#dailyupdate: on spiritual heartbreak and countering extremism

A few days ago, I was working on this 50 page research paper that is dealing with sectarianism in the Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. I’ve tried to avoid dealing with Sharia law in general because I simply do not know enough and haven’t had time to do proper research. However, I realized that I had to address it at least a *bit* and started a generalized search for different Muslim perspectives on apostasy. Well, I quickly realized that a “quick search” would only lead me to more extreme views and what I really wanted to know was the other views out there. So I wrote a friend of mine, Mehreen Rasheed, and after presenting my dilemma and struggle, she sent me long emails of different and moderate views.

Below is her reflection on spiritual heartbreak and extremist views. 


Just a few days ago, a dear friend of mine asked me for help while writing a paper on Egypt, Iraq, and Syria’s “apostasy” laws. She had found the Qur’anic verses and Hadith that are typically used (read: misused) to justify imposing the death penalty on people who convert from or leave Islam.

For context and perspective, she wanted to find more moderate interpretations. Happy and relieved that she had not left it up to an unreliable and unrepresentative Google search, I gladly sent her a flurry of sources roundly discrediting that view and briefly explained some of the basic theological issues surrounding sound, contextual interpretation of religious sources and determining the validity of Hadith. I then included a non-exhaustive list of Islamic scholars, many of whom are American Muslim household names and who have been greatly influential in my thinking. I told her that looking at the views and work of these people could give her some insight into the way many Muslims, particularly in the United States, tend to think.

Then today, I read the news that in Da’esh’s most recent propaganda effort, it published a hit list containing the names of beloved Muslim scholars and leaders from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. Among them were names I had mentioned to my friend just four days ago. It would have enraged me at any time, but the timing made it an especial stab in the gut.

I think back to the conversation with my friend from few days ago. From Egypt, our conversation had turned to Da’esh and its propaganda machine, which includes the publication of pseudo-theological treatises to attempt to justify their heinous and criminal actions. She lamented how organized Da’esh seems to be in comparison to many religious scholars who are not on the same level of research. I immediately sent her another flurry of links to statements and treatises by prominent Muslims scholars around the world not only denouncing Da’esh, but actually conducting legal analysis discrediting its view as a matter of Islamic Law. Then it was my turn to lament how it seems that no matter how much we condemn, denounce, discredit, and repudiate, we always seem to be coming up short—not just among bigots who would turn a deaf ear to our cries, but even among those like my friend who are actively seeking answers.

I know that I don’t owe the world an explanation or an apology. I don’t owe anyone my condemning, denouncing, discrediting, and repudiating. We spend a lot of time talking about this: about how calling upon Muslims to condemn extremism unfairly puts our loyalty and citizenship on trial. More insidious is the danger of pandering and falling into the trap of becoming the exceptional “moderate,” well-behaved Muslims—as though to suggest that Islam itself must be apologized for; as though the false, shallow rhetoric of these self-interested criminals somehow has equal claim to the Way.[1] But I want to scream. My heart is broken that the beautiful teachings of my beloved Prophet have been contorted, disfigured, to fit some horrific agenda. Moreover, people are actually buying it—from the actual Da’esh recruits to The Atlantic Monthly.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I continue to condemn. Not out of a sense of obligation or American jingoism, but out of a deep love of my Prophet and the Way that he showed me. A way of peace and mercy. A way that has changed my life. His legacy doesn’t need saving. But like the Prophet’s own companions, who could not bear to remain silent in the face of criticism and defamation against him, how can I? I condemn, I condemn, I condemn.

[1] Sharia literally means the way, or more specifically, the way or the path to water [water being the source of life]. We believe that Sharia is divinely-revealed guidance for individuals, families, and societies to achieve harmony and spiritual excellence in this life and salvation in the next. This is distinct from fiqh, which is jurisprudence—legal opinions and interpretations that may change depending on place and evolve over time—a mortal pursuit.

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