Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the Response to Umar Lee on Sh Hamza Yusuf


There's been an interesting discussion started by Umar Lee entitled "Rand Institute Muslims," in reference to the American think-tank that outlined a strategy on how to make Islam "more civil and democratic." (

It's beginning to cause a stir (, which is bordering on the personal.

One detailed response to the Umar Lee post, already broadcasted by, has come from Indigo Jo ( , where he describes his motivations to respond:

"I have shied away from "debating" Umar over his ramblings about "masculinity" the last couple of years, but when I see these same attitudes paired with slander of scholars, I cannot continue to keep quiet."

It is good that people are not choosing silence anymore, in light of ongoing events.

This is my original comment on Indigo Jo's response, which he has not yet published:


An interesting topic, with perhaps more issues raised than can be handled in one blogpost.

While Umar Lee may have gone overboard in casting Hamza Yusuf as the king of 'RAND Muslims,' I think he raises some valid issues.

It's important for Muslims to remember, that any leader we have in these times is not above questioning. There are traditions from Rasulullah that warn about leaders in the end of times appearing to be knowledgeable, but in reality are `asaghir ("little ones") who are the worst hypocrits.

These are real prophecies, not to be dismissed or overlooked while we consult our Maliki and Shafi'i manuals of fiqh on obscure matters. We should ask ourselves why the stalwarts among the `ulema are deemphasizing these aspects of the deen, in favor of efforts to canonize and bring an ecclesiastical framework to Islamic knowledge.

The reason why this should be a cause for concern, and a vital discussion for us, lies in the nature of leadership itself. For example, Malcolm X may not have been a scholar or faqih, but he led by his example in standing up for the truth, even when it was bitter and politically inconvenient. And his efforts, galvanized many Muslims in America against obvious injustices. The authorities feared his agitations would bring about an uprising, and he was assassinated while speaking the truth to power. Many still remember his example today, and became Muslim through him.

There is historical precedent for this kind of an uprising against injustice - from Salahuddin Ayubi (ra). And many others who we may come to know, once we truly learn about our history.

Your response to Umar Lee, while methodical and in my opinion, with good adab (manners), has a kind of finality to it, that smacks of the Salafi/Wahabi refutations. I feel this should not be about defending Hamza Yusuf, despite our love for what he's done. It should raise further questions.

It was from Hamza Yusuf that I learned, that Imam Shafi'i (ra) used to make a du'a before engaging in debate, that Allah place the truth on the opponent's tongue, so that he would be able to accept it.

We should respect Umar Lee's opinions, and not sweep our dirty laundry under the carpet in the name of 'defending our scholars.'


  1. Anonymous1:54 PM

    Interesting response. I am wondering what's your opinion of Hisham Kabbani and his colloboration with the enemies of Islaam?

  2. Salam alaykum,

    Observations more pertinent than my own on this issue, can be found at Yursil's "Mind, Body, Soul" blog. He has much more substantial commentary on the matter.

    At the time of writing this, there are already two parts to it, beginning here:

  3. BismillahirRahmanirRahim

    "Our message to Sheykh Hisham Kabbani’s Naqshbandi group, and to all others who are attacking us, is that they should stop the attacks on us. They should stop partnering with enemies of Islam. And we should all work together under the banner of Sheykh Mevlana for Allah and for His Prophet aleyhi as-salatu ve selam."

  4. Anonymous2:46 PM

    I think a lot of the responses to br. Umar did try to deal with the points he raised, but it would be very difficult to take his post as a serious critique of trends within the Muslim community when it is framed in such an inflammatory way and is effectively slandering a scholar beloved to many.

    Inventing a label that alludes to being a tool of the enemy and treachery to Islam, jumbling together a list of negative points and then claiming Shaykh Hamza is the chief of this, is no way to start a debate. It is a good way to cause controvery though!

  5. Shalom,

    I like your observations.

    I have linked to you from my weblog.