Oof! I can’t stand that guy!
Mention almost any prominent Muslim and you’ll get a volley of negativity. It’s not easy to be a public figure these days.
Muslims in particular face considerable pressure from all sides. It’s not easy to toe the fine line between diplomacy and standing firm for what’s right.
Daniel Haqiqatjou challenges scholars whose public views diverge from mainstream Islam. He recently criticized Omar Sulieman and the Yaqeen Institute for various things. Including support for gay rights.
What was most shocking was how some of the Yaqeen people responded, including Sh. Suleiman.
Sh. Yasir Qadhi also weighed in with a surprise post on Facebook. Among other things, he called Haqiqatjou’s criticism “crude.”
Where were the answers to Haqiqatjou’s questions? Noticeably absent. Instead, they framed his criticism as slander, character assassination, a witch hunt, etc.
But was it really?
First in Private
In an earlier post, Haqiquatjou said he tried to speak with Sh. Sulieman privately but did not get a response. So he made his questions public in response to public statements and appearance by Sh. Sulieman. That’s fair.
In Islam, you are supposed to give private advice first, and he tried.
Is it wrong for him to question the positions of our scholars? Or was it his approach that offended them so? Or was it the fact they did not have good answers to Haqiqatjou’s inconvenient questions?
Whatever one may think of Haqiaqtjou’s criticism, the backlash was harsh. It’s hard to accept the opposing side’s criticism given their own fiery response.
If we should be gentle, that shouldn’t that apply to everyone?
We Argue Because We Care
Sh. Hamza Yusuf once said that Muslims argue about Islamic matters because we care. He put a positive spin to put on a whole lot of bickering!
But he’s right. If no one cared, no one would bother to argue or criticize.
Most Muslims want to preserve what they view as the correct understanding of Islam. Al the cacophony may make it seem as if Islam is a wishy-washy doctrine. That we can interpret it any which way. But that isn’t true.
There is far more agreement among scholars than there is disagreement.
Generally speaking, there’s broad agreement on aqeedah and some disagreement on fiqh. Not one of the scholars would argue that Islam endorses homosexual behavior.
The controversy is about how to deal with matters in public.
Muslims who argue position far afield are not part of the mainstream debate. Most Muslims aren’t going to argue fiqh with the Shia, for example. And certainly not with cults like the Qur’anists, Ahmadis, or the Nation of Islam.
It’s important to make something clear to everyone. Ah lus-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ah hold a near consensus on most of the issues we’re debating. The devil is in the details!
Iron Fist, Velvet Glove?
Whatever we’re arguing about, it would be nice if Muslims were a little more gentle with one another. The measure of your devotion to Islam isn’t how hard you can smackdown other Muslims.
Everyone makes mistakes. Even our scholars make mistakes.
Sometimes it’s not even a matter of right and wrong, but of weighing things differently. Let’s take the example of Sh. Hamza Yusuf, who’s sparked his own share of controversy
Diplomat or Revolutionary?
A person can’t very well play the diplomat and the revolutionary at the same time! We can’t participate in democratic governance to say we need to overthrow democracy. Those two things don’t go together.
These days it seems that Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has chosen diplomacy. He has softened his views over the years. Maybe out of sincerity and maybe out of necessity. Allahﷻ knows. But when people ask, he answers. Very clearly.
Sh. Hamza Yusuf has said that Muslims need a place at the table in America. He cited examples where he’s had a positive influence. He has inspired changes to policies that benefit Muslims.
If we’re going to make our home here, then he says we need to be a part of the social and political fabric. He said that he prays to Allahﷻ for guidance and feels in his heart what he’s doing is correct. But also that Allahﷻ knows best and if he’s wrong, he will ultimately be accountable.
Is that not a reasonable response?
Even for those who disagree with his approach, it’s important to acknowledge that he answered. And without lashing out at his critics.
Everyone in the public eye faces the same dilemma to some extent. Whether they are clergy, politicians, pundits, etc. Because diplomacy is always about negotiating.
If Sh. Hamza Yusuf chose not to play that role, who would? Should it go unfilled?
These are matters Muslims can and should debate. But disagreeing with the Shaykh is not the same as attacking him. He’s done a lot of good work for many years. His fine work is not erased the first time he makes a decision someone doesn’t like.
Can we guard the deen with an iron fist yet treat our fellow Muslims with a velvet glove? Especially laypersons who may not know any better. We need to guide rather than attack.
Some people also need to learn how to agree to disagree agree. Sometimes you just can’t settle a matter of fiqh to everyone’s satisfaction. Remember that hadith about 70 Excuses?
It’s essential for Muslims to follow scholars. Converts in particular sometimes have a hard time with this. They’ve grown up in a culture that teaches people to rely on their own reasoning above all else.
We can and should reason but within reason! There’s an old saying that a man who’s his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Most people want lawyers and doctors who are trained experts in their field. Why should you want any less when it comes to Islam? On matters that are vital to life, death, and beyond!
You may listen to a wide range of scholars but focus on only one or a few. Sometimes the best scholars to follow are those who are not so visible to the public eye.
The Quiet Ones
For example, most Muslims have heard of Sh. Nuh Keller. But most non-Muslims probably have not because he doesn’t foster an image in the general public.
He lives in Jordan and you will find very few pictures of him online. His websites are unadorned, focusing instead on simple text aimed at educating Muslims.
Maybe Sh. Nuh is not a scholar you want to follow and that’s fine. But the point is that it’s important to choose a method of engagement and a scholar with good credentials. Someone you trust.
Apart from that, you don’t have to worry about every single thing other scholars say. You’re not taking their rulings for your practice anyway.
That said, Muslims can and should challenge scholars whose endorsements are questionable. What if a young Muslim sees Muslim public figures posing with drag queens at a pride parade? They may think Muslims approve fo these things.
Muslims need to point out that such behavior is at odds with Islam. All Muslims deserve the right guidance.
Sometimes it may seem strange for a Muslim whose practice is far from perfect to weigh in. Isn’t that hypocritical? Not really. Not when it comes to preserving the deen.
Because as long as our guidance is right we have the possibility of redemption until the Last Day. We can always correct our behavior but if the guidance itself is corrupted, then it may be that all hope is lost.
The Best Example
We already have the perfect example to follow in our Prophetﷺ. He was always gentle and polite. Yet strong in his convictions and always willing to speak the truth.
People threw stones or garbage at the Prophet Muhammadﷺ. Yet he maintained his composure. There are many examples of how his patience won converts to Islam.
Can’t we remain calm on both sides of a debate? Isn’t that what it means to follow Islam?
It’s tempting for many Muslims to call other Muslims names and ascribe bad motives to them. Sometimes this stems from sheer frustration mixed with sincere concern about the deen.
But how is it helpful to call someone a “sellout”? How do we know the person has deliberately sold out and what does namecalling solve? It seems like lazy shorthand.
Asking direct questions about publicly expressed views is not defamation. Framing criticism as “character assassination” is no better than labeling someone a “sellout.”
The “witch hunt!” accusation comes off as an evasive maneuver! Please just answer the questions! If a scholar can’t answer, then maybe it’s time for a rethink? Even a scholar is due for some self-reflection now and then.
Muslims, please be humble and kind. Strong in your convictions and gentle with your brothers and sisters. That’s the prophetic way.
Whatever good has come from me is due to Allah ﷻ and solely to Allah ﷻ. Whatever bad has come from me is from the whisperings of Shaytan, and from my own sins. All praise is due to Allah ﷻ, and may Allah’s ﷻ Peace and Blessings be upon His Final Messenger Muhammad ﷺ, his pure family, his noble companions, and all those who follow them with righteousness until the Day of Judgment. Ameen.