Interview with Sheikh Hamza Yusuf by Nuh Ha Mim Keller
Posted: 12 June 2008 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Why do you think Muslims have lost their tradition of mutual love and courtesy amongst each other, why do you think there has been that decline?

Because there is a breakdown in the whole concept of what an ‘Ummah’ is, I mean this is the idea of Divide and Conquer. It’s taken some time to achieve, but there has been a breakdown in nationalities, there’s now artificially created nationalities and borders that divide us, and those nationalities and borders have taken a life of their own, and so what happens is that people begin to view themselves as Egyptians, as Algerians etc. and not as Muslims, not as one Ummah and Allah says that “you are one Ummah and I am your Lord”. You have one Lord, one Ummah and one Prophet. We have in our Ummah all of the ingredients that no other communities have, not even the homogeneity of countries, don’t have the ingredients of unity outside of there countries. In other words, the Japanese, they do have a type of solidarity based on their Japaneseness, but outside of that, outside of a bloodlink, as a people and a language link, they don’t have anything to unite them. Whereas with the Muslims, we have within our tradition all of the ingredients to unite the most diverse people and it’s extraordinary, there’s nothing else similar to it at all in history or in the world right now.

What America would like to do is they would like to unite the world based on shared, quote - unquote, values, because I don’t like that word, based on these shared values of consumerism, gratuitous consumption, of pleasure and the world is created basically for play and entertainment and as a pastime, and music and dancing and basically bestial lower self behaviour and this is what they’re spreading all over the world. So everybody will look the same, in their jeans and their Nikes shoes, and everybody will listen to the same sugared pop music, and everybody will eat the same hamburger, French fries and milkshakes and everybody will have the same banal perspectives on the world. So this type of unity which is based on reducing the human being to an automaton, who has no volition of its own and who simply sleepwalks through life without any sense of identity, awareness or tradition. This is the unity they’re hoping to achieve with this idea of some kind of one world. Maybe with some new-age spirituality thrown in there because people do tend to have some spiritual needs, so we can throw in some new-age… it’s all one in any case, right? So take a little dabble from this religion and that religion, and we can all be Buddhists, and then you can just meditate, or something like that, or they’ll, I’m sure, be providing soon enough, Spiritual Television.

Have you read the book by James Redfield, it’s very appropriate to what you’re talking about, The Celestine Prophecy?

I actually have read that. I think that’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s this kind of new-age religion that’s being promoted - which is Dajjalic in its nature because it’s looking at certain spiritual truths and it’s distorting them. Iblis is the mimicker, right, I mean Allah says that his throne is on water, so Iblis made his throne on water. Iblis is the great mimicker; he’s the mocker. And so the pseudo religion always will mimic true religion, and unfortunately when you don’t have people that have the ability to discern and distinguish between truth and falsehood, then they spend their life being misled and groping in darkness.

Do you think the intellectual decline in our Ummah can in any way be related to the decline in the Arabic language and its importance?

That’s a very strong element in the whole overall decline. Out of the several hundred languages in the world, there are only a handful of languages that are considered ‘civilisational’ and Arabic is certainly one of them.

Right now, the language of power and dominance, and of discourse at whatever level - whether commercial, philosophical or scientific - is English. And the power elite in the west are certainly capable of articulating in the English language. Whereas in the Arab world, you would be hard pressed to find people capable of articulating verbally - using the Arabic language as a vehicle for discussion and serious though - unless they had been well trained. More can actually write and part of that is because the Arabic language is so deeply rooted in classical Islamic Knowledge.

English has a worldview, and now you find in the Arab world, people who have English as their second language - usually their higher education will now be in English. Every language contains within it the roots of the worldview of the people that produced it - so by taking on the English language, one is taking on a western worldview, and you can’t avoid it. By abandoning the Arabic language what people are doing in fact is abandoning the worldview that the Qur’an provides. Also, the Muslims had a deep sense of the linguistic power and the actual underlying expression of reality embedded in the language. The language of the Qur’an is the language of truth, and therefore the one who learns it and is deeply into it will ultimately be confronted with reality through the expression of the Arabic language.

Why do you think so many pieces of good Islamic literature are being written by non-Muslims - e.g. George Makdisi’s ‘Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian World’?

Partly because the west is the dominant power-elite, and the dominant powers always have intellectual apparati to maintain their power - part of the apparatus, what it will do is it will enable and facilitate research and facilitate intellectuals to explore/pursue ideas and thoughts ultimately for the benefit of the power elite. But what will come out of that often is that people who do have inherent brilliance are able to have the time and the freedom to think deeply about matters. This is the whole system of endowments in the west - if you look at most of these people who do these things, they’ll often have a paragraph of gratitude towards some fellowship that was given to them, which gave them 2 or 3 years to do the research they needed to do. What happened in the Muslim world is that because there is no power (the Muslim world has in fact become of secondary importance) most Muslim governments are in no way interested in pursuing intellectuals - in fact, quite the opposite. They want to prevent them from thinking, they don’t want them to think. The fact that the west does allow these intellectuals to pursue things is in no way indicative of some desire for truth.

That is a very important note.

Right. Sometimes, truth is a by-product of it, because in order for the to fulfil what they want to fulfil, they allow an ‘expressive’ control of their intellectuals - but because of the nature of the mechanism, it will in the end, only serve the power elite.

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Posted: 12 June 2008 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Someone remarked that “sitting before a teacher who passes you knowledge is like taking a photograph - in that by the light, the image of what is in front of you is implanted in your heart. This is education.”

Please comment - why can’t we receive ‘education’ from reading books?

Part of it is the idea of transmission. Anybody who has studied with a teacher will know the answers to that question and anybody who hasn’t won’t. It’s the difference between hearing about something and experiencing it. Our tradition is a tradition of transmission. Our Prophet (saw) was taught by an Angel - that Angel was taught by Rabb -ul-Izza - the Lord of Power. And the Qur’an says, “over everyone who possesses knowledge is someone who has more knowledge”. When Musa (as) was asked if there was anyone more knowledgeable on the earth than he was, he replied “No”. But Allah then sent him to study with Al-Khizr, who the majority of scholars say wasn’t even a prophet, so here’s a prophet being sent to a non-prophet and it was a reminder to Musa (as) that one can never assume that there is not someone that they can learn from. Part of the modern crisis in the Muslim Ummah is we have auto-didactic scholars - the damage that they have caused is, I think, extraordinary, and one of the signs of the end of time is a Hadith in which the Prophet (saw) said knowledge would be taken from a “Saghir” which means “a little one”. Ibn Abd-ul Barr, the great Andalusian commentator on Hadith, wrote that what this Hadith means is that the chain would be broken towards the end of time - people who had not taken their knowledge from the previous generation will begin to transmit knowledge, and that knowledge will be their own opinion and not transmitted knowledge and from the Muslim perspective, truth is not something that needs to be discovered - it’s something that needs to be learned. In the western understanding, truth is something that needs to be discovered, truth has not been given to man - it’s something that man needs to discover for himself. In the 20th Century, although that meta-narrative is disappearing, i.e. - the post-modern phenomenon is in a sense a capitulation to the idea that there is no truth - and if there is truth, it is not with a “T” but with a “t” - meaning, “your truth may not be my truth”. What the post-modernist thesis is to say that, really what we have not is some grand narrative of the search of truth, but rather a meta-narratives or small narratives of the truth, that each one is as equally true as the other which is ultimately saying that nothing is true. Because one you say everything is true, what you’re really saying is nothing is true. If I say it’s wrong to kill and somebody says, well that statement has no meaning because what is “wrong”? - what’s your definition of wrong? And because wrong cannot be technically defined within the dominant discourse of the 20th century, therefore it has no meaning. Whereas, if I say it is wrong and wrong is that which Allah has made prohibited, I am laughed out of the auditorium because what I’m saying is that “truth has been revealed by God” - that is no longer an accepted premise for the modern social discourse. So we can’t talk of morality - all we can talk of is legislation, and legislation is what the latest vogue is - should we have the death penalty or shouldn’t we…. it becomes a debate, and there’s nothing in stone so to speak. Like “Thou shalt not kill”. It becomes “should we kill or shouldn’t we? Well, let’s take a vote”. Truth becomes a democratic process, and that is very alien to the Islamic tradition. So the idea that truth is something which is transmitted from generation to generation is no longer acceptable within the dominant social discourse. And for the Muslims that has been the truth because the Prophet (saw) said that this knowledge - i.e. the truth/revelation will be carried in each generation by upright people and transmitted to the following generation. So Muslims have always seen that knowledge is a transmission, from the breasts of those who know to the hearts of those who don’t know.

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Posted: 26 September 2008 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I happen to know that Hamza Yusuf practices Sufism. I hope that is OK with you. With reference to this topic, Hamza said in a 2001 interview to The Guardian, ‘I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way.’ So much for his excoriation of western values.

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Posted: 27 September 2008 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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mesomorph - 26 September 2008 08:03 PM

I happen to know that Hamza Yusuf practices Sufism. I hope that is OK with you. With reference to this topic, Hamza said in a 2001 interview to The Guardian, ‘I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way.’ So much for his excoriation of western values.

Interesting to note that if Yusuf is indeed a sufi and was living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he would likely be imprisioned with the rest of the sufis of that country. Not surprising that he would prefer to live as a free man under the protections that a secular society affords him but this is certainly not the “Muslim way”. The trouble with Hansen (Yusuf) is that he is a 21st century western man trying to force-fit himself into medieval religious beliefs. His life will be one of contradictions and rationalizations.

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Wotansson

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Posted: 27 September 2008 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Jack Shooter - 12 June 2008 12:18 PM

Why do you think Muslims have lost their tradition of mutual love and courtesy amongst each other, why do you think there has been that decline?

Fallacy number one.
There never was any such tradition.

Because there is a breakdown in the whole concept of what an ‘Ummah’ is, I mean this is the idea of Divide and Conquer.

Aah, yes. The age-old call for the re-establishment of the Caliphate. That call is PRECISELY the main dynamic factor in the resurgence of intra-Islamic strife and warfare.

It’s taken some time to achieve, but there has been a breakdown in nationalities, there’s now artificially created nationalities and borders that divide us, and those nationalities and borders have taken a life of their own, and so what happens is that people begin to view themselves as Egyptians, as Algerians etc. and not as Muslims, not as one Ummah and Allah says that “you are one Ummah and I am your Lord”. You have one Lord, one Ummah and one Prophet.

Precisely. That is why other Muslims think themselves entitled to kill “false” Muslims.

We have in our Ummah all of the ingredients that no other communities have, not even the homogeneity of countries, don’t have the ingredients of unity outside of there countries.

A bit of ingrained cultural fascism. Always have been a hit within Islam, always will be.

In other words, the Japanese, they do have a type of solidarity based on their Japaneseness, but outside of that, outside of a bloodlink, as a people and a language link, they don’t have anything to unite them. Whereas with the Muslims, we have within our tradition all of the ingredients to unite the most diverse people and it’s extraordinary, there’s nothing else similar to it at all in history or in the world right now.

Actually, because Islam hallows as its Prophet a brutal, despicable bully, those personality types are the ones that will claw themselves to the top within every Muslim-dominated societies, and the first ones to suffer are dissenting non-bullies.


All in all, just the same old Islamic fascistic shit and moral depravity.

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Posted: 27 September 2008 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Wotansson - 27 September 2008 07:46 AM
mesomorph - 26 September 2008 08:03 PM

I happen to know that Hamza Yusuf practices Sufism. I hope that is OK with you. With reference to this topic, Hamza said in a 2001 interview to The Guardian, ‘I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way.’ So much for his excoriation of western values.

Interesting to note that if Yusuf is indeed a sufi and was living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he would likely be imprisioned with the rest of the sufis of that country. Not surprising that he would prefer to live as a free man under the protections that a secular society affords him but this is certainly not the “Muslim way”. The trouble with Hansen (Yusuf) is that he is a 21st century western man trying to force-fit himself into medieval religious beliefs. His life will be one of contradictions and rationalizations.

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Wotansson

That depends on what sort of sufism he practices.  Idries Shah, for example, presents a form of sufism that is completely compatible with the modern world.  Of course, some other sufi exponents reject him….

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Posted: 27 September 2008 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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burt - 27 September 2008 12:24 PM
Wotansson - 27 September 2008 07:46 AM
mesomorph - 26 September 2008 08:03 PM

I happen to know that Hamza Yusuf practices Sufism. I hope that is OK with you. With reference to this topic, Hamza said in a 2001 interview to The Guardian, ‘I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way.’ So much for his excoriation of western values.

Interesting to note that if Yusuf is indeed a sufi and was living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he would likely be imprisioned with the rest of the sufis of that country. Not surprising that he would prefer to live as a free man under the protections that a secular society affords him but this is certainly not the “Muslim way”. The trouble with Hansen (Yusuf) is that he is a 21st century western man trying to force-fit himself into medieval religious beliefs. His life will be one of contradictions and rationalizations.

Stay Well
Wotansson

That depends on what sort of sufism he practices.  Idries Shah, for example, presents a form of sufism that is completely compatible with the modern world.  Of course, some other sufi exponents reject him….

And Shia Islam or Sunni Islam accept and tolerate which of these? Any? Hansen is Sunni - close as I can tell.

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Wotansson

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Posted: 27 September 2008 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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burt - 27 September 2008 12:24 PM

That depends on what sort of sufism he practices.

North African, of the school of Ahmad al-Alawi.

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

There never was any such tradition.

How do you know?

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

Aah, yes. The age-old call for the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

You are confusing the Caliphate with the Community (Umma).

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

That is why other Muslims think themselves entitled to kill “false” Muslims.

He is not talking about true or false Muslims. He is saying that formerly there were neither nationalism nor national boundaries within Islam and now there are, so Muslims have become separated from each other.

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

Actually, because Islam hallows as its Prophet a brutal, despicable bully, those personality types are the ones that will claw themselves to the top within every Muslim-dominated societies, and the first ones to suffer are dissenting non-bullies.

Historically there have been some very good rulers in Islam. 20th century secularists (Ataturk, Saddam) have been as bad as the worst religious despots, but there have been some good and tolerant religious rulers, e.g. the kings of Jordan and Morocco, and the president of Tunisia.

You must check your facts otherwise you risk looking like a bigot, and we wouldn’t want that! smile

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Posted: 27 September 2008 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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mesomorph - 27 September 2008 06:28 PM
burt - 27 September 2008 12:24 PM

That depends on what sort of sufism he practices.

North African, of the school of Ahmad al-Alawi.

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

There never was any such tradition.

How do you know?

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

Aah, yes. The age-old call for the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

You are confusing the Caliphate with the Community (Umma).

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

That is why other Muslims think themselves entitled to kill “false” Muslims.

He is not talking about true or false Muslims. He is saying that formerly there were neither nationalism nor national boundaries within Islam and now there are, so Muslims have become separated from each other.

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

Actually, because Islam hallows as its Prophet a brutal, despicable bully, those personality types are the ones that will claw themselves to the top within every Muslim-dominated societies, and the first ones to suffer are dissenting non-bullies.

Historically there have been some very good rulers in Islam. 20th century secularists (Ataturk, Saddam) have been as bad as the worst religious despots, but there have been some good and tolerant religious rulers, e.g. the kings of Jordan and Morocco, and the president of Tunisia.

You must check your facts otherwise you risk looking like a bigot, and we wouldn’t want that! smile

Just FYI, tassawuf (sufism) is an integral part of Islam.

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Posted: 27 September 2008 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Jack Shooter - 27 September 2008 07:31 PM

Just FYI, tassawuf (sufism) is an integral part of Islam.

‘Twas not always so. It took until al-Ghazzali for the jurists to accept mysticism within Islam. Many mystical teachers such as ibn al-Arabi were anathematised and their books burned, although they are revered now. Al-Hallaj was crucified. Some teachers of tassawuf such as Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, would have nothing to do with Sufis. I don’t think you can equate the two so easily, and regarding Sufism as integral to Islam is dubious, to say the least.

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Posted: 27 September 2008 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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mesomorph - 27 September 2008 06:28 PM
burt - 27 September 2008 12:24 PM

That depends on what sort of sufism he practices.

North African, of the school of Ahmad al-Alawi.

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

There never was any such tradition.

How do you know?

arildno - 27 September 2008 07:58 AM

Aah, yes. The age-old call for the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

You are confusing the Caliphate with the Community (Umma).

Yawn. You do not know about the first 4 “rightly guided” Caliphs then, who in the Sunni tradition are said to have upheld the traditions of the Prophet unblemished, creating the Golden Age for the Umma.


You must check your facts otherwise you risk looking like a fool, and we wouldn’t want that! smile

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Posted: 27 September 2008 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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arildno - 27 September 2008 08:00 PM

Yawn. You do not know about the first 4 “rightly guided” Caliphs then, who in the Sunni tradition are said to have upheld the traditions of the Prophet unblemished, creating the Golden Age for the Umma.

The Caliphate is not cognate with the Umma. Yawn.

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Posted: 27 September 2008 07:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Jack Shooter - 27 September 2008 07:31 PM

Just FYI, tassawuf (sufism) is an integral part of Islam.

Ah, the imperialist claim.  Many sufis have asserted that sufism predated Islam and exists both within and outside of it.  Others insist that it must exist within Islam.  Of course, even the word sufism is misleading since it seems to imply some sort of dogma or ideology that is required.

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