Could I make bacon legal for Muslims?

In this weeks readings I was hit with a flurry of phrases and words such as “it therefore cannot be easily subsumed under already established shari’a rulings”, “usually”, “could”, and “such cases should be judged individually” which leaves me in an interesting position as to whether I would be able to find a jurist that could legitimize bacon (Rutten,2,7,13). In order to form an opinion I will start with that which the Qur’an deals with ambiguously and what it clearly defines.

The cause for much ambiguity is the ijtihad that allows for multiple schools of Islam to disagree on the fundamentals of an argument such as whether a foetus receives its soul within 40 or 120 days. This distinction decides when an abortion will be allowed or not. This opens up the door for subjective concepts such as allowing females to vote “when the loss of benefits is greater than the potential evil” or justifying almost any medical procedure because “necessities render the prohibited permitted” (Krawietz, 6 and Stowasser, 112). This means that the current law is simply a matter of who was able to utilize the legal maxims to their best ability within the generally accepted framework of Islamic law. Krawietz uses the example of sex change surgery to show “how far the Islamic legal concept of necessity and need reaches” (19).

Yet there is an issue with this approach when one encounters the absolute values as clearly stated in the Qur’an such as the need for prayer. There are numerous passages that clearly and unambiguously designate certain practices as completely off the table and classical jurisprudence takes these as the unshakable foundations of faith. Yet through modernist thoughts we see that many decide to take a step back and try understand what the Qur’an really demands that we do. Using Rahman’s “double movement” technique it becomes much easier to find a pattern in historical text that leads to the desired outcome (just like going from polytheism to monotheism to atheism as discussed in class). Yet it is still difficult to remove pork from the forbidden list which is why we can analyse al-Qaradawi’s approach that such a “tradition cannot be generalized because it has historical, not normative, significance” (Stowasser, 113). Historicizing the Quran provides probably the most effective way to adapt it to modern times and thus is probably the best way to allow a jurist to reach any conclusion.

Works cited

Barbara Stowasser, Old Shaykhs, Young Women, and the Internet: The Rewriting of Women’s Political Rights in Islam, Georgetown University, Washington DC 2001

Susan Rotten, Recht van de Islam, RIMO Maastricht 1999

Could I make bacon legal for Muslims?

Osama bin Laden vs Classical Jurisprudence

There is certainly much in classical jurisprudence within the Islamic faith that matches the Jihadist movement. The nominal core of living Islamic values as put forward by the Qur’an exists in both but as always with different interpretations of some core issues. Osama bin Laden adds in further contradictions ranging from the more superficial speeding to fundamental questions of how to bring forth a united Islamic state. This post will look into a few of these issues and discuss just how compatible from classical Islamic jurisprudence Jihadists found themselves.

The first point that has to be acknowledge is that Osama bin Laden and many Jihadists live pious lives that have been contrasted in many ways with those Arabian leaders bin Laden sought to discredit. Indeed, Wright quotes his mother in her assessment that “he loved adventure and poetry and little else but God” and while a few cases this sense of adventure did lead to his friend Khalifa stating “Really, he put us in danger many times” which clearly has issue with respect for the safety of others and self, bin Laden proved to be a devout Muslim in his strict adherence to pillars such as prayering despite not being surrounded by the same conviction in others.

His following of the law of Islam extends to his use of Jihad to protect Islamic lands and people. “Unlike [them], bin Laden has demonstrated that he can [forgo] the temptations of wealth, that he dares to strike powerful wrongdoers, and that he refuses to bend before superior might” which bin Laden shows has Qur’anic importance through a barrage quotes from the Qur’an that strengthen his definition of Jihad as a “defensive struggle” that demands the “individual obligation by all Muslims when the Umma has come under attack” (Lawrence, XVII and XX). His aggression to foreign invaders is completely justified under classical jurisprudence as protecting the faith

Taking 9/11 as a crucial step in the Jihadist’s and bin Laden’s dissociation from what classical jurisprudence would allow. As previously mentioned, Jihad is meant to defend the interests of as opposed to Harb which is an offensive move. Not only did bin Laden and the Jihadists betray the banner they flew in attacking a foreign city but they endangered the Umma which presents a much more serious crime. Any belief that the US would withdraw from Saudi Arabia after facing attacks on their own soil clearly “ignored the special conditions that had given them victory” against Russia and could not be defended in any rational debate (Lawrence XXI).

Another fundamental difference is the way Jihadists’ and specifically bin Laden’s “emphasis falls far more on the glories of martyrdom than the spoils of victory” (Lawrence XXII). Classical jurisprudence acknowledges and embraces the human desire for self-preservation to a much larger extent and would have taken much more care to balance serving the ongoing strength of Islam with providing a doctrine that serves the masses’ own needs.

Clearly Osama bin Laden and the Jihadists managed to found their belief upon the Qur’anic principle that lead classical jurisprudence however some fundamental differences indicate that many of bin Laden’s actions would have been objectable to the classical jurists.

Bruce Lawrence, Messages to the World, Verso

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2006

Osama bin Laden vs Classical Jurisprudence

Four Unique and Complementary Pillars

The five pillars of Islamic ritual combine to create a unique and powerful experience that millions of Muslims follow. The different rites complement and contrast each other in many ways which provides the holistic approach to living that Muhammad preached. This post will look at ways in which the Hajj and Salat could be compared to Zakat and fasting in the hope of understanding the complex interplay of tradition a little better.

Before that, it is important to take note of that post deals with Zakat and not the almsgiving that Islam promotes “at the discretion of the will and conscience” (99 Qutb). While seeming similar, these two traditions should be regarded separately because of the highly important distinction that almsgiving is at the discretion of the giver while Zakat acts closer to social welfare in the state it is practiced.

While comparing the Hajj and Salat to the Zakat and fasting, it is easy to see the Hajj and fasting as analogous and same with Zakat and Salat. The Hajj and Zakat are ordeals that an individual undergoes to confirm their commitment to Allah while Salat and Zakat are the more mundane forms of tradition that ground a follower in their faith.

Zakat and Salat are demanded by Islam at regular times with rigorous procedures for practicing either. The prayer that forms the basis for communication with Allah has many regulations and specific demands which is not unlike the precise law of Zakat being “meant to free the duty of charity from the inclinations of the person” (151 Tabbarah). In both cases onerous demands are placed upon the follower and precise practice counters the easy backsliding from honourable practice that comes over time. It is though an emphasis on listening to Allah and doing his work that many believe Islam is based in prayer and charity (in the form of the Zakat). Their related nature is emphasised in their practice when “each time a verse in The Koran calls for the performance of prayer, there is a call for practising charity” (151 Tabbarah). From a certain viewpoint, prayer deals with the spiritual while charity deals with the physical such that the Salat may reduce the gap between man and Allah while “Zakat should reduce the gap between rich and poor” (198 Dean and Khan). Islam promotes that both are important and each must be constantly maintained to the benefit of the other.

In the Hajj and fasting there is “an establishment of equality among the rich and the poor” (167 Tabbarah).  Just as all are equal once Ihram has been put on, there is no way for Muslims to find preferential treatment while fasting unless they cheat. Being put through a specific common struggle in both cases brings out a sense of community that unites those involved. The Hajj combines thousands with prayer in the streets and fasting has ironically brought upon feasts after sundown that makes Ramadan “the happiest time of the year” (18 Murata and Chittick). While they share this beautiful aspect, these two practices are fundamentally different for those participating. The Hajj allows many the platform for introspection and commitment to God through experiences like the day at Arafat. Fasting demands something different of the follower: “to humble himself though hunger and deprive the devil (power to) work” (33 Farah). Here the faith in Allah is tested and sharpened. Muslims try “to avoid the evil of his ‘animal’ nature” through control of his desires for “food and sex [which] lead to desire for ostentation and wealth, to all kinds of envy and greed” (165 Tabbarah and 32 Farah). A good simplification of the matter is to see that Hajj as empowering the Ruh which searches for Allah in believers while fasting strengthens followers’ control of the Nafs that may corrupt them.

Here I have analysed a few of the similarities and differences between the four pillars of Islam mentioned. There are countless other comparisons that could be made regarding beliefs, such as whether the benefit is in what the believer does or intends, however the above arguments look at how each tradition fits into the lives of practicing Muslims and where they supplement each other (i.e. the Hajj and fasting) or should be seen as more intimately linked (Salat and Zakat).

Works cited:

Hartley Dean and Zafar Khan, Muslim Perspectives on Welfare, 1997 Cambridge University Press 193-209

Caesar E. Farah, Al-Ghazali Abstinance in Islam, Bibliotheca Islamica, Minneapolis 31-61

Sachiko Murrata and William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, Paragon House, New York 17-19

Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice in Islam, Islamic Publications International 93-111

Afif A. Tabbarah, The Spirit of Islam, 149-163

Four Unique and Complementary Pillars

Islam and the Gaming Community (Part 2): Education through Immersion

One of the ideas dominating modern gaming is that of Immersion, the degree to which a game can be engaging and realistic enough that it “takes” you wherever the story is. This initially took the form of better and better graphics as we moved on from 8-bit to the beautiful depictions used today. Another crucial aspect is the story behind the action which often includes drama and convoluted storylines to draw the player further in. I believe that this state of interacting with content would be the perfect platform from which people could be taught about Islam.

Currently the more common instance is that of Arabs and Muslims being the enemy to be destroyed but a few games have taken on the task of providing the user with a chance to play from the other end. While these cases are limited in number and scope they show the way forward. Perhaps the best example is Civilization 4, where one can control different civilizations and adopt Islam as a religion. The game itself includes an impressive encyclopaedia of information that players are often drawn into along the way. Right now religion acts as a tool to gain power within the game instead of a dynamic interaction between gamer and whatever religious mix his/her civilization is perusing but the first step has been taken. It is perfectly acceptable that one could play as an Arabian ruler that makes Islam his state religion and builds mosques.

Most players don’t even know what a mosque is and look it up within the game. This interaction is educational because the gamer actually needs to know about who he/she is playing to plan successfully and this opens up many opportunities for the future of gaming.

Islam and the Gaming Community (Part 2): Education through Immersion

In The Realms of Practice and High Culture

The Salat and Hajj are two elements that define Islam and exert huge influence over the one and half billion people that follow this religion. They work in similar yet different ways and this post will look into addressing their similarities briefly before analysing their differences in the Islamic world.

In a certain right, they could be seen as identical rituals played over different timeframes. Both allow for Muslims to try intimate with God “in an attempt to transcend himself in the direction of the highest perfection” as noted by Brohi in looking at what the purpose of prayer is (138). Indeed, the Hajj provides a chance for Muslims to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad and try experience God through a few days of frantic ritual while the daily Salat allows for the Qur’an to be heard and contemplated each day. Throughout both of these activities, followers are reminded to avoid evil and do good; whether is in the form of “dealing [Satan] a mortal blow” in Mina or asking daily that God may “guide us in the straight path” during daily Salat it becomes clear that each of these serves a vital role in avoiding the temptations that many face to disregard religion (296 Peters, 132 Brohi). The sole dedication to God is continually reminded through the countless recitations of “God is Greatest!” occurring in each Rak’a and the three Tawafs performed around the Ka’ba respects the place of God that Abraham built (132 Tabbarah). While these two events allow Muslims to declare their loyalty to God we must acknowledge the disparity in how they are practiced and the meaning they will have to those performing them.

The first difference we must acknowledge is that the Hajj has become a very rare event for Muslims to attend and “the vast majority of Muslims will never be able to afford it” while Salat is happens five times a day (66 Bianchi). To be sure, the experiences at Mecca will imprint themselves powerfully in the minds of those who come but this tradition of the few being able to take part has diverted from when Arabian Muslims “were accustomed to making the Hajj at their leisure, and many came every year” (58 Bianchi). Indeed the parallel between the Hajj “expiate[ing] the sins of a year” done “consecutively” according to Hadith links up neatly with Salat offering a “river” that “God obliterates sin with” (15 Murata and Chittick). Muslims now have to hope that they may be able to fulfil this “obligation incumbent on all competent Muslims” perhaps once in their lives (281 Peters). It is clear that the Hajj does not offer the yearly clense from sin that daily prayer has to offer and even more crucially it openly will not be undertaken by all Muslims. Does this leave it as a ritual offering religious satisfaction of the highest calibre to those wealthy (and healthy) enough to take part? I believe that it acts as a safeguard of Islams history and tradition that provides all with a clear aspiration. Continuing a ritual that Abraham is believed to have started grants Islam much authority within the eyes of their followers and cements the history passed down from generation to generation (admittedly not perfectly). Alongside this it forces the traditions practiced to be relevant to modern Muslims that may stray from the fundamentals proposed in the Qur’an without these demanding measures. The historical importance derived from this yearly event centres the Islamic world on Mecca and unifies Muslims from across the globe in a specific shared heritage. In this it plays a crucial role in keeping Islams higher culture healthy with a tradition that solidifies the beliefs and practices around the world. Contrasting with this, Salat offers Muslims a rigorous way to interact with God daily that will strengthen their obedience while allowing their own problems to be raised. This is crucial in shaping a society that is conscious of the Qur’an (thus God’s word) in everything they do. Here it becomes clear that one major difference is the net impact on the Islamic world: a Hajj has a worldwide effect through the actions of a few while the Salat cements the ideals preached in the Hajj from day-to-day. Without the Hajj Islam would lose a major constituent of their global identity while an Islam without Salat would lose influence of the daily actions of its followers.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Hajj is how it has become politicised in a way that the Salat never could be. Considering the well detailed steps within the Salat, little could be done to change it into something that can be taken advantage of by contemporary powers. The Hajj on the other hand is used constantly by politicians looking to earn quick favour with their constituencies by offering fully paid or subsidised Hajjs and championing the increase in quotas assigned to their regions. This leaves many Hajjis without the support offered in another region and further diminishes the religious satisfaction enjoyed by minority Muslims.

Overall, it is crucial to point out that to many the Hajj is a once in a lifetime event that allows them to sincerely express their religion. This doesn’t diminish its role in the Muslim world but can’t be compared to an act taken in complete seriousness every day with the express intention to come closer to God, especially considering the loss of contemplation enjoyed by contemporary Hajjis who to lend all focus to staying alive. These daily remembrances show why Hadith suggests that “God loves the Salat more than every other human act” (11 Murata and Chittick). In some ways, Hajj stands as the pinnacle of godly devotion while the Salat serves as the foundation a Muslim requires to get there.

Cited works:

Peters, A Reader on Classical Islam, 279-89 and 294-8 Princeton University Press

Bianchi, Guests of God, 7-21 and 49-75 Oxford University Press

Tabbarah, The Spirit of Islam, 129-147

A Brohi, Islamic Spirituality, 131-43 Crossroad New York

Murata and Chittick, The Vision of Islam, Paragon House

In The Realms of Practice and High Culture

Islam and the Gaming Community (Part 1): Openly Sacriligious

For me this was a pretty clear transgression of respecting religion. Having scripture from the Qur’an in a place expressly forbidden (if we are to believe what the creator of this video says) then it shouldn’t have been done in the first place but mistakes can be made. How someone at Infinity Ward can explain going through the effort to do this is another question. Furthermore I don’t really understand the technical details behind why they removed the map from circulation instead of patching out the offending object but the reaction from the gaming community was absolutely shocking and what I want to point out.

I’m not going to go into the details of this reaction but I’m sure you can imagine. If you can’t and haven’t been onto the internet apart from this assignment here is a (relative to others, tame) video posted after Favela was removed (which I actively suggest avoid watching unless you haven’t been exposed to what happens when people can hide from the consequences):

Noting of course that I am generalising and picking out the worst cases, these people are still the product of a culture that a) doesn’t know much about certain other cultures and b) uses online anonymity to say whatever they feel like. This is something that runs rampant online where anything goes and gets on like a house on fire when Islamophobia is added to the mix.

The main issue here is perhaps a bit more subtle than I am letting on, in the way that we discussed in class that non-Muslims will not appreciate the importance of a piece of scripture central to religion.

Then again, does anyone actually care about someone calling himself “Potato”?

Islam and the Gaming Community (Part 1): Openly Sacriligious