corporate media and right wing "hawks" in the West to show how backwards Muslims are. They are used to create a political climate that will engender the tax-paying public's support for the overthrow of Muslim governments, the usurpation of Muslim resources, and the potentially genocidal destruction of Muslim lands. Working to prevent the entrenchment of the attitudes that buttress that climate is a higher strategic priority than a rigorous prosecution of a possible insult of the Prophet, peace and mercy of Allah, upon him. The fact that Muslims leaders fail to attempt to manage the media to our strategic advantage is a major political flaw that has existed since the advent of mass communications. Malcolm X presciently observed over forty years ago, "The Arabs are poor at understanding the psychology of non-Arabs and the importance of public relations." I feel this observation is as true today as it was then. Unless it is addressed, we will suffer in myriad ways that are connected to the plight of Muslims in places like Somalia. That is why we have to understand the importance of such issues and not minimize them. These crises, as mentioned above, help to create attitudes in the West that generate support for policies, such as the US-orchestrated Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, that has led to the current humanitarian crisis there. It also helps to create attitudes that lead to insensitivity to the suffering of Muslims, i.e. "If those barbarians all starve, who cares!" In conclusion, there is another aspect of the issue that has generally gone unexplored, that is the issue of the role of civil society in a Muslim state. Is it the desire of Muslim political theory that all affairs of legal implication be adjudicated by the state? I would argue that the spirit of the law argues for small government, and taking societal measures to mitigate the role of official state-sponsored adjudication in societal affairs. In my view, in a healthy Islamic polity, this affair would have been handled by the children's parents. They would have met privately with the teacher and their children, who advised the teacher to name the teddy bear Muhammad in the first place, and instructed them all of the inappropriateness of such an act. The affair would not have been known beyond a small circle of individuals in a corner of Khartoum. Such a response is a greater sign of a vibrant Muslim society than the sometimes empty legalism we see in parts of the Muslim world. In any case, your points are valid and appreciated. May Allah reward you all and bless your efforts.

By John on December 23, 2007 at 12:30pm

Salam Sheikh Zaid, I also firmly believe that this whole issue could have been kept within the classroom had there been a person there to just say to her: Look, I don't think it is a good idea and bla, bla, bla ... By the same token, I must also recognize that it is not up to us to bend over backwards to please non Muslims. Before I was a Muslim, I made a great effort to understand Muslims and Islam. That being said, the Sudanese could have approached the matter in a more dawa type of way. I think this experience is a lesson we should learn and the conclusions of which should be applied. I believe it is in Dar Al-Islam where many Westerners embrace Islam because the curtain of Western media does not reach them there. You as a Westerner are witness to the Akhlaq of your Muslim neighbors daily and this experience is a vaccine against the lies of Western Media. Again, a very good article and a lesson we should all learn from. Happy Eid!

By Shahab-e-Saqib on December 25, 2007 at 7:24pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. To me, the Imam is sounding very pessimist in the first paragraph. Have we given up? That is also against the soul of Islam.

By John on December 27, 2007 at 2:52am

I just want to add that while the West is also crying over the Teddy bear incident and how Muslims must be more comprehensive, the West is not exactly a model of ethics. One of the brothers just mentioned the humanitarian disaster in Somalia. Somalia was on the verge of becoming a stable nation. It had a functioning government, the first in decades and people were starting to look towards a brighter future. Then the US pushes its Ethiopian ally to go in and destroy this project (of course with military and air back up). This is just a grain in the sand (what about Iraq, Palestine, etc). These are also Islamic issues. Sorry to ruffle feathers here. I try to always give an example when I am in the West. I don't talk politics. I don't participate in rallies. But if I have to choose between giving priority to the Super Nanny spending a couple of days in jail (where I am sure she is being well treated - the Sudanese are not monsters)or the death of millions of my Somali brothers (or Iraqis or Palestinians), I choose the second. Sorry, John (being politically incorrect)

By Ibraheem on January 3, 2008 at 11:46am

This is the sort of higher discourse the Muslims lack. May Allah preserve you sidi so that we may read many more!

By Naeema Zaman on January 4, 2008 at 1:12am

That is such a well-written article, Imam Zaid. I wish I had read it before penning my letter to the local newspaper about this incident.

By Sohail on January 4, 2008 at 3:27pm

Assalamu Alaykum Jazak Allah Khayr Imam Zaid for a very insightful article that was greatly needed in the ummah and May Allah Azza Wa Jal continue to reward you for your sincere efforts. There is one issue that continues to disappoint me however and that is the silence resonating from scholars, particularly in the west, about certain incidents around the world. The most obvious of those is the Lal Masjid massacre that occured in Pakistan, where thousands of students, including many of our sisters, were butchered in cold blood by the army. Pages of the Qur'an were drenched in blood and these innocent brothers and sisters, many of whom were children and orphans, were buried at night so as to not reveal the true figure. I have yet to hear any scholar in the west speak about this and you and Shaykh Hamza have a responsibility, as scholars in the public eye who give regular talks, to talk about this horrific massacre that occured in full sight of the world without a hint of a sound from Muslims. This greatly hurt and disappointed me and many others that this was brushed under the rug and not spoken about by yourself or Shaykh Hamza or any other scholar. A huge number a Muslims look up to you and Zaytuna Imam and it is a responsibility to speak about this crime that was committed because they are our beloved brethren. I have the greatest respect for you Imam Zaid and your continuing work. With love and peace Wa Salam Sohail

By Imam Zaid Shakir on January 4, 2008 at 11:01pm

As-Salaam 'Alaikum Shahab-e-Saqib, What you perceive to be pessimism in the opening paragraph is a statment of fact that is subject to change. It is mentioned to set up the argument. If our strategic weakness is in fact true, I do not see it as a cause for pessimism or despair. I see it as an opportunity for us to be pushed to exploit and develop our strengths, which are not things that can be quantified in material terms. This is one of the great paradoxes of contemporary Islamic discourse. We are perhaps strategically weaker than any other people, yet we can only assess our strength or weakness in strategic terms. I think this is a result of the secularization of our thought. We think in material categories and although we recognize the existence of the spiritual and metaphysical realities, they do not inform our thinking. Allah knows best. John, I appreciate your comments. However, I remind you, as I mentioned in response to an earlier comment, that the article before this one, "God's Justice Will Not Forever Sleep", dealt with the Somali crisis. We are not trapped in a zero sum game here, we either condemn Muslims and ignore the excesses and atrocities of the west, or we condemn the west and ignore the excesses and atrocities of the Muslims. We have tried to do both. The deeper issues related to the situation in Sudan have little to do with the particulars of the case, they are related to symbolic issues and what they say about us and how they are exploited by our enemies. Sohail, The Lal Masjid situation deserves a lot more attention. I was extremely busy at the time and could not give the situation the attention it deserved. It was not a case of "brushing it under the rug", it was a lack of time to analyze the situation and assess its significance to Muslims here in the West. Perhaps we can revisit it in the context of the overall situation in Pakistan.

By John on January 5, 2008 at 4:01am

Wa alaikum assalaam, Thank you for the clarification. I will the aforementioned article. Yours, John

By John on January 5, 2008 at 4:01am

Wa alaikum assalaam, Thank you for the clarification. I will read the aforementioned article. Yours, John Edited by John

By Sohail on January 7, 2008 at 2:37pm

Jazak Allah Khayr Imam. May Allah continue to benefit us from your lucid writing Wa Salam Sohail

By Tawhid1982 on April 5, 2010 at 11:52pm

The economic statistics cited regarding Muslim countries in the original article are wrong. I hope the authors would be more educated and better informed before making shallow uninformed comments that reflect Pakistani culture of fickleness, an inability to think strategically and on a long term basis.

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